Temperament Counts For A Lot

“He possesses a second rate intellect but a first rate temperament.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

This quote by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was in reference to Franklin Roosevelt, and summarizes precisely why President Roosevelt was the best hope America had to survive the trials facing the country in 1932.

Holmes was a judicial legend who spent 30 years on the Supreme Court, so it’s safe to say he had a pearl or two of wisdom to dispense. After Roosevelt was sworn in as president in March 1933, one of his first acts was to meet with the 92-year-old Holmes. Apparently, Holmes didn’t feel like beating around the bush.

He understood it was Roosevelt’s temperament that made him qualified to lead the nation during the Great Depression.

But couldn’t the same be said of Churchill, Washington, Lincoln, Gandhi and Zelensky? All leaders of first class temperament.

Temperament: characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response”  ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Maybe it’s time we look to a person’s temperament first in examining their qualifications for office.

I’ve had my own encounter with a distinguished temperament I’d like to share with you.

My story begins more than 35 years ago when I was introduced to Jai Hanson .

Jai, born in India, was adopted by Sam and Mirja Hanson, dear friends of mine. I’ve been a kind of honorary uncle and have cherished my role in his life.

He attended college in Chicago and Marsha and I witnessed his developing interest in criminal justice. Marsha commented then how perfectly suited Jai’s temperament was to law enforcement. When he finished college and the police academy he signed on with the police department in Lakeville, Minnesota.

My night ride with Jai happened several years ago.

It was a quiet evening — no robberies, no muggings, no drug dealing. The focus of our conversation shifted from a patrol of the outside to the patrol of our interior world.

That’s when I discovered why Jai was such a talented cop.

He’d just been through the dissolution of a marriage with all the angst and heartbreak that comes with divorce. What startled me about Jai’s observations was his deep empathy for his ex-wife’s experience. He didn’t use his time to complain about her but shared his compassion for all that BOTH of them had been through.

I can’t ever remember hearing a divorce story told to me with such pathos. When I reflected back on my own experience I can only say it took me years to have gotten to a place that Jai had found so naturally.

Jai shared many stories from his nighttime patrol: the domestic disturbances, overdose encounters, mental health interventions and more than a little gang activity. 

What struck me is that he never uttered a single derogatory word about anyone he encountered. They were simply other human beings struggling with stuff we are all struggling with — but maybe not so successfully.

His capacity for empathy was stunning. His stories revealed a man with the ability to de-fuse a lightening hot domestic dispute with a cool head and calm demeanor — a police officer with no axe to grind, nothing to prove.

A police officer who understood the true meaning of “Serve and Protect.”

Years have passed since that amazing ride and much has transpired. Jai went on to earn his masters in Criminal Justice and transferred to the force in St. Paul. All the while, communities across the country have been torn apart by homelessness, crime, and police misconduct.

Then came the murder of George Floyd…

The thermometer on the criminal justice system was burning white hot and the Twin Cities found itself at the epicenter of this great national debate.

The question now is will people of the right temperament rise up to guide their communities through this national crisis. The Twin Cities has found in Jai Hanson such a reconciling figure.

Jai Hanson is running for Sheriff of Hennepin County.

If the temperature of America’s political discourse is ever to reach a civil level again it will be because we’ll have elected people of civil temperament who are both compassionate and clear-headed.

Check it out: https://www.jai4sheriff.com

Just a thought…


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