Posts Tagged ‘The Loneliness Of Leadership’

The loneliness of the President is another well-established truism of essays on the presidential process.  It is only part of the story; for, during the rest of the time, no one in the country is more assailed by divergent advice and clamorous counsel.  This advice and counsel, indeed, are essential to the process of decision;  for they give the President not only needed information and ideas but a sense of the possibilities and the limitations of action.  A wise President therefore gathers strength and insight from the Nation.  Still, in the end, he is alone.  There stands the decision — and there stands the President.  “I have accustomed myself to receive with respect the opinions of others,” said Andrew Jackson, “but always take the responsibility of deciding for myself.”
    —    President John F. Kennedy
Quoted by:  Theodore C. Sorensen
From the Foreword to his book:  “Decision-Making in the White House
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When the push of a button may mean obliteration of countless humans, the President of the United States must be forever on guard against any inclination on his part to impetuosity;  to arrogance;  to headlong action;  the expediency;  to facile maneuvers;  even to the popularity of an action as opposed to the rightness of an action.
He cannot worry about headlines;  how the next opinion poll will rate him;  how his political future will be affected.
He must worry only about the good — the long-term, abiding, permanent good — of all America.
The nakedness of the battlefield when the soldier is all alone in the smoke and the clamor and the terror of war is comparable to the loneliness — at times — of the Presidency.  These are the times when one man must conscientiously, deliberately, prayerfully, scrutinize every argument, every proposal, every prediction, every alternative, every probable outcome of his action and then — all alone — make his decision.
In that moment he can draw on no brain trust;  no pressure group;  no warehouse of trick phrases, no facile answers.  Even his most trusted associates and friends cannot help him in that moment.  He can draw only upon the truths and principles responsible for America’s birth and development, applying them to the problem immediately before him in the light of a broad experience with men and nations.
He will be face to face with himself, his conscience, his measure of wisdom.  And he will have to pray for Divine guidance from Almighty God.
And that is exactly where every thoughtful American will be, and what he should do, when he marks his secret ballot next Tuesday. *
     —    President Dwight D. Eisenhower
From the book:  “Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower
[* The emphasis is mine and does not appear in the original.    —    kmab]
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