By Boyd Matheson
Published on August 21, 2017

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Demonstrations, violence and tragedy in Virginia along with gridlock in Congress and a stare-down with North Korea have created uneasiness in the nation and raised questions regarding President Trump’s ability to govern. Many are condemning the president’s actions while others are questioning his inaction — he is getting hit from every point on the political compass. Rather than looking at the president’s problems from a political angle, they can be most appropriately viewed and remedied through the lens of leadership.

The president has spent an inordinate amount of time attacking his enemies, belittling critical allies and engaging in a public display of mental gymnastics in order to justify events or assign blame to upheaval and unrest in our country. None of these activities lead to the kind of leadership the American people, and the world for that matter, desperately need.

In challenging times, great leaders always call the American people to something — even if it is just a call to the principles of freedom and liberty.

Extraordinary leaders call their people to four things — certainty, courage, character and a noble cause. This week, President Trump has the opportunity to make these calls as he addresses the nation anew.

A call to certainty

Americans want to be led. They are waiting, watching and listening for what can best be described as the “certain trumpet” of leadership. In ancient battles the noise and clamor of war created chaos. If the leader couldn’t clearly communicate with the troops they would face certain defeat. Thus the “certain trumpet” was devised. Every soldier was trained to recognize the sound, so even in moments of confusion they would know whether to advance or retreat; to attack the left flank or the right. The New Testament asks the question: What happens if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound? The American people are desperate to hear certainty coming from the president. (Yes, there is rich irony that an uncertain trumpet is coming from a Trump White House.)

A call to courage

Winston Churchill called his people to courage when he declared, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets … we shall never surrender.” The American people want and need that kind of courage to confront hate, fear and anger — and even our past. It takes courage to confront evil — especially when we find it within ourselves.

George W. Bush called the American people to courage when he said, “Recognizing and confronting our history is important. Transcending our history is essential. We are not limited by what we have done, or what we have left undone. We are limited only by what we are willing to do.” President Trump would be wise to call the American people to courageously confront the issues of our day.

A call to character

Abraham Lincoln called the American people to their better angels. John F. Kennedy called on every citizen to ask “what you can do for your country.”

A call to character is also a call to personal responsibility. We don’t need to look to Washington to know how to react or feel in times likes these. It is our character — individual and collective as a nation — that counts.

G.K. Chesterton said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Whether soldier, social worker or sales professional, millions of Americans get up every morning to fight — not for personal riches or glory, but in their own way — to provide safety, security and opportunity for those they love at home and in their community. Calling upon the better natures and better angels of the American people is the best way to ensure that America remains freedom’s last best hope on earth.

A call to a noble cause

The Declaration of Independence was a call to a cause worthy of the pledging of “our lives, fortunes and sacred honor.” Thomas Paine said, “It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same.” The cause of liberty, the cause of equality, the cause of opportunity are all worthy of our individual and collective pursuit.

Ronald Reagan called Americans to be that “shining city on a hill” and to be ready for our “rendezvous with destiny.” Americans can and will do extraordinary things when called upon by our leaders to pursue a noble cause.

Currently, the uncertain sounds from the president have simply served to call the nation to confusion and frustration. President Trump needs to display true leadership by sounding the certain trumpet of freedom and beckoning every citizen with a call to certainty, courage, character and the noble causes that unite us as Americans.

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