As I begin to prepare course material for next semester, I am reading the biblical Book of Revelation once again, complete with its condemnation of megalomaniacal and narcissistic Roman emperors. I can’t help thinking about the contemporary application of this ancient text. The Book of Revelation prompts reflections on leadership, and it seems to me that there is a dearth of true leadership in the U.S.A. In American presidency, leadership evokes images of John F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln, standing with resolve in the midst of crisis and inspiring calm and hope.
It is now a year since Trump was elected to the presidency of the United States. In almost a year as president, he has failed to offer any significant leadership. Trump is not a leader, and America, currently, is experiencing a lack of moral leadership. His inability to comment effectively, to communicate in a hope‑filled and confident way to the whole nation, epitomized his election campaign; this ineptitude continues through crises of natural disasters and global political issues in what will undoubtedly be viewed in history as a failed presidency. He does not have his finger on the pulse of the nation. He cannot speak to the nation. He does not provide assurance when it is needed; instead, he has antagonized those he should have consoled. He has failed to address concerns in the wake of mass shootings in the U.S., and does not provide direction for U.S. foreign policy. He does not offer values worth standing up for. He does not inspire the nation to higher goals. His comments seem, at best, only self‑serving; like the worst of the Roman emperors, he is more concerned with propping up a public perception of himself as somehow superlative in a world of mediocrity rather than addressing grave and significant issues in his nation.
It is time for someone to speak boldly to America as a leader. The nation needs someone who can unite people in their anxieties and hopes, and be a voice heard above the senseless and narcissistic tweets sent out by a man who is clearly unfit and unsuited to hold the presidential office. It may be a senator, a governor, or someone else in the large political system. It may be a Republican, or a Democrat, or other. The leader might be a man or a woman, of any race. In a world of social media and twenty second sound bites, the leader must be one who can be heard not simply because they marshal the forces of media best, but because they have something of substance to say. And that substance needs to communicate hope, respect for all people and to declare in prophetic tones not just what is wrong, but how things might be set right.
Will a new Kennedy, Lincoln, Obama, Martin Luther King or Jesse Jackson emerge in 2018? The stage is open, and someone needs to step onto it. It is time for reasoned, reassuring, competent leadership to step forward and shine a light of hope on a nation struggling in the darkness of uncertainty, despair and fear.