Wednesday, December 10, 2008



Pride is the first of the deadly sins, and it sometimes seems to be the first prerequisite of a career in public life. No surprise there: It takes a certain degree of hubris to think yourself qualified to govern others -- and not just to think it privately, but to spend great quantities of money, time, and energy proclaiming it publicly to anyone who will listen. To remain modest and unpretentious while urging voters to elevate you to high office and entrust you with power is a challenge not many elected officials meet. It's a rare politician who is motivated enough to climb the greasy pole, deflecting the ambitions of rivals, without succumbing to the temptations of ego. .....

Why are so many public figures so hungry for the trappings of grandeur? Barack Obama has yet to take office, but he has already set the modern record for political narcissism. Imagine what his homespun hero, Abraham Lincoln, would have made of Obama's presidential campaign, with its faux-Greek columns, triumphal foreign tour, and quasi-presidential seal with the Latin motto. Or of Obama's post-election practice of speaking from behind a lectern adorned with the Great Seal of the United States and an official-looking sign that reads "Office of the President Elect" -- an office that doesn't actually exist under the Constitution.

To be sure, it isn't only politicians who could do with a little more modesty and a little less self-regard. The Boston Globe reported last month that the eminent Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky cancelled an engagement to conduct four concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra because he felt "insulted" and "slighted" by the BSO's actions. "I suffered . . . a moral insult," he fumed. And what had the orchestra done to outrage Rozhdestvensky? It had printed posters promoting his concerts that featured the name of the soloist in larger letters than that of the conductor. Rozhdestvensky is 77, which just goes to show that age guarantees neither maturity nor humility.


By Jeff Jacoby

The Boston Globe

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

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