7Keeping It Real

“Regard your soldiers as children, and they may follow wherever you lead. Look upon them as your beloved sons and they will stand by you until death.”

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In 1992 Bill Clinton won a town hall debate—and some would argue the entire U.S. presidential election—against presidential hopefuls George Bush and Ross Perot simply by forming an authentic connection with one voter, whom he did not previously know, with a direct, heartening, and strikingly real 30-second response to her question.

“How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives?” she asked of the three candidates. “And if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people, if you have no experience in what's ailing them?”

The woman asking the question was from a small town, and she and her friends had been hit hard by the recession. Perhaps she was also looking for an answer as to what each candidate would do, once in office, to improve the economy. But what she was really asking for was an authentic connection with the presidential candidates—men of significant means, who seemed to her very distant from her world of economic suffering. She also needed someone to offer genuine support for her and her friends, in a meaningful, heartfelt way. And yes, perhaps she hoped too for some sort of uplifting direction about how things could improve. Did the candidates understand what she was really looking for or what drove her to ask the ...

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