Newsweek editor-in-chief, the erudite Jon Meacham, reminded me of this quote in his Top of the Week column this week. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He used it to describe the way Teddy Kennedy operated during his years in government. It's a mistranslation of Voltaire, and it holds a well of wisdom for our time.
I'm getting tired of the unspoken expectation that our politicos ought to be perfect. Not only our politicos, but everyday humans as well. Maybe we should be, and if we could be, we would be, but we're not, so, next!
But, truth to tell, I don't think politicos or anyone else should be anything, perfect, least of all. Should is a constraint based on the judgment of hindsight. Should trafficks in meanness a lot of the time.
We just insulated our basement, and the material the crew used to cover the insulation was installed very poorly. They should have done a better job. They didn't. We're taking steps to resolve the issue, but making the covering perfect ain't one of them.
Senator Kennedy was an admirable human being. Much of the press this week used the word "flawed" to describe him. Flawed, schmawed. Teddy Kennedy wasn't flawed, he was a human being just like the rest of us. I think this expectation that our political scions ought to be more than human is a childish one, and one that we ought to get over.
The only difference between you, me and Senator Kennedy is that his peccadilloes and imperfections could be found in the media, and most of the rest of ours aren't.
It took me until I turned 40 to reverse the insidious expectation of myself that I ought to be perfect. Why? Who died and pronounced that instant prescription for insanity?
Our leaders are human. That's what they should be, if any should at all. I no longer expect myself to be perfect. Instead, I borrow the verb form of that word. I definitely expect myself to be perfecting at all times. I expect myself and others to be accountable, to operate out of integrity, to own up to our mistakes, to tell the most truth we know at any given moment.
Allow me to bastardize Voltaire even further: perfecting is never the enemy of the good -- it's good's wisest, most trusted ally.
God bless you, Senator Kennedy, for your long service, your deliciously human nature, and your willingness to keep on giving. I'm not perfect either.
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