The Importance of Being Humble
At President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration Friday morning, evangelists appeared throughout the speaking roster, all essentially giving the same sermon one might expect – hopeful messages for their ideal Christian nation.
Generally speaking, many of these sermons felt somewhat hackneyed, rehashing the same ineffectual rhetoric that political discourse is often criticized for. However, one of these sermons distinguished itself in my memory.
The Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez delivered the second sermon of the day. As the first Hispanic evangelist ever to give an inaugural prayer, he read a Bible verse dealing with humility and mutual respect.
Rodriguez read from the Sermon on the Mount. Particularly interesting was his use of the following passage:
“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.”
The inclusion of this verse in particular interests me because, in many ways, it can’t be ignored how it applies as a word of advice to President Trump.
In the last several months, as well as in his lifetime spent in the public eye, Trump has proved to be a vacuum where humility goes to die. From his open mockery of anyone who criticizes him to his perceptible smug self-assuredness, Trump has proven himself to be an anomaly among past presidents in one respect:
He seems entirely uninterested in appearing humble.
This character trait is something troubling in ways many Trump supporters – and even perhaps his detractors – have not considered. Former President Harry S. Truman best defined the importance of humility regarding the leader of the United States:
“It is amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit,” he said.
There is a place, of course, for being self-assured – especially when holding the highest office in the nation, but there is also a place for humility. There is something to be said of the capability to accept fallibility, or to defer to someone else’s judgement.
There is something frightening in Trump’s callousness. Perhaps even more frightening is the fact that this very self-assuredness is a huge reason Donald Trump won this election.
Many Americans seem uninterested in gravitas, in the dignified consideration of a problem from all sides. The American people want simple answers, and Trump, lacking any sense of Stoicism, provides them.
He is brash and crude, and this has made him popular with people for fairly understandable reasons. The people, feeling a palpable lack of humanity in politics, want real candor, real openness.
But what Trump is offering is not candor. It is something that is often confused with candor, something that imitates candor: ignorance.
Ignorance is when a person chooses to answer a question from a disabled reporter by mocking that reporter. Ignorance is when a person calls on an audience to enact violence against protestors, regardless of what the protestors are saying.
Ignorance is when a person sexually objectifies women who disagree with him, and then allows the media to normalize such comments as “locker room talk.”
Candor is something else entirely. President Abraham Lincoln exhibited candor in his famous address at Lyceum in 1838, where he likened the continuation of slavery to a national suicide – at the height of slavery in America.
Candor is what former President George W. Bush had when he acknowledged that he had made mistakes in choosing to go into Iraq on intelligence that, as he said himself, “turned out to be wrong.”
Candor is openness. Candor is frankness. Candor is the humility to be able to see one’s mistakes while still trusting in their own intuition – even in the face of adversity.
What Donald Trump is doing is pandering.
He is willing to provide a simple answer, any simple answer, when the people want it. His convictions are not his own, but can only align with the rabble he is so adept at rousing. His crass nature is the death to any hope of Presidential humility.
Now is a time when honest, thoughtful leaders are increasingly necessary. I can only hope Trump takes the words the Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez quoted in earnest to heart.
Otherwise, the soul of the presidency, and with it, the soul of the nation, is in jeopardy.
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