Ambition doesn’t equal leadership

By Jake Vial

This week I was fortunate enough to speak to a number of high schoolers at a youth leadership conference and the event left me excited. I wasn’t excited because I had found a group of young Republicans or individuals who shared my political ideology. I actually wish more of them had. Instead, I was excited because it gave me a renewed sense that the leaders of tomorrow are better prepared to run our country than the leaders of today. I guess if each generation learns from the mistakes of previous ones, then our country and our world should be run continually better as each generation compiles a longer list of the failures of their ancestors.

This group of young leaders I was seeing hadn’t yet been corrupted by power and greed. Instead they were more concerned with getting involved with the political process than conquering it. Too often our leaders get so concerned with personal ambition that they lose sight of the fact that they still represent a constituency that relies upon their decisions. As I watch coverage of the presidential primary campaign I can’t help but think that personal ambition is driving each and every candidate.

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Senator Clinton will stop at nothing to be our first female president and live in the White House again. She continually reminds us that “her husband Bill” did this and that while he was president and I can’t help but feel that she’s only in the race to be the first woman president and to build a Clinton dynasty in American history. On the same ticket is our fledgling senator, Barack Obama. While I don’t think that Obama is driven by a desire to be the first black president, I do believe he has nothing but personal ambition in mind as he pursues the position of commander in chief. Instead of serving his Illinois constituency in the Senate, his first term has been nothing but preparation for a run at the White House, afraid to take tough stands on issues for fear that he might offend some of his rock star entourage. He paints himself as a visionary but I think his only vision is of himself with his feet propped up on his desk in the Oval Office and he’s had that vision for too long.

My ballot of Republican candidates isn’t much better. I worry that our frontrunner is riding his 9/11 stardom to the White House. A strong leader without a strong vision for our country, it would be a nice end to the story if Rudy Giuliani could lead the country that he helped unite during crisis. I feel other candidates have jumped on board simply because they feel that the field of candidates is weak.

Both primary ballots are missing candidates for the people, ones who hold the enthusiasm for our country that the young leaders that I met this week hold. I would enjoy seeing the silent visionaries on the ticket, the Jeff Flakes and Denny Hasterts who have extraordinary minds and goals for our country but don’t have the constant desire to toot their own horns. Next February, our list of candidates will not have limited ideologies but they will have a limited source of ambition and most comes from personal greed.

Jake can be reached at [email protected]