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More statesmen needed

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04.JAN.11

There has been some discussion recently about the term “statesman” and whether or not statesmanlike behaviour should be expected of our active political leaders.{{more}}

The prime minister does not think this is a topic he should be overly concerned with, for, as far as he is concerned, a statesman is a dead politician and the ordinary man is not concerned with statesmanship, but rather everyday issues that affect him or her on a regular basis.

Prime Minister Gonsalves is not the first head of government to express this sentiment; in fact, former US President Harry S. Truman said “A politician is a man who understands government. A statesman is a politician who’s been dead for 15 years.”

In defining a statesman as a dead politician, both Gonsalves and Truman are in effect saying, it is not a present politician’s day-to-day actions, but how he or she is viewed in totality, after the fact, which will determine whether or not the person will be recorded in the history books as a statesman.

So does that mean that the politician’s deportment while in office is not important? We think it is.

While it is true that the regular man on the street is more immediately concerned about bread and butter issues, our politicians’ public utterances and their attitudes to each other and to the people they are elected to serve, can make easier, or more difficult, the very delivery of needed services.

Additionally, when leaders routinely respond to issues or criticism in a belligerent manner, it wears on the national psyche.

It may be difficult for a politician who is thinking about the next election to always act in a manner which promotes national unity and is in the best interest of the whole country, but our leaders need to try. Acting with dignity and restraint and being a good politician are not mutually exclusive.

Our political leaders need to show a bit more respect for themselves, others and the offices they hold.

No one is saying they should not defend themselves when attacked or criticised, but a defence can be put up without cursing and name- calling, things the majority of Vincentians are fed up with.

Let us all, not just the politicians, try to do better in 2011. Our country is split politically right down the centre. This means that every other person one interacts with on a daily basis, is likely to be of a different political persuasion than one is.

Despite this, we need to work together for the good of our country. Responding to every verbal attack or accusation in like manner will not assist with the reconciliation which the new Unity Labour Party administration has commendably said it will put on the front burner. Tolerance, empathy, respect and forgiveness will.

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