For all JB Pritzker has done during his time as Illinois’ Governor, his most viral and memetically impactful moment might be his recent commencement speech at Northwestern University. Smart and funny, with references to the sitcom The Office, Pritzger relayed a powerful message:

“The best way to spot an idiot, look for the person who is cruel. Let me explain. When we see someone who doesn’t look like us or sound like us, or act like us or love like us, or live like us, the first thought that crosses almost everyone’s brain is rooted in either fear or judgment. Or both. That’s evolution.

“The best way to spot an idiot, look for the person who is cruel. Let me explain.” -@GovPritzger from his commencement speech at Northwestern University.

We survived as a species by being suspicious of things that we aren’t familiar with. In order to be kind, we have to shut down that animal instinct and force our brain to travel a different pathway. Empathy and compassion are evolved states of being. They require the mental capacity to step past our most primal urges.

This may be a surprising assessment because somewhere along the way in the last few years, our society has come to believe that weaponized cruelty is part of some well thought out master plan. Cruelty is seen by some as an adroit cudgel to gain power, empathy and kindness are considered weak. Many important people look at the vulnerable only as rungs on a ladder to the top.

I’m here to tell you that when someone’s path through this world is marked with acts of cruelty, they have failed the first test of an advanced society.

They never forced their animal brain to evolve past its first instinct. They never forged new mental pathways to overcome their own instinctual fears, and so, Their thinking and problem solving will lack the imagination and creativity that the kindest people have in spades. Over my many years in politics and business, I have found one thing to be universally true.

The kindest person in the room is often the smartest.”

The best leaders are the most thoughtful, the most advanced. The best leaders are tough, visionary, accomplished, and most certainly kind.

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