As I look back at 2017 and try to determine who gave us courageous and impartial leadership at a time when so many of us were in a state of high anxiety, I would say without hesitation it was the Women’s March. They not only galvanized protestors from all over the nation but they gave the rest of us the most vital ingredient of life – hope.
On a personal level, I felt it in our household. Like millions of others, we were in a funk following the election. But when the March was announced, my wife, Susan, instantly declared her determination to go to Washington, ordered her pink headwear, and made plans with our youngest daughter, Jessica. It was clearly a March built out of unwavering fortitude and was organized not by people with titles of leadership but rather by those who had the natural talent and courage. It reminded me of the early stages of the American Revolution when ordinary citizens were so outraged they took to arms without any thought of their personal wellbeing.
And just as the result of 1776 led to our independence, the Women’s March was the force behind the Alabama and Virginia upsets and may well be the power that topples Trumpism in 2018.
Locally, my choice for leader of the year is an old fashioned straight shooter, Richard Painter. Like the organizers of the Women’s March, he has no assigned title of leadership but rather leads and inspires by personal example. As a constitutional scholar, chief ethics attorney during the administration of President George W. Bush, and current Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, he comes equipped with knowledge but, more importantly, a healthy sense of outrage. And his principle weapon is our Constitution. While all too many Republican leaders hide in the shadows to protect their incumbency, Richard Painter, a Republican moderate, stands forcefully and aggressively against the continuing assaults made on our law by Trump and his allies. Time and again he is the one Republican who through lawsuits, television appearances and social media has risen above the politics of self-interest and reminds us that the majesty of law is what holds our nation together.
In a sense, it is refreshing that those we regard as ordinary citizens are the ones who define leadership for us. It is simply the determination to do right. I applaud, truly applaud, all those who marched in the Women’s March and Richard Painter. It is their intelligent and patriotic resolve that lights our path back to true democratic leadership.