I am a little overwhelmed today with President Gordon B. Hinckley’s passing. It is almost like that I had forgotten that he was a mortal like the rest of us, because with his energy and spirit, it seemed like he would live forever. He will live forever, just not in the state of mortality in which we currently find ourselves. Right now I am listening to a talk by President Hinckley that Brigham Barnes has shared on his blog, entitled “The Loneliness of Leadership.” It is an old talk, from the early 1970s, and actually President Hinckley waxes a little political in it. But the central message, I get. The path of true leadership in the cause for what is right isn’t a path heavily travelled.
As the presidential candidates continue to jockey for power and for some advantage in the primary races still to come, I can’t help but contrast political candidates with President Hinckley. The kind of leadership that they represent are totally opposed. One one hand, even the most benevolent political leaders are driven by their own self-interest, their own egos. I am no longer naive enough to think otherwise. Even those who begin with good intentions by the time they get to the level where they are known on a national stage have sacrificed so many of their ideals for the sake of political expediency that only a shred of their former selves remains. I accept this from my political leaders. As much as I wish it were different, I know that it isn’t. It is why I don’t buy into claims of a “different” brand of politics. If those politicians were different, then they would have sacrificed their political careers for the sake of doing what was right in some specific instance a long time ago. Politics is about compromising those ideals for the sake of dealing with realistic confrontations. It is necessary and what has to be done. Unfortunately, this means that in our country, doing what is right in places like Darfur, Kenya, and the DRC never takes place, regardless of who the President is. But at the same time, while at the end of the day those compromises of policy are made for the sake of political expediency, I don’t like it when political leaders, for the sake of their own egos, try to sell me some idealistic version of the world that they themselves are incapable of bringing to pass. That is why I prefer the policy wonks, so to speak, those who just want to get work done by trying to find working solutions, rather than give grandiose speeches to pepper their own ambition.
The people who inspire, the people who change lives, they are not the ones running for political office. They are those, like President Hinckley, who feel a call to serve and who serve, not because they are elected to do so, but because they are filled with love. They do not sacrifice their ideals to be something politically paletable, unlike those, in the words of President Hinckley, “who will forsake principle for the sake of expediency”. Nor do they have to do so, because they are in the trenches, working and serving others. They are getting their hands dirty in the work of service. I am lucky enough to know people like this who serve this way. Like President Hinckley himself was, these are my true heroes. They are not seeking to augment their own ambition, but rather to actually to make the lives of others better.
President Hinckley loved everyone and served so many people all around the world. He believed in the great work that he was leading to such an extent that he wanted to bring to the world the blessings that he himself enjoyed. You can see that sense of urgency and love in his work, in his inspired plan of bringing temples to people all over the world so that they could receive the blessings of making temple covenants. That kind of love for all of Heavenly Father’s children is what I want to emulate. That is the kind of leadership I want to possess.