A new article from Tom Gasparoli – Emmy Award-winning journalist, newspaper columnist and author:
Two men debate in Denver, Colorado. Tens of millions around the world watch.
One will be the president of the United States next January, his hands at levers of power – and responsibility – that stretch worldwide.
What if the moderator had asked them: what does being free mean to you? What should it mean to the people in your country…or around the globe?
It wasn’t asked. It might have been the best question of the night.
The question forces one to prioritize, to think about the quality of life now and tomorrow, to reflect on the condition of other peoples compared to your own or your neighbors’, allows for an answer about government – or less government – whether advanced weaponry bolsters the feeling of being free, or sharply weakens it. Whether a better food policy means more freedom – and is essential?
What does being free really mean to someone often called the leader of “the free world”?
How free are Americans? Do they, or should they, hold other countries to the same standards? Is the help the U.S. provides in foreign aid a matter of conscience and compassion, or a way to control and influence?
How much does the leader of any country think about “being free?” Every day? Every meeting? Almost never?
What does being free mean to you? That would have been a great question to hear – at the debate, or for any leader of any country anywhere. I’d like to ask a president or prime minister that question every day for an entire term. See how the mere thinking leads to changes in policy. Watch for signs. We might learn a whole lot about political leaders from the answer. It helps persuade them that it’s a question they should actually never stop thinking about.
It takes the measure of who you are, what you want, and what you want the world to be. Funny how it does that: one question.