How are we to understand the leadership being offered by the three major candidates for President of the United States? In the year 2020, the following individuals are vying for this elected position, President Donald J. Trump, Democratic Nominee former Vice-President Joseph Biden, and Libertarian Candidate Jo Jorgenson.
The definition of leadership I will be using is the United States Army’s definition of leadership. Admittedly, I have a bias towards this definition as I am a former officer of the United States Army graduating from Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, to include additional military leadership schools. Additionally, there are multiple definitions of leadership and types of leadership. I recommend you consider Leadership in Organizations by Gary Yukl and Leadership by James MacGregor Burns.
So what is the definition of leadership? “Leadership is the activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization” (ADP 6-22, p.3, 2019). There are four critical elements regarding the activity of leadership; influence, purpose, direction, and motivation. An effective leader determines to persuade an individual or group by offering those subjects with a reason to achieve particular goals with associated activities stimulating individual and group desires. Do we find these elements expressed in the speeches of these candidates?
What follows are brief reviews of the three nomination speeches provided in reverse order. What I did was simply use the elements of influence, purpose, direction, and motivation to assess the leadership directed towards Black Americans. There is no endorsement of any candidate. You can click on the name of the candidate to read or view the actual nomination speech in its entirety.
President Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party Nominee
President Trump opened with an idea of an inclusive Republican Party welcoming people who “believes in the greatness of America and the righteous heart of American people.” President Trump sought to persuade his listeners in general and African Americans specifically by appealing to the contest of ideas and the use of contrast. President Trump spoke about the election being a choice between two America’s on the basis of ideology. The alternative is loss of jobs and loss of protection due to socialism. According to President Trump a “backwards view is offered.” Second, President Trump appealed to his first term sacrificial for the moment and he followed this idea with what he supposed as his actions for the American people, using terms such as “I fight. Keep promises. I simply said, “America first.” Speaking directly to Black Americans President Trump contrasted what was done in three years versus Biden’s forty-seven years.
How will President Trump lead Americans and specifically Black Americans in a second administration? He stated “we must restore ourselves by not turning to government but put our faith in “almighty God.” Second, he proposed to continue to advance an American First policy which addresses the internal and international relationships of America. By continuing to advance the idea of an American First policy, it will continue to improve the situation of Black Americans regarding criminal justice reform, prison reform, opportunity zones, and reduce unemployment.
How are Americans and Black Americans particularly motivated to join this effort? As a motivator to vote for him and not Biden, Trump characterized Biden as a Trojan horse for socialism. This was an obvious allusion to the war which ended the city of Troy as Greeks presented a “gift” which hid soldiers who would eventually sack the walled city. The question offered, “then how is he ever going to stand for you?” According to the President, a new term will bring economic prosperity, protections, spirit of unity through values and pride in history. Additionally, it will improve the situation of inner city which is typically code for Black America. As a motivation to improve the Black community, the President reminded Black Americans Lincoln only has accomplished more for them. He concluded, “the best is yet to come.”
Former VP Joseph Biden, the Democratic Party Nominee
How did Mr. Biden seek to influence his listeners, particularly, Black Americans? Mr. Biden opens his speech with an analysis. The situation of America because of the current administration is “in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.” Mr. Biden provided inclusive language regarding his leadership, “But while I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t support me as I will for those who did.” Here is an interesting contrast. Whereas Trump invoked a theological response, “put our faith in Almighty God,” Mr. Biden stated regarding the virus, “Well, I have news for him, no miracle is coming.”
Speaking directly to Blacks Americans, “Our economy is in tatters, with Black…communities bearing the brunt of it.” To respond to the challenge of addressing racism, Mr. Biden influences his listeners by appealing to meeting with George Floyd’s daughter, invoking the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, and the disputed words of the President regarding Charlottesville. Mr. Biden observed this election requires “winning it for those communities who have know the injustice of the “knee on the neck.” This is an obvious allusion to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 and the subsequent protests and riots in response to his death. Mr. Biden identified “the most compelling call for racial justice since the 60’s.” Thus he frames as a goal it is by necessity he be voted into office in order to help provide leadership in response to the current racial issues which has reached the level of the Civil Rights movement.
Mr. Biden annunciated a very clear purpose as a nation: “to open the doors of opportunity to all Americans. To save our democracy.” Mr. Biden understands democracy not as a political process but one of social engineering(check that) Mr. Biden argued it is necessary to rid America of what he characterized as systemic racism.
What direction will Mr. Biden provide concerning the issues directed at Black Americans? The necessity to respond to the virus to improve the economy and get kids to school. Mr. Biden stated his plan will be executed to restore America because the current President failed to protect America. “As president, I will make you this promise: I will protect America.” Surprisingly, Mr. Biden offered no direction or specific policies as to how to address systemic racism.
Finally, how did Mr. Biden seek to motivate? A way to stimulate motivation is by posing a question for reflection and action. “So, the question for us simple: Are we ready? I believe we are. We must be. ”Another question posed, “Will we be the generation that finally wipes the stain of racism from our national character?” He identified the necessity to vote is ultimately found in how we will understand “What we stand for.” Mr. Biden does provide significant paragraphs of an America continued to be cloaked in darkness thus voters should respond to include a couple of demonstrative statements concerning President Trump to motivate others. “If this President is reelected we know what will happen…”and “No one will say that about the current occupant of the office…”
Jo Jorgenson, Libertarian Candidate
How does she persuade? Mrs. Jorgenson appeals to American history and she does not shy away from the historical experience of slavery as it related to persons of color. Second, she identified the hypocrisy present in the founding of the nation as the historical documents announced a particular set of ideals while in practice maintained an institution which enslaved millions and maintained other institutions of racism (15:00 mark of video). Mrs. Jorgenson, appealed to the lived experience of some persons of color who fear being pulled over and killed (21:48 mark of video).
