Moral Leadership and the Age of TrumpSarah Jackson | October 25, 2018
The way a person leads affects the morality and actions of his or her followers, both intentionally and unintentionally.
On a flight to Albuquerque Sunday, October 21, a man named Bruce Alexander was arrested because he allegedly touched a woman’s breasts on the flight. According to ABC News, Alexander defended himself with the phrase, “the president of the United States says it’s OK to grab women by their private parts.”
This is a sickening example of the moral effects of leadership. As the president of the United States, Donald Trump has made many derogatory and obscene comments toward women. He has mocked female political opponents, objectified and insulted female staff members, and even made fun of women who claim to be sexual assault victims.
And now others are following his lead.
Whether it is intentional or not, Donald Trump has set an example. Ridicule toward women is apparently acceptable behavior, and consent is now a non-issue, at least according to the interpretation of Alexander.
When people think it is acceptable to disrespect other human beings and violate personal boundaries, that is a sign that human life and dignity is not a priority. And that precedent is being set by the leader of the nation.
A leader, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a person who has commanding authority or influence.” Such a person must be able to lead by positive example, because, positive or not, people are watching.
United States presidents have always held a great deal of influence over the country’s people. According to Women’s Wear Daily, “The Kennedy Style” is a specific New England-style of dressing that President John F. Kennedy popularized during his presidency. Even in the most insignificant details such as fashion, leaders have tremendous influence – how much more do their actions impact people’s moral stances?
Because of this influence, leaders have a moral responsibility to the people they serve. Since their actions can directly influence the people who look up to them, leaders must exemplify proper behavior. People look to leaders for instruction on how to act, and Trump’s derogatory actions toward women have influenced the cues for acceptable social behavior.
The fact that a man believed he was justified in sexually harassing a woman because of the president’s behavior is a sign that the leadership in this county needs to step up its game.
The president has a responsibility to act in a way that is consistent with the country’s moral and ethical beliefs, and respect for people – both men and women – is an essential belief in the United States. Sexually harassing a woman is not acceptable under any circumstances, and the president’s behavior should reflect that inherent respect for women, and for all people.
Donald Trump has, thus far, been an incredibly polarizing president. He is either adored or hated by most. However, many supporters of Trump shy away from critiques on his moral character simply because the “policies” are too important.
Leaders cannot be exempt from critique, even by their supporters. Whether you support his policies or not, Trump’s actions deserve scrutiny. Dialogue about his policies and procedures is important, but a political stance should not be a reason to turn a blind eye to Trump’s personal conduct.
As citizens, we must hold the president to the standard that we expect of everyone else, because you cannot require citizens to adhere to a standard you do not expect the president to employ. Whether you lean red or blue, you need to expect higher standards from Trump, because this issue is not just about politics, it is about respect for people and respect for our nation’s values.