Most people who get into politics do so because they have plans and ideas that will (they hope) make things better.
For most politicians, this means making things better at their local level: municipal, provincial, state-wide. A select few become federal leaders, and can operate on a much larger stage, hopefully making things better for an entire country.
Of these leaders, a tiny handful have the ability to try to improve the lives of people beyond their borders, and make the world — not just a single country — a better place. One of these leaders is the president of the United States.
Donald Trump had four years as arguably the most powerful and influential person in the world. He had the ability to do so much good for so many people, in his own country and beyond: to highlight and address inequality, abuses against our planet, assaults on the marginalized. He had the ability to show and demonstrate compassion, empathy, decency, justice.
Imagine what you would do if you had four years as the most powerful and influential person on Earth and knew that you could influence — for better or worse — the lives of millions, in your country and beyond. Children do this, every Christmas in the “Letters to Santa” that the Journal publishes. Last year, students told Santa what they wished for: things like “keep the rivers clean so I can go fishing” and for “people in need to have better clothes” and to “try to help homeless people”.
The president of the United States is not Santa Claus, and does not possess magical powers that can make these things happen. All of these issues are complex and difficult, and cannot be solved with the wave of a hand. However, the president does have access to the best and brightest minds in the world: people who have ideas about how some of these things can be addressed. If they do not already work for the U.S. government, I would be willing to wager that the president could have them on the phone within a few hours, and on a plane to Washington, DC shortly after that if he or she so wished.
Of course, you don’t have to be the most influential and powerful person in the world in order to do things that improve the lives of others, although fame and/or fortune do help. Two great Canadians who recently passed away — Howie Meeker and Alex Trebek — used their names and reputations and money to benefit others, by giving to charities, giving of their time, and acting as spokespeople for causes they believed in. They did not have to do this; they were not elected to deal with or solve any of the issues they chose to address.
Locally, almost every week the Journal contains stories about everyday people — our friends and neighbours and relatives — who give their time and energy and resources to help others, without thought of enriching themselves, or adding to their reputations, in the process. They do not have to do these things, but they choose to, to make a small part of the world a little bit better or brighter.
Think of all that these people could accomplish, if only they had the platform to do so, or access to leading doctors, scientists, engineers, educators, artists. Picture what our schools and hospitals, our inner cities, our rivers and oceans could be like if people with no thought of self had the resources they needed to accomplish great and wonderful things. Ask yourself what kind of world could be created for our children and grandchildren.
Four years is a long time, and much could have been addressed in that span to try to make the lives of so many people a bit better, a little less burdensome, more hopeful. Take a look back over those four years, at what the 45th president of the United States did with that time, and ask yourself if he made the best possible use of the singular gift he was given.