This Is What Leadership Looks Like

Well, well, well.  So Mister Trump is going to meet with the leader of North Korea.  Stunning.  For someone who's universally castigated as being a clueless, all thumbs palooka of a leader, this fellow sure gets a lot of things done.  Very significant things.  One might even say world transforming.

You can hate him, berate him, and try very hard to minimize any of his accomplishments, but President Trump is starting to tip the arguments his way.  The previous President of the United States was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for…what again?  Still no one knows.  Where I live in South Africa, the Nobel committee gave their prestigious Peace Prize to two very worthy recipients in the 90's, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.  These men thoroughly deserved it, as they had actively worked toward negotiating a genuine peace at the time the country was a powder keg about to explode.  When men and women in leadership dig deep and try to work out a peaceful settlement in the midst of a volatile situation, that's when the Peace Prize has merit.  Other times, when it is a trinket given to the most politically correct (Obama, the Climate Change committee) it is rightly seen as a farce.   But the politicking doesn't stop.  Certain hostile racists in South Africa are still incensed that a white South African was ever given the Peace Prize, as if the color of one's skin should be a disqualifying factor when it comes to trying to unify a nation.  Would someone who solves the most serious peace problem on the world's stage be worthy of the Committee's golden award?  We'll see.

In 1964 Martin Luther King wrote a remarkable book called 'Why We Can't Wait.'  In it, he outlined the reasons why the struggle for racial equality was so urgent.  There was no longer any reason to delay full inclusion of the black population into every facet of American society.  King was a very bright man, and understood what he was up against in terms of the opposition to his message.  As a disruptor of the entrenched social order, he needed to present arguments that wouldn't provoke hostility from the white populace.  As a minister, he understood the power of appealing to a person's faith to sway their opinion.  As a preacher, he understood the power of emotive words.  As a writer, he understood the power of articulate arguments.  And as a civil rights leader, he understood the power of igniting a large group of people to demand change.  King knew that the struggle for equality could not be a physical struggle, and would have to embrace a non-violent method of protest, even if he and his supporters were physically attacked.  He came up with his own 'ten commandments.'

They were:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus 
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love. 
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy. 
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

Can you imagine a leader presenting a list like this now?  It would be attacked, ridiculed, and disparaged.  But King knew that if he appealed to the public's higher ideals, which included a respect for the teachings of Jesus Christ, his arguments would transcend race.  Which they did.

President Trump has his own methods, and although they're not spiritually framed like MLK's were, they are just as shrewd.  The President's critics are practically foaming at the mouth, and aren't capable of having any rational discourse with regard to Mr Trump.  This new breakthrough with North Korea is so important in the light of world power and security, and so clearly positive, that there's almost no basis on which to criticize it, or him.  This creates a great dilemma.  To acknowledge the obvious, that Trump is moving in the right direction, is heretical.  At no stage will those who oppose the President ever acquiesce in the slightest.  But how does one argue against Trump when there's such obvious evidence that the man is breaking through in world diplomacy?  And on a level not seen since Nixon thawing the frosty Chinese.  Nixon never got the Peace Prize, but his accomplishment was so objectively worthy the Nobel committee had to give it to someone associated with the détente.  So they gave it to his Secretary of State.  Anyone but Nixon.

Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year 'Why We Can't Wait' was published.  The prize was given because of what King had accomplished in the Birmingham march the previous year, and for the sentiment expressed in his book, including his 'ten commandments.'

In 2018, King (and Mandela, ironically) is seen as a bit of an embarrassment by the racist left.  Not militant enough.  Too willing to refrain from judging others on the color of their skin, seeing the content of a person's character as more important.  How quaint.  Fifteen years before MLK made his Birmingham march, Miles Davis rejected Louis Armstrong, because of how willing Satchmo was to perform with white musicians, and because he didn't show sufficient race rage.  In the same way, today's race militants demand unbridled anger.  This is a mistake.Racism and prejudice are terrible and destructive, no matter the color of the person practicing them.  No one gets a pass.  Not even great musicians.

Real leadership is when one is willing to sit down with an adversary, and hammer out a solution.  Martin Luther King was a great man, and thoroughly deserved his Peace Prize.  He was a disruptor who changed America.  Donald Trump is a disruptor of a different kind, but no less compelling.  He's about to confound his critics once again.  Let's hope their heads don't explode.

Tim Mostert is a cartoonist, author and Art Historian. His latest bookisKnow Your Nation/United States, Volume One.  He can be reached

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

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