The leader as a moral force

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

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“The Presidency is not merely an administrative office. That’s the least of it. It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”  

These words of Franklin D. Roosevelt should come as a clarion call to all of us as we consider the upcoming election. Especially in light of the extreme lack of moral leadership that we are witnessing in our political leaders. “We the people” are in danger of acquiescing to a kind of immoral leadership as the norm and even, in some quarters of the population, cheering it on. 

As far back as the philosopher Plato (ca. 500 B.C.E) the warning has been sounded; “power corrupts.” What else would power corrupt outside of a person’s moral values (if they had any to begin with)? And in what other place would the challenge to hold onto one’s moral values be greater than while holding a political office? 

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Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” That is, give him political power. Political power comes from external investments such as titles, robes and administrative offices. These external symbols of power are never a guarantee of an inward, spiritual power or the moral fortitude that we find in truly great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

We can’t expect our leaders to be morally perfect, any more than we can expect it of ourselves, but we should at least consider the presidency as “pre-eminently a place of moral leadership,” and cast a ballot in hopes of restoring it.     


Rev. Ernst L. Mills

Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Carolina Foothills