Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

To kick off National Poetry Month, which starts on April 1, the Santa Ana Literary Association decided to revisit a powerful poem about leadership, written by J. Martin Strangeweather and the City of Santa Ana!

Hey there, friends, frenemies, and curiosity seekers. I was selling poetry books at a music festival in downtown Santa Ana last Saturday, sharing a booth with a buddy of mine who restores and sells old typewriters, Abel Stearns. I asked everyone who stopped by our booth to finish this sentence: “A good leader…” But they had to type out their answer on one of Abel’s restored typewriters. At the end of the day, I assembled their responses into a poetic statement on leadership. Most of the collaborative poem was written by the public, though I added a few peculiar lines of my own. I thought some of you might like to read it…


She asked if I was an alien.
I said, “What does it matter?”
She said, “It doesn’t. So, does that mean you’re
an alien?”
A good leader
cares more about future reconciliations
than past grudges.
Nowadays, Jesus’ twelve disciples
would have been nine Judas’
and three Doubting Thomas’.
Bravery on the battlefield is overrated.
I’d vote for peacetime empathy
if it were ever on the ballot.
Strength of character
over strength of arms.
A good leader
is never in it for money, fame,
or honor.
A good leader
is more concerned about homelessness and injustice
than their legacy.
A good leader
helps others grow,
but knows when to get out of the way.
A good leader
knows weeds & wildflowers
play an important role in nature.
A good leader
respects everyone as equals,
including their enemies.
(those who believe otherwise
are not fit to lead)
Nowadays, Buddha’s ten disciples
would have been seven undercover CIA agents
and three KGB.
We’re all in this fight together,
unless what you’re really fighting for
is the supremacy of your ego.
And let’s face it,
that’s what most of our world leaders
are fighting for.
Death never comes to conquer.
Death is only a guide.
She asked if I believe
aliens were living among us in disguise.
I said, “I believe there are beings among us
who are masquerading as humans.”
A good leader
seeks not to lead,
but to follow.
(those who do not grasp this
should not be leaders)
A good leader
speaks their mind to your face,
not behind your back.
A good leader
is never jealous
of other people’s success.
A good leader
measures their success
by the prosperity of everyone they lead.
A good leader
learns from their mistakes
and the mistakes of others.
A good leader
uses their words to nourish and heal,
not to poison ears and fan the flames.
A good leader
understands how all threatening words
stem from the frightened child within.
A good leader
never slanders,
shames, or shuns.
A good leader
does not spread misinformation or pick fights
on Twitter.
A good leader
is not boastful;
their history speaks for itself.
A good leader
knows how to communicate
their soul.
A good leader
knows the United States of America
is a collaborative poem.
A good leader
provides disparate voices a platform
rather than stifling them.
A good leader
asks questions,
and then listens.
But a good leader
is not a puppet
of public opinion
or corporate interests.
A good leader
never pulls your strings
A good leader
embodies the words
they speak.
A good leader
constantly questions the goodness
of their leadership.
A good leader
admits their failures
each and every day.
A good leader
strives for a world
without any need for leaders.
A good leader
has nothing to do with
being religious.
A good leader
is well read,
but not necessarily well educated.
A good leader
is more philosophical
than political.
A good leader
is not simply the candidate
who shares your same gang colors.
A good leader
does not care if you think the same as him or her,
so long as you think.
A good leader
is kind and patient and forgiving,
with a good sense of humor.
A good leader
knows how to lose with pride
and win with humility.
A good leader
suffers stoically
without expecting you should do the same.
Everyone who reads this
should strive to be a good leader.
A good leader
tries to make the load a little lighter
for the next leader.
A good leader
knows the end never really justifies the means,
and the means never really justifies the end.
A good leader
never strikes
A good leader won’t lay down their life for you,
nor will they ask you
to lay down yours for them.
A good leader
translates complex issues into relatable experiences,
not anger and fear of the other.
Nowadays, Charlie Manson’s disciples
would have all been
members of congress.
She asked if I believe
aliens had made contact with us.
I said, “Why would an advanced extraterrestrial civilization ever want to deal with humans
and their inexhaustible drama?”
Maybe it’s better to have no leader
than a bad one.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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