Strong Nations Need Empathetic Leaders

Courtesy Evan GuestBefore taking office, Donald Trump speaks in Ottumwa, Iowa, Jan. 9, 2016.

On Feb. 21, President Donald Trump invited the survivors and families of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, a massacre leaving 17 dead and many others wounded, for discussion and reflection on the tragedy. While Trump partook in a debate on gun control and school safety, Associated Press photographer Carolyn Kaster noticed and photographed a bulleted list of sympathetic questions and responses in the president’s hands. The list was comprised of questions on the experiences of the grieving Parkland community and ended with a statement simply saying “I hear you.”

Does our president really lack the competence to remember to assure survivors of domestic terrorism they’re heard? Not only is “I hear you” a mere extension of a commonly-used crisis term “thoughts and prayers,” the most passive response when action is due, but it should be common sense to anyone with a heart beneath their ribs.

So, when considering potential leaders for our country, why is emotional intelligence not considered? Like many politicians, Trump prioritizes everything monetary —  even when it potentially puts Americans in harm’s way. The Parkland shooting is yet another instance of why America needs to implement gun control; however, under Trump’s administration, it appears to be unlikely. Due to the National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsing Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — the earliest endorsement made by the NRA in history — the right to bear arms seems to be stationary. Even when correlated to the death of high school students, the president’s financial power seems to be what, literally, trumps all. Business tactics shouldn’t beat one’s ability to connect with the emotions of the country, yet America elected a president who seems to have business experience as the only tool under his belt.

Empathy is vital in any leader. It allows for self-reflection, as well as a better understanding of those around you and what they’re experiencing. With empathy comes better communication, a skill necessary for leading a country in times of prosperity and hardship. Empathy can also broaden global understanding, putting a person in the perspective of another country’s environment and using fortune to help those who need it.

When leading a country, it should be necessary the leader holds the capacity to connect with those being led — anything less is unacceptable.

The fact the president of the United States needs to remind himself to have a heart is terrifying and embarrassing. When sponsorship from the NRA is put above the deaths of 17 students and faculty, there’s a serious problem in political priorities. Emotion doesn’t make you weak, and there’s nothing more detrimental to a community’s internal strength than lack of communication and care for one other. A country’s strength doesn’t come in guns and money. A country shouldn’t be heartless.

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