Sunday, November 09, 2008

Laughing at yourself, it's a good thing

There is so much upside to President-elect Obama, you could write quite a lengthy book already. One thing that has particularly impressed me is his ability to laugh at himself, as he demonstrated the other night while talking to the press about the puppy he promised his daughters. He told the assembled multitude that the family would like to have a shelter dog, but all the dogs good for allergic kids were purebreds, and the shelters were full of "mutts like me," as he put it. That was a very light and becoming moment in that press conference.

President Kennedy made quite a few jokes at his own expense and invariably appreciated ribbing from other people. Once, on the stump in Iowa, Kennedy asked the crowd in his Boston accent, "What is the main problem for the American FAH-MAH today?" A wag in the crowd didn't wait for an answer, he shouted out, "He's STAH-VING!" Apparently Kennedy was absolutely convulsed with laughter, stomping around the platform, etc. He was also notably the guy who said, on arrival in Paris, "I do not think it inappropriate for me to introduce myself. I am the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris!"

Maybe self-deprecation is far down the list of desirable qualities, but I think it ought to be pretty high up there. First of all, it suggests that you remain aware that you are a falliable being, despite all the adulation surrounding you. Second, it hints strongly that you are not an absolute egomaniac, that you can see and admit faults in yourself. This would lead you to distrust knee-jerk reactions you might have and seek the advice and counsel of people who are smarter and wiser than you. Third, President Bush has never been known to make a joke at his own expense, and we know where his "leadership" has taken us. There's plenty NOT to emulate in his relationship to his own foibles.

So that's another indication that better days are Readers' Digest never ceases to remind us, laughter is the best medicine, especially for those charged with making our most crucial decisions.


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