by Steven Worth
When I was a young person working in the US Senate I recall being puzzled by the clinical, intellectual approach of some orators who would lay out their position on a particular subject in a very matter of fact way, and then respond in the same manner should any objection be raised by someone in the opposition. Many times these were very smart, honest, and thoughtful public servants whose arguments made all the sense in the world to me—but there was just no spark there to drive the point home or to give pause to anyone who would oppose them.
Was this lack of passion the result of weariness, of having fought the battle too long to expect anything positive to come of it? Or was it due to the sheer intellectual self-confidence of a person who knows that common sense will carry the day eventually?
In this vein, Winston Churchill famously noted that “One can always count on the Americans to do the right thing….after they have tried everything else…” Perhaps Churchill was only humorously echoing the optimism in President Lincoln’s own observation that “You can fool, some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Somehow I do not feel quite so sanguine that reason will always prevail. In fact I feel more in sympathy with William Butler Yeats’ worried observation that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
I know, I know, the last thing we need is more arm waving demagogues; but how can one feel inspired to follow, if our leaders do not back their words with a passion that underscores their belief in what they are saying?