Leadership, timing, history and civility

Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) spoke at my IFE/INFO Public Policy Breakfast this past Wednesday. He said that the issues that'll confront the next president will be huge — so huge, in fact, that President McCain or President Obama will be able to change the direction of the country for years to come. He noted that only three presidents have had such an opportunity before — Lincoln in 1860, Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and FDR in 1932.

As if the war on terror, healthcare, education, climate change and all kinds of other big issues weren't enough, now we have a financial crisis that looks to be bigger than 1929. Even this crisis has become political. McCain said for a while that he wasn't going to attend tonight's presidential debate, while Obama insisted that it go on as scheduled. Republicans blame Democrats for interfering with the free market, and Democrats blame Republicans for not supporting tougher regulations.

Only today did Congress make progress on a bailout plan. Have we reached the point that we can only come together during a crisis like Sept. 11 or Hurricane Katrina? Do we care more about partisan politics than our country? No wonder Sen. Daschle said, "I always say that I like the noise of democracy but it is becoming less and less stereophonic, and far too screechy, and is not creating the bipartisan spirit that we need in Washington."

Daschle told us that after Sept. 11, 2001, congressional leaders met weekly at the White House for six weeks and it was a good thing. He thinks the next president should find that rhythm.

Our leaders need to suck up their pride and start coming together on a regular basis, not just when disaster strikes America.

Be proactive, not reactive. Leadership, timing, history, civility.


Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.