Mrs. Jorgenson, announced specific goals to rally support of Black Americans related to concerns around the judicial system and education. In general, Mrs. Jorgenson announced it was important to continue the work of ending institutions which impact Black Americans. On two related issues, the Libertarian candidate announced the importance top decriminalize “all drugs” (17:49 mark of video) as well as address the “over incarceration of people of color” (18:54 mark of video). Mrs. Jorgenson addressed a very important concern which has been significant in the discussion concerning police relationships and American citizens. No knock raids and ending of qualified immunity has been in multiple discussions as a result of the deaths of Breona Taylor and George Floyd (19:34 mark of video). Finally, Mrs. Jorgenson identifies a final purpose to galvanize Black American support in the form of school choice.
How will Mrs. Jorgenson influence Black Americans in the achievement of specific purposes? The direction she offered included working with the Federal Drug Administration to reduce barriers and increase more over the counter drugs. Second, in relationship to decriminalizing all drugs, she offered the solution of returning authority to the states and empowering health communities to address drug issues. Finally, to achieve school choice, Mrs. Jorgenson proposed ending the Department of Education, localizing educational opportunities and placing the power into the hands of people of color.
Mrs. Jorgenson used a repetitive phrase to stimulate motivation for individuals, “It’s time for real change.” Additionally, she appealed to the economic interest of persons of color stating it is corporate welfare which is harming them. The purpose of ending mass incarceration and decriminalizing drugs was tied to the motivation, “no victim, no crime” (18:00 mark of video). Finally, speaking directly to Black Americans she quoted, “it was not enough to be passively not racist, we must be actively anti-racist.” (15:29 mark of video).
President Donald Trump offered a review of his accomplishments during his first term as it related to the African American community. He sought to influence Black American voters by identifying the clear distinctions between his and his opponents ideological vision for America. Referencing his current term, he posited himself as someone who momentarily set aside personal life to put America first and in doing so, his presidential term yielded more positive outcomes than the forty-seven years of his opponent. His speech offered very little in the form of purpose as it directly related to Black Americans in the achievement of specific goals yet he offered strong evidence in the areas of direction and motivation. As a foundation to achieve particular outcomes for Black Americans, Mr. Trump appealed to the necessity of asserting a theological posture and prioritizing the needs of America. As a consequence, Black America has benefited from reduced unemployment, criminal justice reform, and prison reform. This direction in his estimation serves as a motivator for Black Americans to vote for him in November. A new term he characterized with economic prosperity and protection falls in line with Black American community advancement . In his analysis, other than Lincoln, a Trump administration has done significantly more than Biden. If we understand the context of two different Americas and his characterization of Mr. Biden functioning as a means, the “Trojan horse,” to expand socialism, African Americans should be motivated to respond to Trump and maintain progress in America.
Mr. Biden’s speech in contrast to Mr. Trump’s speech offered very little in actual policy prescriptions for Black Americans directly. Mr. Biden offered a significant rhetorical exposition on the situation of race at it related to Black Americans but proceeded no further regarding economics and other concerns. He proceeded to influence his listeners by offering an analysis of an America which is dark, divisive, and angry due to the leadership of the current occupant of the White House. Similar to the President, Mr. Biden positioned his party as inclusive and by virtue of his office a desire to work for all Americans despite support or lack of support for his presidential bid. Specifically, his approach to influence regarding Black Americans was to use negative outcomes, specifically the virus, as a means to engender support. Finally, to legitimize his influence and garner support from Black Americans, he directly mentioned George Floyd’s daughter, Congressman Lewis, and Charlottesville. All of these designed to demonstrate a sensitivity and sympathy for the current situation. Mr. Biden identified this nation has a purpose to eradicate the stain of racism and systemic racism from the national character. It is described as the most significant calling since the Civil Rights era. The purpose is rooted in our national purpose to open the doors of opportunity to all. What is lacking is the direction. Mr. Biden offered no direction or plan as to how systemic racism will be appropriately addressed under his leadership. Contrast the absence of such a plan with the plan for responding to Covid-19. Finally, Mr. Biden offered some motivating words for his listeners. Using the technique of rhetorical questions, Mr. Biden motivated his listeners to support his presidency in contrast to Mr. Trump and present himself as the most effective candidate to lead this generation to address racism.
Mrs. Jorgenson offered the shortest of the three speeches. She used a mix of history and current events to establish credibility and speak directly to the concerns of Black Americans. Mrs. Jorgenson, in contrast to President Trump and Former Vice President Biden, offered a different perspective in addressing concerns of Black Americans as it related to education, incarceration, and drugs. What was lacking in her speech was a more substantive explanation regarding corporate welfare and its impact on Black Americans. While the other two speeches offered apocalyptic visions if the opposing candidate secured the office, Mrs. Jorgenson speech maintained a level of optimism anchored by the motivating phrase, “it’s time for real change.”
So the question posited towards Black Americans in Arkansas and everyone else in general, "Who presented him or herself as the most effective leader within the nomination speech influencing and motivating you to vote for him or her?" Secondly, "Did you hear a purpose and direction which you could align yourself with and in good conscience cast a vote for one of these three individuals?"
Whomever you vote for this November, please take the time over the next weeks to interrogate the ideas of each candidate. Understand the policy impacts on a national as well as local level. However you vote, know you are honoring the legacy of men and women who did not have the opportunity, those who marched for the opportunity to vote, and those men and women today who protect your opportunity to vote.