Thursday, March 25, 2010

Extravagant (Un)popularity

"As Adams himself observed, he was President by three votes. Yet he appears to have taken it in stride. 'I am not ashamed,' he told Nabby, who had written to express her concern. 'If the way to do good to my country were to render myself popular, I could easily do it. But extravagant popularity is not the road to public advantage.'"
David McCullough, John Adams (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 471.
Outside of his personal integrity & honesty, if there is one admirable trait that seems to stick out in the life of John Adams its his ability to make decisions, lead, and preside in the positions he laid claim to without the incessant need to be popular or appease people. His Presidency would be marked by a fierce and ugly battle between the Federalists and Republicans often with Adams taking personal shots on both sides. Yet, in the midst of this turnmoil he did a remarkable job at remaining true to his own personal (if somewhat stubborn) beliefs instead of catering to one side. He might not have been the most popular but his tenacity to not be bought remains praiseworthy to this day.

What decisions do we fail to make because we do not adhere to the Adams Principle of not being prey to popularity? Another way of looking at it is - do we truly see popularity as a sign that the public is at an advantage? What might prove most popular with people could easily be the things that are to their greatest disadvantage. The truth in it all is that we must constantly seek to make the right decisions no matter how unpopular that might make us. Fame might win elections - but it certainly doesn't guarantee quality leadership.


Jon Moton said...

oh yes you did