02/01/2014 12:33 pm ET Updated Apr 03, 2014

Please, Mr. President, Lead Rather Than Divide

When Mr. Obama campaigned for President of the United States in 2008, he assured voters that he would bring the county together and especially quell the gridlock in Washington that had made it difficult for the United States Congress to pass important legislation. But, instead, the discord in Washington is greater than ever and has spread throughout our country. How did this happen?

I realize that I am not a political science major and as just a regular citizen who has never run for office I may be guilty of being naïve and oversimplifying politics. That being said, it appears to me that President Obama almost goes out of his way at sowing discord rather than negotiating agreement. For example, as recently as his State of the Union address earlier this week, the President started out on a very conciliatory note, but before too long he began to make threats of what he would do with his pen if the Republicans failed to pass certain legislation. And the next day he began making campaign-type speeches in different states degrading Republicans, and especially the Republican held United States House of Representatives. Such verbiage may please his Democratic base. It certainly does not, however, bring about any type of unity, but further fuels discord in Washington.

Speaking as a retired Protestant minister and college president and looking back on my career in the church and education, it was my experience that progress at reaching agreement was never made in that way. Progress was made when people on all sides of a sensitive issue sat down together and truly listened to each other and tried to resolve their differences, and when that could not be done, at least they understood where those who disagreed with them were coming from. And then the next best thing happened. They each gave up some of what they wanted and met somewhere in the middle. That required leaders on all sides of an issue to meet and go back to the people they were representing and "lead" them along, little by little, step by step, until a compromise could be agreed upon. In most instances, no one was entirely pleased with the way things were decided, but everyone was able to point to definite things they were pleased with.

Bringing people together in this fashion takes a lot of hard word on the part of leaders. And, quite frankly, I never remember differences being reconciled when the primary leaders of dividing issues created hard feelings before even getting started by openly attacking those who disagreed with them. One of the requirements of being a good leader and getting things done, at least in a country that primarily operates by adhering to the basic principles of a democracy, is the willingness to work at bringing people together. I use the words "work at" intentionally, because being a responsible leader in our form of government does take a lot of hard word.

I wish President Obama would spend more time staying in Washington and working at bringing people together, rather than flying from city to city and state to state for another campaigning-style appearance and attacking those who hold different viewpoints than his. No, I'm not a political science major -- I'm just a common citizen. But at least this citizen would like to see our president spend more time leading and less time dividing.