The Right Man, Right Time, Right Place

Richard C. Harwood, President, The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation For me, the second presidential debate sounded almost like a real debate, until I awoke from my slumber and realized what was happening. The two candidates spun their talking points bravely but the campaign – despite people’s interest and engagement across the nation – remains stuck in place for now. But there is an alternate path. Here’s what I mean. The candidates have successfully gotten people’s attention in recent weeks. For instance, millions of us have been glued to our television sets watching the three debates. But now that we’re watching, all we got on Friday night were two men strutting across a stage imploring us to believe their exhortations, auctioning off tax cuts and new programs to satisfy us, and dutifully attacking one another to prove their mettle. None of these debating points helped tell us anything more than we already had come to know, which hasn’t been enough to engender our confidence and hope. The candidates and this campaign are mired in their own talking points and attack lines. It’s a tired routine that washes over us and fails to take us anywhere – to help us see who we are and what we can become. All this activity numbs us, despite our interest and belief that this election is important. We wish for more.

So, here’s what I want them to do. Tell us for once what their heart says. Tell us what kind of America they seek to lead and help create. Tell us what we as people need to do, and what our obligations are to one another. This isn’t so much about policies and numbers; instead, it requires absolute clarity about underlying values and aspirations, about motivations and the reasons why they would endure such hardship to run for the presidency. To follow this path would require each man to get off their talking points and delve into their souls. They would need to trust themselves enough to rely on their own sense of mission. We saw fleeting glimpses of this genuine passion on Friday night – when Senator Kerry discussed the Patriot Act, and when the President discussed the preciousness of human life – but we deserve to see much more. Then maybe these candidates could shake us from our impasse and help us to see a different future. I know that the candidates and their handlers want most of us to remain in place so they can argue over the last few undecided voters. But this year they have an opportunity for people to say, “Yes, this is the right man, for the right time, at the right place.”