The ‘Weight’ of Obama’s ‘Word’: El Pais, Spain
Gravitas and the power of “the word.”
Gravitas is that ancient Roman measure of a leader’s influence and credibility – and “the word” is a key tool that leaders must use to exercise that ancient virtue. Continuing with our sampling of global reaction to the issue of health care in America, according to columnist Lluis Bassets of Spain’s El Pais, after Obama’s breathtaking rise to power, he has gravitas in abundance – and last week he showed his capacity to use “the word.” Now what remains, according to Bassets, are tangible results:
For El Pais, Lluis Bassets writes in part:
“Confronting difficulty we reach for the word: political weapon of democracy par excellence. … Every time Barack Obama has found himself in a tight spot, he has reached for the word. It happened during his election campaign and he did it again yesterday with a speech devoted to health care reform. … Obama’s ascent to the White House represents an extraordinary moment in recent U.S. history, as was his inauguration and first months before reaching today’s crossroads. But an extraordinary election campaign and an extraordinary president don’t necessarily make an extraordinary presidency. That requires extraordinary results. … Gravitas is a Latin virtue that has to do with a sense of duty and dignity that relates to credibility. The words of those who possess it have weight, embody commitment and produce results. Obama has already achieved these in abundance, beginning with his shaping of public opinion during the campaign and ending with his trips abroad and his forays into international politics and human rights. But now he must realize a far more concrete reform – that of the health system, which would serve as the ultimate proof of the impact of his speeches, i.e.: the weight of his word.”
By Lluis Bassets
Translated By Halszka Czarnocka
September 10, 2009
Spain – El Pais – Original Article (Spanish)
Confronting difficulty we reach for the word: political weapon of democracy par excellence. The word may serve to mask, entertain or lie, particularly when it emerges from a single voice that allows for no response. But it can also serve other uses, such as explaining, arguing and convincing – which can only occur when exposed to the open scrutiny and oversight of citizens in a parliamentary democracy or, as we like to call it now, a deliberative one. It’s the word as dialogue and democratic conversation in conjunction with the right to vote to which our leaders have a special responsibility, commensurate with the range and power of the leader’s voice.
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