NOTE: I originally wrote this post exactly two years ago to the day. It has become even more poignant as we watched President Obama give two emotional speeches over the past three days in the wake of events in Newtown. It was this speech on Friday, however, that really moved many Americans and expressed our collective sorrow at the tragedy.
In some ways, that show of emotion connects with us and makes the leader more human. But it also could make the person appear "weak" or lacking composure and self control.
See below for more examples in my original post.
****** ORIGINAL POST ON DECEMBER 17, 2010 ********
The other night, I was watching the 60 Minutes interview with incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner. At one point, the host asked Boehner's wife what she thought about his rise from waiting tables in the restaurant where they were seated to serving his country as the head of the House. She said she was proud of him and Boehner broke down in tears. Here's another clip from the interview:
Of course, Boehner is not the only political figure who's got a habit of losing composure on occasion. How about his colleague on the other side of the aisle, Vice President Biden? Skip to 2:19 here:
Then there's Hillary Clinton's emotional New Hampshire moment during the 2008 Presidential campaign:
Note some of the themes in these clips: children, patriotism, passion, friendship - the kinds of things that mean something. And yet each of them has been criticized as being weak or unworthy of office for revealing this kind of raw emotion.
I'm not turned off by this type of vulnerability. In fact, I think it makes them more appealing and personal, authentic and human. I also wish it made it harder to demonize them based on party affiliation, but unfortunately each side attempts to exploit these unscripted expressions of vulnerability as a sign of weakness.
So what do you think?
Is it okay for our leaders to show this kind of emotion?