Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

After watching the weeklong marathon program on the Roosevelts, one can’t help but be in awe of these inspiring persons. Their decency, compassion, courage and common sense were solely responsible for inexorably altering the history of the United States.

The country was on the brink of disaster, ravaged by the greed of the robber barons—those oligarchs who sequestered most of the riches of this vast beautiful land. This was the country where even if honest folks wanted to work there were no jobs, where people perished needlessly, where people walked all the way from Oklahoma to California in search of greener pastures. It took a man who never had to face the ravages of poverty, a man who was abhorred by the rich but revered by the poor and the downtrodden, a man who gave hope to the hungry masses, a man who was physically handicapped but mentally strong with an indomitable spirit and single-minded resolve, to lift the country from the abysmal depths of the Great Depression.

After providing livelihood to millions of starving families, and after liberating Europe from the tyranny of fascism, this Great Man—a fearless and peerless President, was summoned by the Good Lord, as if his enormous skills were needed even in Heaven. Hundreds of thousands of simple, ordinary, God-fearing people, openly weeping, with tears flowing down their cheeks, lined the route that carried his remains.

The emergence of a robust middle class during FDR’s tenure led to a prosperous and strong America, and its unchallenged hegemony. The edifice that was so carefully and thoughtfully built by TR and FDR (with Eleanor Roosevelt’s help), and nurtured up to a point by a few succeeding Presidents is now in danger of crumbling.

During the past three decades, empty rhetoric, bare-faced lies, and outright demagoguery replaced the strong, spirited and principled leadership of the first few decades of the twentieth century.

The 21st Century has a scarcity of leaders with the moral authority to steer their countries on the right course, and to curb avarice, poverty and inequity. We are burdened with mediocre, corrupt and timid politicians who do not possess leadership qualities.

A candidate who ran on “Hope” and “Change” has proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, to be a hopeless and an ineffectual president. Entrusted to govern the country by the passionate populace, this timid and tiresome President failed to deliver, and failed to restore the world’s trust in this once Great Nation. Half-measures, equivocation, and hesitancy are the hallmarks of his Presidency. His soaring speeches in Philadelphia, Cairo and Berlin were just empty meaningless words, not backed up by strong deeds.

Barack Obama made history by being the first black President of the country. But will he remembered for anything else? Will history be kind to his tenure? Evidence so far suggests otherwise. Many decades from now he might just be a footnote in the annals of American history. Just another smooth-talking politician, who came, who saw, and who won the election, not once, but twice, and who lost the trust and respect of even his most ardent admirers.

When Obama took office there were parallels between the Great Recession and the Great Depression. Almost eight decades apart, both these tragedies were man-made, and millions were rendered homeless and destitute. But whereas FDR rose to the occasion and took extremely strong and decisive measures and ameliorated the dire situation of the downtrodden, Obama’s actions did not measure up. He lost a golden opportunity during the first two years of his tenure when his party controlled both the legislative chambers. He squandered precious time in trying to tame the rabid right wing.

He appointed advisors who never had the interests of the common man, and who were beholden to vested interests. He did not listen to Nobel Prize winning economists’ advice, and went weak-kneed on the stimulus package. He entrusted health care reform to those in cahoots with the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare insurance companies. He failed to pass a single-payer system demanded by the progressives who helped to elect him. Time and time again he disappointed his followers who worked energetically for his election campaign, who contributed might and money, and who hoped he would be another FDR. His policies always fell short and failed to match his rousing rhetoric.

Our enemies don’t fear us anymore and our friends have lost hope of an America which would once again assume the mantle of global leadership.

Surely, FDR would turn in his grave.