Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Seeing George W in a Different Light

George W. Bush reemerged in the spotlight last week with the dedication of his library on the campus of Southern Methodist University. As I watched highlights of his presidency on the evening news, a picture emerged that I saw in a whole new light.

It's a picture of his Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, telling President Bush about the first attack in New York City on September 11. When the scene is playing live, we watch President Bush look like a deer caught in headlights. He seems confused. He's clearly not sure what to do. He's caught between one commitment to children listening to the President of the United States reading to them and the rest of the country watching to see how he will respond.

When I saw the image last week, I had sympathy for George W. for the very first time. As I watched the events of that horrible day unfold once more, I saw the incredible weight of leadership.

Only five living men know the weight of the Presidency - what it's like to be the leader of the United States with all the world watching your every move. While we cannot relate to the heavy load of their role, many of us know what it's like to be the one making decisions with countless people watching to see how we will act, ready to criticize our every move.

We do not have cameras rolling on us, but we know what it's like to be in the middle of one commitment when we hear something that demands our full attention.

We know what it's like to be called to calmly shift our attention from one focus to another hoping that we will not let down the people we are turning away from.

We understand how paralyzing it can be to have people waiting to hear a word from us - as we pray our words will make sense and be received with power and conviction.

George W. Bush had his leadership put on the line. We criticized his every move. We wondered why he did not stop everything and start acting that day. Why did he not excuse himself immediately and go lead our country through crisis?

The more I understand how hard leadership is, even leading a church with 150 members, the more I sympathize with George W.

Leadership is an incredible gift and a daunting, humbling responsibility.

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