During this presidential race, we have all become increasingly aware of the trend toward authenticity. It might ultimately be what brought Mitt down. We’ve been burned a few too many times and it now appears we’d rather get straight talk, even if it’s bad news, than run the risk of being conned.
But now there’s a new twist on authenticity. It appears that people in power – across the globe - seem to be finding some merit in saying “I’m sorry.” I first noticed this a few months ago when it was announced that doctors in states across the country are being encouraged to apologize to their patients when they make an error. Imagine that! Apparently they’ve discovered that an apology has the power to relieve much of a patient’s anger and distress.
Then Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia, made it a campaign promise to apologize to the Aborigines. They suffered years of horror between 1869 and 1969 when thousands of their children were forcibly removed from their parents and placed in orphanages, all in an effort to socialize them with European culture. While Mr. Rudd is now quibbling about whether he should ‘apologize’ or actually says the words “I’m sorry,” the important point is that he made this promise a big part of his campaign platform and he is set to deliver on it on 2/13/08.
Probably the most striking example of this apology trend happened last week in China, however. On the eve of the Chinese New Year, historic cold and snow hit the country. In the south, hundreds of thousands of workers were stranded at the Guangzhou train station trying to get home to see their families for the holidays. But the weather and power outages meant they spent days crammed together while the country scrambled to fix the problem. Then Wen Jiaboa, the Prime Minister of China, came to the station himself and used a bullhorn to apologize to the crowds for the inconvenience. While it’s one thing for Americans and the Aussies to say they’re sorry, it’s quite a different matter when it’s the Chinese government. It’s historic.
Honesty. Reality. Authenticity. And now Apology. I like where we’re going. Some leaders now believe that if they admit a mistake, they can perhaps come out ahead. This could be the beginning of a whole new definition of strength in our culture. And just imagine how this could have changed the outcome of Katrina, WMD, MonicaGate, Scooter Libby, the Catholic sex abuse scandal, Senator Craig of the Minneapolis men’s room fame, etc., etc., etc. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.