Judge candidates on character

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

I happened to catch an interesting segment presented on C-SPAN concerning the upcoming election. The editor-at-large for Time Magazine, Nancy Gibbs, was speaking to a select group of high school students in New York City as part of a leadership lecture series. She began by describing her latest project: a comparison of the two Presidential candidates as young men. It was fascinating to hear her speak of their development through high school. Though they both grew up in similarly privileged lifestyles, she contrasted them by showing their differences in achievement and personality.
Gibbs went on to say that everything you want to know about the two candidates you can learn from their respective high school experiences. What shaped these men? Where did they derive their leadership qualities? As she finished her introduction she said, ?I think those qualities matter even more than anything else that voters are going to learn about a candidate because history inevitably hands us a surprise.?
Nancy Gibbs is a journalist for one of the best-selling news sources in the country. She has devoted her life to finding stories that matter to the American people, yet she spoke to this particular group of students about the candidates? characters, not their stances on specific issues. We all have important positions on the issues that influence our vote one way or another, but I would hope each voter?s choice runs deeper than just a political party.
When President Bush and Senator Kerry step to the podium, they each represent much more than just their own ideas; in essence, they represent every one of us. I find myself consciously examining each sentence they speak not just for its content, but for the delivery. Great leaders must unite people by connecting with the individual. With the passing of President Reagan, our country paid tribute to Reagan the man, Reagan the leader ? not Reagan the great Republican. His policy and actions will forever be disputed, but his power in front of the great American stage cannot be denied. The connection he developed with the American people stems from the very heart of his character and conviction.
I write this to express my concern for how we vote. I?ve spoken with all sorts of people, Kerry and Bush fans alike. I fear most of us have overlooked the obvious reasons for choosing a president. The question I pose is not which candidate your opinions or views side with. The question is which candidate is a better representative for America? After over a year of inner debate, I only see one choice for myself and for our country. John Kerry speaks to me as a man of resolute character and sound mind. I tend to side more with the Democrats than the Republicans, but I choose John Kerry as my President for more than just the issues. When he stands before the podium, I see a man who has devoted his life to public service and leads with superior knowledge and strength. President Bush may connect with many Americans due to his simple speech habits, but I only see this as a weakness. The debates were only further evidence of Kerry?s authoritative use of knowledge combined with dominant character.
My vote goes to Senator Kerry, but I only hope that we all vote for more than just a party, more than just one issue. In this election, vote for the leader who embodies the spirit and character of the free world.