I just stumbled upon an article that made me shake my head: “Barack Obamas Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower”
Obama Picture Citation
This article made the drastic mistake of thinking that apologizing shows weakness. On the contrary, I see sincere apologizing as a sign of strength and one of the most important tools of influence for any diplomat.
Apologizing shows awareness of ones mistakes. Awareness is the necessary step to understanding, thus right action, thus strength. If one does know what’s actually going on, their understanding of their own power is flawed. Since everybody makes mistakes constantly, not admitting to any mistakes shows supreme ignorance. In this article’s example, Obama apologizes for some mistakes carried out by the American government. Since this body has done more stuff than an entity in human history, that will inevitably include a lot of errors. Admitting to some of his government past efforts in fact showed confidence.
Apologizing for mistakes can be a completely separate discussion from talking about successes. Talking about what a shame it is that the United States has an unfortunately strained relationship with the Middle East, for example, has nothing to do with the fact that this country has been a beacon for many peoples’ individual freedom, or that we have lead technological progress in the last century, or that hip hop was born here. It is a standalone statement. A person who has great confidence in their successes is the most likely admit their mistakes.
Not only is apologizing a demonstration of personal virtue, it is a powerful and essential communication tool. The best way a leader can get somebody to admit a mistake is by admitting one his/herself first. How foolish would Obama be to go to some country with a history of difficult interactions and say, “I want you do to some things differently, because you have made mistakes. America, however, has no mistakes to admit”?
A personal example of this: I went streaking in high school. The game me and some friend anonymously interrupted was a girls basketball playoff game- the furthest our school had gone in the tournament in 25 years. The next day at school and beyond, everybody was talking about it. Unfortunately, few people talked about the girls’ smashing victory. After us streakers had been discovered and punished, I was brought into a meeting with the varcity coach. After hearing how frustrated she was with the attention being stolen from her hard working team, I gave a sincere apology. She was pleased. As a couple weeks passed and I was completely honest about my opinion of the ordeal as basically awesome and beneficial to humankind as a whole, it must have become clear to her that I was never apologizing for streaking as a whole. I was apologizing for its negative consequences with complete sincerity and compassion, and I was simultaneously proud of how many people peed their pants with laughter. I never spoke to the coach again, but the way that an ensuing smile in the hallway was followed by a stone face and never making eye contact again made me think that she changed her mind about what my apology meant. That’s all speculation, but the point remains: one can be sorry for their mistakes, without deeming themselves as a whole wrong.
Back on a more serious note: It is so important to admit mistakes, one is shocked that it is not employed by such seemingly educated people as the one who wrote this article or leading American politicians saying the same. In regards to America, or any other entity, it is the people who will not admit its mistakes that lead it toward destruction.
PS- I apologize if my brief statement neglected to mention any of the virtues of the article above mentioned. I imagine there’s a lot we agree upon, like the fact that America has made some incredible contributions to humankind.