We have, in this country, a tradition of leadership that aims to appeal both to the intelligence of the 'common man', and also to the heart within each person that assesses character and that decides upon voting behavior.
For most people, such decisions are not just based on the ideas and issues that candidates present, but also on the integrity, depth, and commitment that a candidate brings to these ideas and issues.
With the increased use of television to create a forum for public debate and discourse, the capacity to assess matters with one's heart is both made easier and more difficult. For the television format is often not one that lends itself to the revelation of depth of character. Often, television formats allow for brief sound-bites in which well-polished phrases are all that can fit in to the allotted time, and these must be quick to grasp, easy to remember, but not necessarily revealing at a deeper level.
As actors on a television stage, there are those who come before us who speak well, yet who operate more on the surface of themselves with less true feeling but a greater ability to create a convincing presentation within a short period of time. There are others who use fewer words, who actually mean more. While it is true that public speaking is a matter of political skill that all who seek public office must acquire, it is also a matter of character and of the heart.
The American public is always listening for what the heart says. It is not only listening to words. And so candidates who seek to cover errors in past judgment, or shortcomings in present capacities, with facile political phrases, may become transparent before a public that is listening with its heart.
Sometimes, however, voices are deceptive, and the heart can make a mistake about what it is hearing. Sometimes, the display of knowledge or verbal skill can appeal to the mind with such force that it can override the listening of the heart. It can override the capacity of the heart to judge the inner integrity of a speaker.
When this happens, it is a sad state of affairs both for the public and for the future functioning of government. For a government that cannot stand on the basis of its own integrity and character, a government that uses fancy words to placate the minds of people but does not act out of its own heart, cannot truly represent a people that seeks to better its own conditions in life.
We must be careful, therefore, in America, to not be seduced by words. To not be seduced by the intellect that appears to speak with facility and knowledge, but lacks the heart to support the words when it comes to actual practice. This carefulness does not mean ruling out the use of the mind to evaluate positions or views that matter. But it does mean not being seduced by words or by the sweep of words which may cover other lacks.
America's heart is her most valuable possession. It is the center of her spiritual existence. In the midst of heated debate over campaign issues, it is important to be able to listen with our hearts in order to know, and feel, and judge according to a deeper measure of truth.
When we do this and to the extent that we do this, we will elect public servants who truly serve in the name of all, and we will put in place a government that cares for the interests of all. In this way, the heart of America will become its leadership, and the heart of its people, the content and measure of its government and policy.