The heart of the political campaign is your claim to be a great leader. If you’re honest, writing the stump speech is simple; articulate the challenges confronting the community or country and explain how your ideas and skills will improve the lives of constituents.
But what do you do if, when the cameras are gone, the auditorium empty and you’re all alone, you face the terrible secret that you’re a fake. A phony. A charlatan. A true politician?
What if, instead of running for office because you have solutions and character, you ran because you love attention, power, money, nice cars, fancy dinners and the prospect of living off connections and influence until death? How do you put that in a speech?
There are several options. The first is to leave politics. But, surprisingly, this might not be the best choice. If already serving in office or leading in the polls, you probably have some natural talents that would be a shame to waste if they can instead be salvaged and converted to serve a good purpose.
Even from a selfish point of view you will be happier if you spend your life doing something objectively good that contributes to lasting improvement in the lives of others and serves as an example people can follow to attain their own dreams.
Can a politician actually do any of this? Yes, if he or she is authentic.
Authenticity comes from passionate convictions. Now, being a fraud this might be problematic, but you’re in luck! There is a simple exercise that, like a “passionate political convictions store,” can actually inspire the new perspective you desperately need.
You must read: An American Life by Ronald Reagan and Dreams From My Father by President Barack Obama. And you have to read them at the same time by switching from one book to the other after each chapter. As you read, first a chapter of Ronald then a chapter from Barack, you will be emotionally and intellectually flung from one man’s atmosphere to the other; from one perception of America to another.
You will laugh with Reagan. You will sneer with Obama. You will believe in your ability to overcome obstacles with Reagan. You will feel cheated, oppressed by injustice with Obama. You will bless our freedom to attain goals with Reagan. You will curse those who deprived you of what should have been yours with Obama. You will love America with Reagan. You will hate the system with Obama.
You will see that Ronald Reagan was a fundamentally happy person, that his joy was the logical consequence of his ideas. You’ll watch as these convictions are translated into a specific kind of leadership and policy that maximized the individual’s responsibility for his own dreams and diminished interference by the government.
Three chapters into Dreams From My Father, you will be depressed. You will see America through eyes that evaluate everyone in terms of material possessions and you’ll feel a deep helplessness that amelioration can only come from upheaval. You will seethe at success, blaming it as injustice. You will see only that powerful exploiters must be fought by an equally powerful omnipresent government since everyone is a victim, incapable of elevating himself.
Obviously you’ll be drawn to the cheerful Reagan who believes that even a one-time fraud can improve. You might hesitate at the thought the perhaps his joy came from privilege and that Obama, an African-American, feels as he does because he experienced nothing but discrimination and injustice at Colombia, Harvard and in the United States Senate Chambers.
Both men faced poverty and absent fathers. Obama was given a private-school education by his grandparents, but had to earn college scholarships. In high school, Reagan earned money as a life-guard so his family could eat. Obama, according to his own words, spent high school in a drug-induced haze with his friends. In college Reagan worked and often ate little to save money for books. Poverty and affluence, experienced in turns by each of these men, can’t be credited with their varying outlooks on life.
When you turn the last page of An American Life, you will want to be a leader like Ronald Reagan; he will have convinced you that you can be if you embrace the core conservative principles that animated his service.
It really doesn’t matter if you began your political career as a fraud. Reading An American Life, you will find all you need to become a real leader and to use your office to do much good.