Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 20, 2010 / 6 Iyar, 5770

Listening and Telling the Truth

By Paul Johnson





http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | How has Mr. Obama scored? Half and half. At the last moment, as his historic health care measure hung in the balance, the President decided to listen to a group of antiabortion Democrats and act on what he heard. That was decisive. But Mr. Obama has yet to tell the nation the full truth about what his health care project is going to cost. Perhaps he's not even told himself or dared to find out and so does not know.

But a leader must know the truth, however awful, even if — in wartime, for instance — he cannot divulge it. Winston Churchill blamed himself for not knowing — because he did not take the necessary steps to find out — the extent of Singapore's military weakness. The ignominious fall of that military base to the Japanese in 1942 came as one of the biggest shocks in the history of the British Empire.

Not knowing is often the result of not listening to those who do know. If Mr. Obama were to listen harder, not just occasionally but as a matter of ingrained habit, he'd have no illusions about what his health care plan is going to cost or the ramifications of those costs for individuals and the economy.

Listening carefully and telling the truth are each rare traits to be found in politicians, and rarer still in combination. But it does happen. George Washington listened all his life because he loved to learn and because he had no overwhelming desire to speak, unlike most of those in public life. One passion a leader should forgo, if possible, is a love affair with his own voice (and here even Winston Churchill fell below the mark). Washington, happily, liked the sound of his own silence. He also told the truth, even if at times he followed Edmund Burke's advice and was economical with it. When I was writing my book George Washington, I failed to come across any occasion when he had deliberately concealed the truth from anyone who had a right to know it.

One President who admirably combined taciturnity and veracity was Calvin Coolidge, that unobtrusive and so underrated man. He was aptly called "Silent Cal." He listened courteously to all his visitors but would not be drawn out. He said: "Nine-tenths of a President's callers at the White House want something they ought not to have. If you keep dead still they will run down in three or four minutes."

So Coolidge would remain mute. Slight twitches of his facial muscles spoke for him. He was described as "an eloquent listener." When he did speak, however, it was the truth. He told his countrymen that the business of America is business but that "it rests squarely on the law of service." And that, in turn, had its "main reliance [on] truth and faith and justice."

Every American, each in his or her role, has to save the others — by telling the truth, keeping faith and applying strict justice. That is a message worth giving and hearing but not one we hear much nowadays.

If we turn to Abraham Lincoln we find a marked combination of listening and truth-telling. Lincoln listened hard, no easy matter in the deafening cacophony of voices just before and during the Civil War.

Considering all he had to do and say, Lincoln spoke amazingly little. As he put it (on Aug. 6, 1862), "I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it." His Gettysburg Address is a classic instance — there is none better in history — of using as few words as possible (261, to be precise) while conveying a powerful message.

Lincoln always endeavored to tell the truth and to ensure that all heard it by clothing it in arresting language. He never won a vote or scored a political advantage by even the most minute sacrifice of factual accuracy. He believed rightly that people would rise to a challenge, however daunting, provided they were convinced the leadership was being honest.

Ronald Reagan, another notable President, also showed himself ready to listen, even though he didn't always hear. And he carefully studied a speaker's body language. Reagan believed that national leaders were too eager to avoid trouble and therefore toned down the truth. He rated his best speeches as those in which he spoke the unvarnished truth — notably his "Evil Empire" discourse. He personally strengthened its truth element just before delivery.

The world always needs the twin capacities of listening and truth-speaking. The signs point to our being on the eve of high drama in the Middle East, where few listen and most lie. Who involved will set the example of listening with care, then distilling and delivering the truth of what he hears?

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


BUY THE BOOK

Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).

Eminent British historian and author Paul Johnson's latest book is "American Presidents Eminent Lives Boxed Set: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant". Comment by clicking here.



Previously:

02/28/10: There Is No Keynesian Miracle
10/20/09: A Job Waiting for a Woman?
07/21/09: Obama Has to Be World Sheriff
03/24/09: Short works of genius that cheer up the writing profession
02/11/09: What would Darwin do?
01/27/09: Are you sophisticated? Here's how to find out
01/06/09: What did they talk about in the Ice Age? The weather, of course
09/09/08: Time, and our appalling ignorance of it
08/19/08: Eye-stopping glimpses of an exotic and forbidden world
06/30/08: How to fill a lecture hall, and how to empty it
06/23/08: Americans should count their blessings
05/20/08: Pajamas for Presidents
05/13/08: Literary woodlice boring needless holes in biographical bedposts
04/01/08: When markets come crashing down, send for the man with the big red nose
04/01/08: Quality for dinner. Pass the Fairy Liquid, Old Boy
03/25/08: In search of an American President with brains and guts
03/18/08: Technological warfare against mice won't work. Try cats
03/11/08: What is a genius? We use the word frequently but surely, to guard its meaning, we should bestow it seldom
03/03/08: Fiction as a crutch to get one through life
02/26/08: Impatience + Greed = Trouble
02/13/08: Shakespeare, Neo-Platonism and Princess Diana
02/07/08: Where Industry Has Failed Us
12/19/07: People who put their trust in human power delude themselves
12/12/07: What is aggression?
12/04/07: Pursuing success is not enough
11/07/07: Are famous writers accident-prone?
10/31/07: Courage needed to disarm Iran
09/20/07: Who Will Say ‘I Promise to Lay Off’?
07/24/07: Greed is safer than power-seeking
04/02/07: Benefactors must be hardheaded
03/07/07: American idealism and realpolitik
11/28/06: Space: Our ticket to survival
10/24/06: Envy is bad economics
10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty ones
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle

© 2009, Paul Johnson

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles