Monday, May 30, 2011
President Obama and the Governor of Missouri performed a basic task of leadership yesterday. They appeared at the scene of the tornado disaster in Joplin, Mo and offered hope to the victims. This simple act of presence is still the most powerful form of communications. Strictly speaking, there was no need for them to be there. With all the forms of modern communication, they could easily have grasped the dimension of the disaster without showing up. But, that is not the point. Their presence was for the survivors, those who have to bulldoze the wreckage and slowly rebuild homes and businesses. Invoking the memory of the dead is a show of empathy that people expect. It is interesting that leaders will forget how powerful their presence is. They get busy -- and certainly, President Obama is crushed by world problems -- and they prioritize emergencies they have to handle. Touring a disaster site becomes a secondary task relegated to another official. Whether or not one likes this president, he can be an excellent communicator.