Millions of Americans who tuned in for the Republican National Convention got to see the human side of Donald Trump — in some cases for the first time. That’s not the only thing that matters when picking a president, but as I’ve told generations of young men and women, it’s impossible to become a good leader if you don’t start out as a good person.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see real leadership in action throughout my life, starting with the invaluable lessons my parents taught me in childhood. When I went to college, I participated in the ROTC program, which reinforced those lessons and introduced me to genuine heroism through my service in the U.S. Army. As a college football coach, I spent decades preparing young men to live their best lives, on and off the football field.
Being a good person isn’t easy, but it isn’t complicated, either. Dependability, tenacity and compassion are three traits that apply to just about every aspect of life. They’re traits we should all strive to embody, and they’re traits we should always look for in others, whether we’re choosing a spouse, a partner or a president.
Trustworthiness is something President Trump has demonstrated consistently since taking office — there’s a reason for all those signs that say, “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” In a country long accustomed to hearing empty promises from politicians who simply say what they think people want to hear, it’s refreshing to have a president who says what he means and means what he says.
As a lifelong Catholic, the promise that has meant the most to me is the promise to protect the lives of the unborn. Some people questioned the sincerity of Donald Trump’s pro-life beliefs when he first ran for office, but he has turned out to be the most consistently and unwaveringly pro-life president we’ve ever had. Contrast that with Democrat nominee Joe Biden, who frequently proclaims himself to be a “devout Catholic” yet enthusiastically supports his party’s increasingly radical pro-abortion agenda.
Donald Trump also demonstrates uncommon commitment to accomplishing the goals he sets out for himself and the nation. He didn’t mind defying the free-trade orthodoxy that had taken hold of both political parties, imposing strategic counter-tariffs on China in retaliation for decades of abuses and threatening to abandon NAFTA in order to secure a fairer deal for American workers. He outraged the foreign policy establishment by demanding that our NATO allies pay their fair share for mutual defense — and instead of falling apart, the alliance only grew stronger. He bucked conventional wisdom by engaging in one-on-one diplomacy with some of our greatest rivals, and even our enemies, because he is determined to make the American people safer and more secure, and he saw that the strategies used by his predecessors weren’t working. His critics scoffed that his Middle East peace plan would never work — and then his administration brokered a historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, setting the stage for further progress in the coming months and years.
In each of these cases, it would have been much easier for the president to throw in the towel and turn his attention to lower-hanging fruits, but that’s not who he is.
The third quality that makes Donald Trump a good leader — the one that many Americans saw for the first time during the RNC — is his genuine love and compassion for others.
We heard from a mother whose son has Down’s syndrome. Doctors encouraged her to abort Samuel before he was even born. Public school administrators were ready to give up on Samuel without even attempting to teach him. Thanks to his mother’s refusal to accept those grim assessments, Ohio created a program that enabled Samuel to attend a school where he not only got by, but thrived. Unlike the doctors and bureaucrats, President Trump recognized Samuel’s impressive accomplishments, holding him up as an example of how school choice can change lives in dramatic ways.
Numerous speakers also brought up the president’s decisive support for prison reform, which led to the groundbreaking FIRST STEP Act that ended long-standing injustices in our criminal justice system, some of which Joe Biden actually played a role in creating many years ago. The result has been a new lease on life for thousands of non-violent inmates who otherwise would have served out harsh prison sentences for relatively minor crimes despite their earnest desire to return to society and become productive members of their communities.
As former NFL star Jack Brewer observed, “President Trump cared about these Americans and their families, even when so many others had left them behind and had written them off.”
That sort of compassion and love for his fellow man isn’t always this president’s most visible quality, but once you know it’s there, it’s easy to see how it informs every decision he makes as the leader of the free world.
Lou Holtz was the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame 1986 to 1996. He is a Florida resident.