United States — April 7, 2013 5:34 pm

What Our Leaders Could Learn from the New Pope

By

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013The humble lifestyle of Pope Francis I has become public knowledge by now. When he became the archbishop of Argentina in 1998, he refused the palace the position is given. The archbishop’s residence is provided with a car and driver, around-the-clock security, cooks, servants, and more, but Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first archbishop to refuse the services. He chose instead to live alone in his small one-room apartment next to the cathedral. He also elected to use public transportation every day, instead of the limousine his position offered.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio has continued this trend as the newly anointed Pope Francis; just after his first public appearance as Pope, he chose to ride the bus with his fellow Cardinals instead of the papal car. He then returned to the hotel, where he carried his own bags and paid his own bill. Even his diet as Pope has been a humble one  he refuses to eat luxurious meals, and the most popular restaurants for cardinals and bishops in the area say they have never served him before.

Now consider Washington, D.C., where our leaders live a lifestyle starkly in contrast to that of the humble Pope. Washington’s leaders needed to save $85 billion dollars out of a $3,500 billion dollar budget in order to replace a devastating sequester, and they could not make it happen. Federal workers face furloughs, and devastating cuts are taking place  even the White House is no longer open for public tours.

Meanwhile, an astonishing elitism persists in Washington. President Obama takes a weekend for golf at the Floridian Golf and Yacht Club with Tiger Woods. His four vacations to Hawaii alone in the past four years have cost more than $16 million dollars, and frequent lavish White House parties add to the excess. Take the party that occurred just two weeks ago on St. Paddy’s Day. As Chris Stirewalt put it: “The school kids can’t tour the building, but the president can entertain his guests on the finest Celtic food and drink.” And President Obama is certainly not alone  politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to epitomize the word “elitism.”

Of course, I’m not insinuating that our politicians should follow the Pope for governmental decisions  indeed, I myself am not Catholic, and religious doctrine plays no part in my argument. But what our politicians could learn from the Pope is what a real leader looks like. Pope Francis’ humble lifestyle is a perfect lesson for leadership by example. Of course, I do not expect the president to refuse the White House for a one-room apartment. When a leader could reinstitute White Hours tours for only $3.7 million per year, and spends exponentially more taxpayer money than that on golf weekends with sports stars, lavish vacations, and champagne with movie stars, however, I think of leadership by example. Real leadership by example – not the measly self-imposed 5% salary cut that is supposed to make us applaud the president; the weekend with Tiger Woods alone could have saved 341 federal workers from furlough, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee.

The real problem with all of this spending is that it is funded by taxpayer money. Sure, the Obamas are rich (as most politicians in Washington are), but their estimated net worth of $10 million does not even come close to funding the lavish lifestyle of excess they have enjoyed. And while some may cite the necessity of security detail as making the president’s vacations more expensive, it in no way justifies the excess.

Again, this applies not only to the president, but to most of our elected leaders from all ends of the political spectrum. Even the White House Easter Egg Roll was almost cancelled because of “funding uncertainty surrounding the Executive Office of the President.” What a joke. I know that taking fewer vacations won’t fix the sequester, but when politicians continue to enjoy taxpayer-funded elitism  only a minute fraction of which could save government jobs, White House tours, and even the Easter hunt that they “can’t afford”  I question our leadership.

It is in this respect that our elected officials could look to Pope Francis and learn a thing or two about leading something.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • Daniel

    Interesting article, although I think the real issue here is the influence of money, and of the ultra elite, on politics. These vacations are just as much fundraising opportunities as they are events for relaxation. Notice that most of Obama’s trips involve interacting (or staying at the homes/resorts of) influential supporters. If Obama stopped taking vacations, it might save some money, but it would not remove the ultra-elite culture that pervades Washington. Rich supporters would just find other ways of doing favors for powerful politicians. And the budgetary impact would be small compared to the large distortions money would continue to have on politics.

  • Colin Diersing

    This presents an interesting counterpoint about the relative importance of a public official’s direct cost to society and the costs or benefits of good policy making. If Barack Obama’s vacations give him a better head space that make for a slightly better tax policy, who cares about how much it costs? The relative weight seems unimportant.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2013/04/congressional_salaries_senators_representatives_and_their_staff_all_deserve.html

custom writing