Thursday, February 19, 2009

Leadership in the 21st Century

Former president of South African and Nobel Laureate F.W.DeKlerk spoke tonight at Bucknell University as part of this year's "Leadership in the 21st Century" lecture series. He spoke openly and candidly about the challenges facing the United States as it finds new ways to lead in the next century. Quoting Teddy Roosevelt's line about "talk softly but carry a big stick," DeKlerk acknowledged that the United States' use of our military force has been warranted in the fight against terrorism, but that we need to also be "working softly" through diplomatic negotiations too. The world watched with excitement, he said, as American elected Barrack Obama as their new leader. There are many challenges facing us, including global warming, world poverty, stabilizing the economy, and finding ways to live peaceably in a pluristic, culturally diverse world.

DeKlerk mentioned the issue of the poor and impoverished populations and the growing disparity between the rich and poor, how America's subsidized agriculture robs the poor developing countries of a chance to enter the world's global markets and begin to climb out of the depths of poverty. America also needs to take a balanced approach to the Israel and Palestine problem. He identified two stumbling blocks to the peace process: (1) Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel's right to an independent state and (2) Israel creating developments in Palestinian territory in places they know they will lose in any peace accord. There are other stumbling blocks no doubt, but he tossed these two out as a discussion point.

DeKlerk gave a terrific speech, befitting the greatness of the man he is. It was a special time for me too, for my wife and I lived in South Africa in the last year of his presidency and came to respect him so much. He looked twenty years younger and spoke with the wisdom and authority that enabled him to bring remarkable change to his country.

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