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Leaders tired of leading

It seems our nation’s leaders are growing weary. NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge both announced Tuesday that they’re stepping down.

“I just need a break. I need a vacation,” Mfume said, according to the Associated Press.

“I just want to step back and pay a little more attention to personal matters,” Ridge told reporters in Washington, D.C.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer coaches have grown tired as well — tired of Martin Gramatica. They gave the kicker the boot Tuesday after his disappointing performance in last weekend’s game, proving that bad news (depending on whom you ask) really does come in threes.

“The last couple of years, he hasn’t performed up to his level,” Bucs General Manager Bruce Allen told The Tampa Tribune.

Political analysts have said it’s normal for a re-elected president to loose high-ranking officials in his administration during a second term. And Ridge, The New York Times reported, had planned on leaving because of personal reasons. Ridge’s resignation brings the number of Bush’s people who have bailed since the election to seven, about half of his Cabinet.

Perhaps the demands on public leaders are more strenuous today than ever. We have become a society with vastly varying opinions and expectations. The phrase that you can’t please everyone has never been truer.

In our post-Sept. 11 world, officials can no longer color-code our lives with terror warnings without proving there’s a threat. When terrorists knocked down New York City’s twin towers, they shined a light on our leaders and the path they’ve laid for Americans. Everything our leaders do may not come to light, but at least we’ve taken off our blinders and started asking questions.

Even seemingly nonchalant actions catch critics’ eyes in our sensitive political climate. The IRS, for example, is investigating the NAACP’s tax-exempt status after its chairman criticized President Bush at the association’s convention in July. The IRS sent the NAACP a letter saying, “Leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official organizational functions,” The AP reported.

The extra eyes on our public leaders is a double-edged sword. On one hand, we have a government that’s holding accountable to what our leaders say and do. On the other hand, we have a government that could, at times, look like an overbearing bully infringing on our creative freedoms and expressions.

Power needs to be restored to the people.

In the past three years, our nation has gotten so bogged down in Patriot Acts and amendments that oftentimes our leaders’ hands are bound by red tape. Worrying about making a decision that adheres to the law clouds their judgment to make a decision that adheres to people’s needs.

It’s often amazed me how different our presidents look from the day they’re sworn into office until the day they move out of the White House. Their faces grow wrinkled; their hair turns grayer.

No one is exempt from their worries, especially not their families.

“The whole family puts on the public service uniform” when you work in government, Ridge said.

He came into office just weeks after the terrorist attacks. Maybe he’s seen enough destruction and missed enough birthdays to last him a lifetime. Ridge is a former Pennsylvania governor, and at 59 years old, he may have just realized that he just doesn’t want to be a public servant anymore.

Before Mfume became NAACP president in 1996, he served nine years as a congressman. He stepped up to the plate when the NAACP called, and he helped turn an ailing organization around.

And at 56, Mfume says he, too, is ready to send his last memo. His resignation takes effect Jan. 1.

After that, “I’m just not going to do anything for a while,” he said.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief.