What Presidential Candidates Could Learn From Pope Francis


The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning. -Adlai Stevenson

With the political primaries in full swing, voters' blood is boiling listening to would-be future leaders of our country. Candidates from both parties have left voters confused, frustrated, disgusted, frightened and angry. An "us vs. them" mentality has created a wider divide than ever before. Who can voters trust? Who can really fix what's broken? What will our country become?

While it may sound a bit cheeky, and certain political purists may roll their eyes at the sentiment -- we need Pope Francis. If he were running for president, he'd get my vote, and I'm not Catholic. I love this Pope. In a mere three years, despite serious obstacles, he has accomplished major bureaucratic housecleaning, set new directions and priorities for a global organization not traditionally known for its innovation, and focused the attention and resources of the Church on matters of global concern. Other Popes have worked towards change and failed; some didn't even bother; some made things worse. It's been a long road and Pope Francis is number 266 in a long line of leaders.

Consider what the Pope is up against within the Vatican and compare this to what the President of the United States is up against with Congress. Resistance to change? Check. Hidden agendas? Check. A culture of infighting and power struggles? Check. A network of powerful administrative departments that seem to despise each other? Check. Wars between conservative and liberal wings? Check. Throw in scandal, hubris, greed, cover ups and conference rooms full of decision makers with narcissistic personality disorder and you've pretty much got it.

So how has Pope Francis done it? Why is he so popular?

Let's start with how he became the Pope. Jorge Mario Bergoglio didn't use negative television commercials, name calling and profanity or an over active ego to be considered for this position of leadership. There was no us-versus-them, no I'm right, they're wrong. Through a miraculous process unimaginable in the U.S., Pope Francis was chosen by people with strongly opposing views. I suspect he may have been chosen, in part, because of his gentle, unassuming nature. Some may have thought he could be controlled. Turns out, while he is gentle and kind he is also strong -- these are all qualities that our nation should be looking for in a presidential candidate.

Once chosen, it became clear that Pope Francis is a communicator. He has a Facebook page, he tweets, and when he speaks, it is without the usual Vatican filters. His goal isn't to get "likes." He seeks unity, resolution, focused action on matters like climate change, religious persecution, and the suffering of so much of humanity. Pope Francis seeks engagement with the world, including those who do not share his beliefs.

He understands that what gets talked about, how it gets talked about and who is invited to the table determines what will happen. Or won't happen. He is engaging the world, including his adversaries, one conversation at a time. These are conversations that build our world of meaning, building bridges, not walls, conversations that provide clarity versus confusion, conversations that invite cross-boundary collaboration and cooperation versus adding concertina wire to the walls between well-defended fiefdoms. Indeed, these are conversations that reveal we are capable of original thought. Intelligent, spirited conversations which provide clarity and impetus for change.

Read the rest of the article in my Huffington Post column.

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