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Our leaders must choose their words carefully

Leaders in any free society must choose words carefully when dealing with highly sensitive issues to avoid as much as possible misunderstanding or impressions that leave many confused and disappointed especially in areas of traditional values.

Many high profile politicians throughout the world have paid dearly for spouting out their personal positions on sensitive subjects, before giving deep thought to how using words carelessly can explode into reactions that are not always easy to contain.

A mistake in many jurisdictions is to blame the press when a controversial statement causes strong public reaction after publication.

What is often forgotten is that the press is not a public relations sheet for anyone or indeed any group. If a statement is made that could inflame certain sections of the community they are duty bound to report it. The usual reaction from someone who feels misrepresented by the press is that the full context of their remarks were not used.

This is why it is so important to think carefully before making statements likely to meet with strong criticism from many who take offence to any hint that values they cherish for a healthy society, are being challenged as outmoded and not in step with modern trends.

The US Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, went down in political flames after referring to 47 percent of the American population that he would not be concerned about, because they were not likely to support him in the first place. He thought those crushing words would remain within a selected group he was addressing. However technology stepped in and the world soon heard remarks that he may never live down.

The point here is that, when in a leadership position, the responsibility to be aware of representation of all the people should never slip out of mind. No one will get it right every time, but fewer blunders will occur if more thought is given before going public with statements that might have a popular appeal with some, but could be offensive to others.

I recall covering a political meeting quite some years ago in Hamilton, when the speaker referred to the streets running with blood, if changes were not made in how Bermuda was run. As a reporter at the time it was my duty to report that line, even though the speaker I knew to be a peaceful man, had no intention of creating unrest in the community. In fact his overall address was very positive.

Few newspapers in the world would have buried the line about the streets running with blood when running the story. Dramatic headlines sell newspapers and that will not change, although it is important that accuracy is vital or the publication will lose credibility.

In a small society like Bermuda with a deeply religious history, there is little room for error with the slightest hint that modern lifestyles should override values that have proven a positive element throughout many generations.

Most folks know that any argument on religion is usually an argument with no ending.

From time to time politicians irrespective of which party they are attached to, will stumble in the use of words. Emotional highs and lows usually follow. However we still have Bermudians with common sense, who are able to read between the lines and make a judgement for themselves.

Most important for all Bermudians is that we stay focused on rebuilding our island home and this will only be achievable with everyone involved.

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Published June 24, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm)

Our leaders must choose their words carefully

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