Monday, December 17, 2007

Literary Gifts and Successful Leadership

I am probably out of my depth here, but I have never been able to help but notice that successful Presidents (but for one) have been good writers. Jefferson wrote lyrically, and FDR wrote his own first drafts of important speeches, although he certainly got help from Sherwood Anderson, Samuel Rosenman and Harry Hopkins (for a look at how he went about composing the "Day of Infamy Speech," see http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2001/winter/crafting-day-of-infamy-speech.html).

I don't care much for Ronald Reagan, but he was successful at accomplishing what he wanted to accomplish, and his letters reveal a graceful style. And of course, Lincoln was a towering literary figure. The only exception I can think of is my university's namesake, although he contributed a lot to the drafting of the Farewell Address (with help from his friends Madison and Hamilton).

As it happens, the guy (yes, it's a guy) I like best for this year knows how to put words on paper too. But the fact that I like him suggests that he is doomed. The first candidate I really went all out for was Mo Udall, another literate man who was famed for saying (among other things), "The voters have spoken. Bastards." I was 17 at the time, and I have done about as well at picking candidates ever since.

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