INVICTUS...Happy New Year, Mr. President

John J. Hopkins Jan. 9, 2010, 5:56am


Dear Mr. President:

At the end of your first year, it is indeed appropriate to indulge in reflection, both critical and objective. While I do not share your self-declared grade of a solid "B+," neither do I believe as do some of your harshest critics that you deserve an "F" -- but more in the range of a Gentlemen's "C," a grade that I would wager I know quite a bit more about getting than you do. If you will indulge, some hopefully constructive suggestions.

Allow me to strongly recommend that you take the time and watch the new movie "Invictus," starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It is a powerful film, expertly well crafted. But more importantly, it carries a message of genuine hope and change - for all those brave enough to truly listen.

As your Harvard education would direct you, the title translated from the Latin means "unconquered," and it is from a famous English poem from the Victorian era, one whose last lines - "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul" - have been oft quoted by saint and scoundrel alike.

The hero - Mandela - is one of history's most admired, an unquestionably deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 1993, his violent past as an admitted terrorist purged in the fire of 28 years of imprisonment. The story begins with his release in 1990 and carries forward into his remarkable election as President in 1994.

After suffering for generations the scourge of apartheid, the victorious African National Congress burns with desire for revenge against the white minority who so cruelly wielded indiscriminate power.

The symbol of oppression, indignity and the class system was Springboks, the national rugby team, loved by whites, hated by blacks. In an understandable action, the newly elected moves to abolish the rugby team, sending the clear and unambiguous message of the new order. While politically popular, the decision is opposed by Mandela, who comes to the meeting hall to urge restraint and forgiveness, the statesman leading his people to the see the bigger picture, to embrace the higher good. By supporting, not crushing the rugby team, a branch of peace and cooperation is extended, with the goal to unite not divide, to win with love, rather than control through fear. It is the film's best moment.

Mandela does more than prevail in the short term, rallying all of a divided and partisan South Africa behind Springboks in their seemingly futile quest to win the World Cup in 1995, the year they serve as the host. The movie moves along in familiar "Rocky" like territory, with the underdog triumphant by the sheer force of will. As predicted, all South Africans, regardless of race, see the victory as ours, not theirs, and hold the moment to heart.

Obviously, Mr. President, this is the message, this is the blueprint for leadership. You were elected to heal, not exacerbate the partisan rancor that has for so long gripped Washington. You are the President of all Americans, even those of us who did not vote for you, perhaps especially us in the minority.

In your Inaugural Address, you talked about earning our respect and support. Turning the blind eye to all those with opposing views does not respect earn. Holding closed door meetings with only Democrats, cramming a Health Care bill down the throats of a disinclined public does not support deserve. By branding dissent as "disingenuous," framing issues as only a conflict between your way and the status quo, you ignore the voices of so many who only wish to participate in the National dialogue.

By turning matters over to the gang of street vendors in Congress led by Reid and Pelosi - who are incapable of appealing to statesmanship but instead bargain away our collective future for the political thirty pieces of silver - you lower the debate, not uplift it. We are a better people than that; we deserve so much more.

The path to true leadership begins with the recognition that you, and only you, are in charge. George W. Bush is gone. It is now your watch, with the consequences. No more excuses or inaccurate talk of "inherited" problems.

You sought the job; you spent over $800 Million in special interests money to get the job. You did not involuntarily get anything. Quit whining, and acknowledge that we are now in the Obama economy, the Obama national security - for better or worse. More importantly, LEAD.

Reject the calls for partisan bullying. Have the courage to bring ALL to the table, as you promised you would. Learn that leadership is to deny the tyranny of the majority, respecting dissent in order to find the common peace.

Be daring. Be bold. Be not afraid.

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