Dear Commons Community,
Earlier this week, while delivering a speech about new gun control measures, President Barack Obama cried. His tears came as he spoke about the first-graders — “every time I think about those kids it gets me mad” — who were shot dead in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. His critics questioned his sincerity for crying in public, however, the media seems to have accepted it. The Huffington Post has an article entitled, “Thanks, Obama, For Confirming That It’s Totally Fine For Powerful Men To Cry” today reviewing the issue.
“Most people are cool with crying these days. In politics, at least. And in sports, too. Kobe Bryant is a big cryer, for example. John Boehner? The former speaker of the House cried a pool of tears during his time in office: When he met the pope. When he was sworn in…
Obama is not the first president to cry publicly — that distinction actually goes to the first president. George Washington is said to have cried at his inauguration in 1789.
Abraham Lincoln, apparently, was big into tears. It wasn’t uncommon back in his day.
“Lincoln cried at the right moments in his speeches,” Tom Lutz, who wrote an entire book about the history of crying, told The Orange County Register a couple of years ago. During the 19th century, he said, crying was a rhetorical skill. A good orator knew how to turn the waterworks on and off…
Crying at work is a fraught thing. Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has said it’s fine. “I think we are all of us emotional beings and it’s OK for us to share that emotion at work,” she said.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told Oprah Winfrey (herself no stranger to crying) that he cried in 2008 when the recession forced him to lay off workers.
“I think the currency of leadership is transparency,” Schultz said. “There are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.”
So men, don’t be afraid to share your soul. It helps you and those around you.