Cameron from the TV show Modern Family once said that "There are dreamers and there are realists in this world." He was right.
Leadership comes in many forms. There are realists, dreamers, and there are combinations of the two. President Obama, for example, is a dreamer. George W. Bush was a realist. And Bill Clinton was a mix of the two.
Obama has always been able to mobilize large crowds and as a visionary he speaks to many Americans' idealistic tendencies. President Bush on the contrary could not mobilize large crowds like Obama but his ability to convey realistic solutions to problems (whether popular or not) was concrete and often overt and concise. Bill Clinton not only dreamt big but also governed in the middle, where he was able to turn dreams into reality for many.
George H.W. Bush was a realist but less concrete than his son. But Reagan, like Clinton, was also a hybrid: He was a great communicator, actually the "Great Communicator" and then worked with a Democratic Congress to try and find bipartisan solutions. And then there was Jimmy Carter, arguably neither a realist nor a dreamer, as he had trouble both commanding crowds and implementing change.
As you can hopefully determine by now, such categorizations are simply my own opinions. Historians categorize presidents all the time -- and I am no historian. But try and see if you notice a trend so far.
Gerald Ford did not have much time in office but his immediate pardon of Richard Nixon demonstrated early on that he was a determined individual with realistic tendencies. He followed Nixon who in some ways was both a realist and a dreamer. Nixon, easily demonized, dreamt of and created the EPA (could you imagine a Republican President doing the same today?) but also carefully managed diplomatic relations by opening relations with China (concrete).
Lyndon Johnson was a sure-footed realist. He knew his mission: to carry out John Kennedy's dreams. It was Kennedy who was the dreamer, Johnson the enforcer. If Kennedy had lived longer, would he have been a hybrid?
Dwight Eisenhower was also a realist. He built the interstate highway system and led Americans in war before assuming the presidency. Truman, a realist too, made one of the most challenging decisions as a leader by choosing to drop the atomic bomb to end the war. And Franklin Roosevelt was like Reagan and Clinton. He dreamt of new social programs to lead us out of the depression and then he worked to implement them.
So notice the trend: realists often follow dreamers or dreamers often follow realists (what comes first is like the chicken or the egg phenomenon). But why?
Maybe it's because we, as Americans, love to dream. Yet often when we do, we discover that the heights we reach are simple plateaus and not mountaintops. Then, possibly in our disappointment, we search for realists to bring us back to earth.
Barack Obama is a dreamer and Mitt Romney, a realist.
So the question now is, do we want four more years of a dreamer?
As Cameron from Modern Family continues, he says: "... the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists... well, without the dreamers, they might never get off the ground."
With the next four years in mind, how close to the sun do you want to be?
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