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How 2 ex-presidents showed what real leadership looks like

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And that became very clear this week as two former presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama –showed a level of grace and class that has been missing for much of the last three-plus years, and especially over the last few months as the country (and the world) has battled coronavirus.

First came Bush with a video message for the country. “We are not partisan combatants,” Bush said. “We’re human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together. And we’re determined to rise.”

He then added that he had seen an amazing spirit rise in the country in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks and that “I have no doubt, none at all, that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America.”

In response to that stirring reminder of our common humanity, President Donald Trump tweeted that Bush “was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!”
Then on Tuesday, Obama announced via Twitter that he and his wife, Michelle, would give a series of commencement addresses to high school and college graduates impacted by the pandemic.
“I’ve always loved joining commencements—-the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice,” Obama wrote. “Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones.”
Later in the week. Obama placed phone calls to Chicago public school teachers to thank them for their service. (It’s Teacher Appreciation Week.)
(Side note: Michelle Obama’s documentary “Becoming” also premiered this week on Netflix, offering its own message of vulnerability and hope.)

The combined effect of words and deeds by the two men who preceded Trump in office was striking. This is what leaders do in times of crisis for the country. They offer not empty promises, blame and boasts but rather reassurance that we can do this  — only if we do it together.

They remind us of our shared humanity and our common decency, traits we need to remember in this moment more than ever before.

The Point: Donald Trump has long claimed he is “modern-day presidential.” I’d prefer him to be just presidential. And he’s got two great role models in how presidents act in crisis — if he’d just listen to them rather than attack them.





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