[Outlook]Wisdom, charm wanted in leaderOn June 2, 1953, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place in Westminster Abbey in London.
On hand were her husband, Prince Phillip, her five-year-old son, Prince Charles, government officials including Sir Winston Churchill and many honored guests. They witnessed the 26-year-old queen, “the irresistible charm,” as she took the throne.
A recent event illustrates the power of her irresistible charm.
About a month ago, the British Queen paid a state visit to the United States to attend a ceremony commemorating the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Jamestown.
The White House was freshly repainted to receive the queen. President George W. Bush wore a tailcoat and his first-ever white bow tie for the state dinner to welcome the queen. The dinner table was decorated with white roses and Lenox flatware with golden brims. The White House chef served an elaborate five-course meal. Truly, it was a world-class dinner.
Why did the United States, the world’s superpower, go to all this fuss and formality and courtesy to honor the British Queen? Was there an important and pending issue between the countries? No, it was not that. It was because the United States is simply captivated by the irresistible charm of Elizabeth II. It’s not about political gain or loss.
What makes her irresistibly charming?
There is a story about when Queen Elizabeth II had a dinner with a high government official from China. The Chinese official was not familiar with the Western table manners, and he happened to drink the water in a finger bowl. The queen also drank the water in her finger bowl in a very natural way. Of course, this was against royal etiquette. But it was very thoughtful that she tried not to embarrass the guest. It was refined manners indeed. The thoughtfulness to care about other people seems to be the source of her irresistible charm.
It has also been reported that Queen Elizabeth II does not like Prime Minister Tony Blair very much. But with one month to go in his term, Blair nonetheless spoke of her charm. He said that when he became the prime minister 10 years ago, he thought of meetings with the queen as traditional custom. But gradually he began to realize that the meetings were precious opportunities to seek wisdom.
He said the queen was charm itself. I think that is correct. The charm of the queen comes not from her commanding majesty, but from wisdom gained through experience.
It has been 55 years since Queen Elizabeth II succeeded the crown. The queen looked so young and naive then. But over the years, she has weathered some rugged times, together with some 10 prime ministers, including Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The British Empire she inherited was not the glorious one on which the sun never sets, but the old and worn-out empire which was panting amid the remnants of the World War II.
But her charm was her weapon. With a charm based on thoughtful consideration and wisdom, Queen Elizabeth II managed the Commonwealth of nations which was on the verge of dismantling, and made a crucial contribution to reestablish the dignity of the United Kingdom and the royal family.
We Koreans also want a leader who has irresistible charm. We do not need pretentiously authoritative leaders who look down on people, or persistent leaders who irritate people. How wonderful to have a leader who is thoughtful, understanding and equipped with wisdom from experience.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong