During the fall semester I attended a lecture presented by David Bell, a professor from Princeton University, titled “Napoleon Bonaparte and the Cult of Glory”. While the entire discussion was interesting, the most intriguing part for me was when the topic and theme were related back to modern day society.
Bell’s lecture revolved around the idea of a charismatic leader. Bell stated that the main reason Napoleon rose to power was because he embodied the characteristics people look for in a strong leader and could woo the French people. He was intelligent and handsome, as well as a war hero. He was confident and charming and presented himself as a leader who could bring France to glory again. Bell even went on to say that in the beginning Napoleon was not all that different than our own George Washington. They embodied many of the same characteristics and presented themselves in the same manner. Furthermore, Bell ended his discussion by saying that today we are still searching for a charismatic leader, which is the point that I found the most interesting.
Bell said that today we are still looking for someone who excites us; someone that makes us believe in change, even if they can’t provide it. As human beings we are won over by charming people. We like leaders who are handsome and appear kind, and it can even be said that if Napoleon were trying to win power today we may still elect him. This point made me question the way in which we select our leaders and whether our thought process is just. Instead of selecting those who charm the people that surround them we should become thoughtful members of society and select the candidate that has the most solid credentials.