I had an interesting conversation this week with a thirteen-year-old girl. She’s quite intelligent, highly motivated, and not afraid to express her opinions. She’s also very interested in politics and asked several questions about my television appearances and my writing.
About halfway through the conversation, she mentioned that some of her friends have told her that she would make a great mayor or governor one day. I asked if she thought she might want to pursue that.
“No,” she quickly replied.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I’m not that good of a liar,” she answered. I laughed at first, but soon realized it wasn’t so funny. And her words stuck with me.
It’s one thing for adults to vocalize that most politicians don’t practice what they preach and can’t be trusted to keep their word, but it was something else entirely to hear that perspective emerge from a kid. There she was, young and ambitious, politically-engaged, and already turned off to the notion of running for office due to a lack of authenticity she had observed in the political arena.
And the sad part was that she was mostly right.
Politics is often a dirty game. And some say you have to play dirty to succeed. I don’t agree. And not because I’ve met a slew of authentic, reliable politicians who have been successful … but because every now and then, I meet one who stands out because he or she plays tough, not dirty.
We live in the greatest country in the world, but we must demand more from our political leaders. We must hold them accountable for any do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do nonsense. We must support those who buck politics as usual. We must stop caring about the elite’s vision of what is or isn’t “presidential” and elect someone who can be counted on to deliver as promised and to stand firm on principle.
I don’t want tomorrow’s potential leaders to become turned off to politics because they think it’s a phony game. I also don’t want them growing up thinking that in order to become a successful politician, one must play dirty.
Some say we can’t change the system. And I say that’s nonsense. You change the system one piece at a time—one vote at a time—until you wind up with a brand new puzzle. You do it by choosing leaders who don’t flip-flop and have a solid record of keeping their word. You do it by electing those who genuinely stand for something, not crowd-pleasers who ultimately stand for nothing.
And if the political leader who catches your eye doesn’t fit the mold of what some in the elite define as “presidential”—well, that just might be a good thing.