We as a society used to read some of those polls regarding the world’s most popular man or woman (with the Obamas showing up one or two more often than not) with some mild amusement. But if that same poll was taken today there would be one runaway leader.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky embodies everything we’ve taken for granted in classic Western liberalism. Tragically, he’s forced to use a movie script with real-world consequences. During a run of speeches to legislative bodies throughout NATO this week, Zelensky only strengthened the moral authority he garnered through his courageous leadership over the last six months and especially the last six weeks.
John Heilman appeared on Morning Joe this morning to say that none of this is accidental and only partly situational:
“The tiny percentage that knew who he was thought he was a clown, basically, they kind of looked down on him. He’s now, along with Joe Biden, everybody in the world knows who any American president is, and Vladimir Putin. He’s now, like, one of the most three famous political people in the world.
I’m not using fame to denigrate, I’m saying the rise in four weeks to that kind of status and, you know, that almost universal admiration, to go from nowhere to being compared to Churchill and Roosevelt, as you are properly doing, is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen.”
The key seems to be in the fact that Zelensky has embraced playing the role of David taking on Goliath, even though we’re still talking about real bombs sent by Putin and not basketball brackets. Indeed, Zelensky’s fame has risen with the world’s knowledge that Zelensky may well not be alive in 90 days. Zelensky, for his part, also seems to sense the urgency and has mastered communicating it:
“You have to step into the role and you can’t diminish either one of those things. The stakes have to be high, the opportunity has to be there and you have to meet the moment, but I don’t think that’s all that is required. I think after you meet the moment, which he is doing every day with fortitude, bravery, resilience and moral leadership, you have to figure out a way to tell people about it, right.
Heilman then talked about the difficulty in balancing all the competing factors, one cannot demand too much of the West, or you become entitled. But one must be willing to demand enough to make people uncomfortable, as he did in Washington, where there is an argument as to whether he should be given more access to weaponry and “closing the skies.” But one has to hit that mark perfectly to have it even considered:
“I think the way in which the small team of mostly ex-television producers who worked with him for years in Ukraine have fashioned the most sophisticated political communications operation I have ever seen in real time. Every single choice they’ve made has been brilliant and pitch perfect, and they have played it. They understand that in this world we now live in, in this very complicated, fragmented media landscape we occupy that you have to play it high and low. You have to play insurgent and establishment.”
And then Heilman hit the key, one has to be willing to use every outlet available, including the non-traditional ones. Zelensky embraces 2022 media, rather than fall back to the familiar:
You have to do the interview with [NBC News anchor] Lester Holt but you also have to be on TikTok.
You have to be everywhere all at once. He is out there speaking English, he is speaking Russian, he is transmitting on Telegram all day long messages to different audiences. This week we saw him do this global tour for hearts and minds, you know, the spring training games in Canada, in the British parliament and then coming to the big stage of America, again, with a perfectly executed 16-minute speech with video in the middle of it and a switch to English on the back end. I don’t think i have ever even anything more masterful, purely at the level of performance. Not just performance, again, got to be a hero to look like a hero, but he and his team have done an incredible job making the case for his people.
Indeed he has:
Jason Miciak is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is originally from Canada but grew up in the Pacific Northwest as a dual Canadian-American citizen, which he grows increasingly thankful for every day. He now enjoys life as a single dad, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, getting advice from his beloved daughter and teammate. He is very much the dreamy mystic that cannot add and loves dogs more than most people. He also likes studying cooking, theoretical physics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. He likes pizza.
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