Being Presidential

Nine of the last 12 years of my life I have been president. No, not of the United States, but of Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change News. That said, I do know a little something about being presidential.

First I need to say that being the president of anything can be difficult, whether it’s leader of the free world or the main man or woman of the high school glee club. Manners and smile matter. You’re not allowed to have thin skin or overreact, and you can never threaten, insult, or get anyone to lie for you, even if you’re lying yourself.

So what if someone displays my fake bloody severed head on YouTube (yes, there are people who would) or talks smack about me on end (they do)? I have to be the bigger person; or is it bigly? I can’t play favorites to vendors or employees (though I have hate mail that says differently), and I can’t give special deals to the community—after all, we’re a non-profit. No silencing of the press (oh wait, that’s me). No berating people on social media at 3 a.m.—I don’t even have a Twitter account.

What I do have, however, is a little thing called common sense, and that sense tells me that if I lose my temper over things I can’t control, I won’t get anything done.

See, I have to work with the board, staff and vendors if I expect to get anything done. And then there are those people in the community I have to partner and work with, and I can’t do that if I’m too busy talking about grabbing female body parts and being a general asshole.

Being a president, whether it’s of the United States or a small street paper, one needs to have some class, dignity and self-respect. You learn that growing up in the neighborhood of hard knocks before you ever become a president or get a little power—unless you’re an entitled little brat who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, who probably had to have a bodyguard just to go to the little boy’s room. Then you might grow up to have more bodyguards and become an even bigger bully.

Being presidential means more than that. It means leadership, and you can’t exercise that by calling people names.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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