[OUTLOOK]Look to candidates’ personalitiesGerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, passed away late last year. Americans mourned the former president, even though he assumed the presidency for only two-and-a-half years and, technically speaking, his achievements were not greater than those of other presidents. The U.S. media praised him highly, saying he was a great president. The praise was not out of formality for the deceased. Articles in praise of Mr. Ford were abundant in the papers. Journalist Robert Novak wrote that Mr. Ford’s reputation exceeded record. One may wonder why.
The late politician was a humble man. He unexpectedly became president when Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in August 1974. As Mr. Nixon was forced to step down due to the Watergate scandal, Mr. Ford became an “accidental president.” In his inaugural speech, he said, “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers.” The virtue of modesty could be found in his speech.
There was another story. One day, his dog, Liberty, messed up his office. A naval man was about to put things into their original places but the president stopped him, saying, “I’ll do it.” The naval man was perplexed. The president said the man did not need to clear the mess that another person’s dog had made. A person who was the president’s spokesman at the time, told this story and said Mr. Ford was not haughty at all.
Mr. Ford was also honest. In 1971, when he was the floor leader of the Republican Party in the House, President Nixon called Mr. Ford to ask him a favor: to find out how Republicans would react if the president granted a pardon to a first lieutenant who was the main culprit at the massacre in the battle of Mylai, just before a verdict on him was due out.
The journalist, Mr. Novak, sensed that something was going on and asked Mr. Ford if he had met the president. Mr. Ford just replied that something was wrong. But 30 minutes later, he called the journalist and said the question was wrong and that the president did not meet him but did call him to ask a favor, which was very inappropriate.
Mr. Ford was tolerant. In 1976, he defeated Ronald Reagan in the Republican Party’s primary election to become the presidential candidate. Mr. Ford later expressed regret that Mr. Reagan did not help him in his campaign. But in 1980, Mr. Ford worked hard for Mr. Reagan to help him be elected president.
Comedian Chevy Chase lampooned Mr. Ford as an uncoordinated man, after an incident in which the president lost his footing on the staircase outside the presidential plane. However, Mr. Ford invited the comedian to the White House and treated him to dinner. The two became friends.
We will elect a new president this year. There are a variety of standards for choosing the right person. Some may say capability is the most important, while others will look into candidates’ policies first. What about adding personalities to the checklist? Just as flowers have their unique fragrance, all men have unique personalities. Let’s look into that.
What will happen to our country if our top leader has a crooked mind and no tolerance? The country will become bleak and the people’s lives will become tiresome.
If a leader condemns others by likening them to “unwholesome food,” if he gets insulted and upset to hear someone else’s advice to speak with prudence, such a narrow-minded person cannot become a leader to unite society.
We need wisdom to distinguish good reputation from good personality. A good reputation may include some hot air. Peter Drucker, a master of economics, wrote in his book on management that work can be learned, but good personalities cannot be learned even though they are essential for managers.
It is easier said than done to accurately evaluate the personalities of the presidential hopefuls. But let’s keep an eye on their acts and words from now on. Let’s see what they have done in the past. By the time election day comes, we will have become better at making the right judgments.
*The writer is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-il