ability to make good decisions; Inspire

Queen Elizabeth’s death has drawn a lot of attention in the United States because of our nation’s “special relationship” with Britain. This is based on language, but also on many of our legal traditions. A big difference, of course, is that we don’t have a monarchy.

Nevertheless, the Queen’s death is a reminder and a lesson to us and others that the leadership of a people has two levels. One is a real and practical ability to administer with executive powers, making the best decisions for the good of an entire country.

A second level of leadership, which may be even more important, certainly in the long term, is the ability to inspire as a personal example. It requires personal characteristics of integrity and honesty, as well as a vision that looks to what is best for the nation as a whole. We saw in Queen Elizabeth a person who had the personal character that included faith in God, love for her family, and respect for all others. We also knew that she placed concern for the interests of the nation and its people above all other duties of life. Right after his death, people would tell many anecdotes about his self-interest and his kindness towards individuals, illustrating his respect for others.

In Britain’s case, the two levels of leadership are separate since administrative executive leadership was removed from the monarch in a process beginning with King Charles I, who had been beheaded. It was then vested in a Prime Minister, who is the winner of a popular election and the leader of Parliament. In the case of the United States, the two levels are combined. In other words, the person elected to the presidency needs both executive administrative abilities, but also the characteristic demonstrated by the Queen of being an honest, integrity and visionary leader for the nation. For example, the leader puts the interests of the nation and its people first. Without the unifying symbol of a monarch, the United States needs other powerful symbols. One is the flag to which we pledge allegiance. To emphasize what he represents, we add “and to the Republic he represents”. Thus, we are not just fighting for a symbol, but people are giving their lives for the protection and preservation of the whole republic, that is, of all the people and its governing body.

What surprises us is that the British do not have a written Constitution, and there is a special message in this fact. The Unwritten Constitution can be described in words, but it is also beyond words and expressed in many traditions. At the center of these traditions is the fundamental morality of the people. We can also say that although the United States has a written constitution, the foundation of our Constitution is the morality of the people. This may seem like a very shaky foundation because the morality of the people is far from perfect. We have had shortcomings in our history, but the continuity of the written Constitution with the unwritten Constitution of morality is expressed in the self-correction and continuous improvement of the nation with all its laws, policies and actions. It has been a very difficult task and is widely recognized as one that has been particularly challenged recently. The questioning of the legitimacy of the last election by former President Donald Trump is unprecedented, just as he is followed by a section of the population. Additionally, we are challenged to our unwritten standard of morality by the physical attack on our Capitol by an insurgent mob.

The death of the Queen of England gives us the opportunity to reflect in particular on the second quality of leadership, which is a character containing integrity and honesty, as well as a vision that can inspire the nation. The unwritten morality that we want our leaders to have and thus be an example to all is at stake. We want capable leaders (the first level or practical level), but also, we want moral examples in our leaders that people can follow. These days demand from our nation, as the leader of many nations, and from our president a vision of a future in which democracy with “freedom and justice for all” becomes the practice of all nations. . For too many people around the world, the vision of a functioning democracy seems unreal.

Reverend Dr. Robert L. Montgomery is a Presbyterian minister who graduated from Emory University in the social scientific study of religion.

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