Let him champion the lowly among the people, deliver the needy folk, and crush those who wrong them. (72:4)
This is the final Psalm of the second (of five) book of Psalms. The subject of this composition is the king.
If we read the Psalm more generally as speaking about any leader (not just a king), the Psalm raises the question of what are the most important qualities in a leader? The quality of this verse is that of fighting on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves. Those without power have virtually no voice. No one listens, because they don’t have the standing to be able to do anything about the injustice they face. The leader is a person people listen to. It’s like the old commercials about E.F. Hutton, in which there is a crowd of people all talking. One person says the words “E.F. Hutton,” and the entire room falls silent. The tag line is, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” [Here and here are some examples.]
The willingness of a person of great importance to fight on behalf of those whom society has all but forgotten takes humility, another great quality of a leader. Specifically, the ability to admit that a past action or past statement or past proposal was wrong and change one’s behavior or change one’s mind or position takes humility. Sadly, the political world, rather than recognizing this as positive growth, often condemns it as inconsistency, flip-flopping, or even hypocrisy.
If we don’t allow our politicians to change their minds then we are not allowing them to mature as leaders. We ought to expect that 25 or 35 year old politicians will make mistakes that a 50 year old candidate for president would not make. We ought to have the humility to recognize that the people we choose as leaders might change their minds and make as many mistakes as we have, as long as we look at our lives with honesty.