McNamara's lesson for today's politicians | The Japan Times Online
And just what is that lesson? Not one that they'll find easy to learn, because that would require a humility uncommon among politicians. It's really a double lesson: First, "We could be wrong" -- a very hard idea for men in power to accept, but a ncessary first step. And then, "We must to listen to those that disagree with us and those whose experience has taught them things we can't know." Beyond humility, that requires highly developed listening skills. It also implies a respect for international law, which is one kind of codification of the voices of others. Abraham Lincoln, FDR and perhaps one or two other U.S. presidents have had such skills. We are fortunate that another is in office now.
Howard Nemerov's poem The Makers, about "the first poets, the greatest ones... the ones who worded the world...," closes with this stanza:
They were the first great listeners, attuned
To interval, relationship, and scale,
The first to say above, beneath, beyond,
Conjurors with love, death, sleep, with bread and wine,
Who having uttered vanished from the world
Leaving no memory but the marvelous
Magical elements, the breathing shapes
And stops of breath we build our Babels of.