Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thought for the Day: "Hell. What's the Presidency for?"

When Lyndon Johnson advised his aides, just days after President Kennedy was assassinated, that he intended to use his presidency to enact landmark civil rights laws, he was warned that it was far too early to risk the nation's support on something so controversial. "Hell," Johnson replied, "What's the presidency for?"

Robert Kuttner, "Obama Has Amassed Enormous Political Capital, But He Doesn't Know What to Do with It," Huffington Post (here), citing President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

My commentary on LBJ's statement: leaders waste their moral capital (and leadership capital) when they do not lead, particularly in the area of protecting and promoting the human rights of all. It is particularly disappointing to see leaders whose life experience should yield a strong commitment to human rights for all begin to waver and dodge on human rights issues, once they are placed in positions of power (here, H/T Julie Arms). When people experience oppression due to innate characteristics like gender or race, one always hopes that, placed in positions of leadership, they will become leaders committed to the human rights of all. To defend conscientious objections to racism and sexism while rejecting the claims of conscience vis-a-vis homophobia is inconsistent and morally offensive.

Churches that turn a blind eye to homophobia cannot legitimately expect to be listened to, when they preach against racism and sexism. And leaders who do not lead in the area of human rights undermine their claim to be leaders.