On 26 November 2016, at age 90, Fidel Castro passed away peacefully among friends and family after 57 years in public service as Prime Minister and then President of Cuba. The nation is observing 9-days of mourning as Cubans remember the leader they fondly refer to as ‘el Comandante.’ He was described as “sincere” and a “remarkable leader” by some who knew him:
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a telegram to Raul Castro: “Free and independent Cuba, which he (Fidel Castro) and his allies built, became an influential member of the international community and became an inspiring example for many countries and nations. Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia.”
- Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the president of El Salvador, said he felt “deep sorrow … of my friend and eternal companion, Commander Fidel Castro Ruz.”
- Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted that “Fidel Castro was a friend of Mexico, promoting bilateral relations based on respect, dialogue and solidarity.”
- Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi said on Twitter “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.”
- Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada made this formal statement: “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President. Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’. I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba. On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.” (source)
- U.S. President Barack Obama had these words to offer: “At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” (source)
There was a significant backlash of criticism among conservative Republicans who felt that because of Castro’s oppressive militant style of leadership, we should not speak praises of him at his passing. Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party’s highest ranking official and formal spokesperson had this to say:
“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades… Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.”
Trump’s statement on Castro contrasted with the praises from other leaders, including the top ranking Democrat official in the country, was a flip from previous months where Trump was perceived as praising fascist dictators, oppressive tyrants, and militant despots. Democrats were very critical of Trump seeming to have anything good to say about such horrible leaders. On 17 Oct 2016, Dan Rather posted a criticism of Trump on Facebook over his praise of harsh leaders.
Based on his past comments about other leaders, Trump’s recent statement about Castro is a departure that seems likely to have been influenced by his advisors who probably saw this as an opportunity to show Trump as speaking out against such forms of leadership while at the same time turning the tables on others who would no doubt be sharing diplomatic condolences. It’s the eulogy phenomenon where no matter how bad a person was, the words spoken at their funeral emphasis the good they did.
Critics who have vilified Donald Trump over the past year warn that he is similar to Adolf Hitler. As evidence, they point to Trump’s comments about despised world leaders. A comprehensive inventory can be found in the ABC News article, “5 Controversial Dictators and Leaders Donald Trump Has Praised.”
Gilbert Alter-Gilbert wrote the book on despots and dictators. Literally. His book is titled “The Desktop Digest of Despots and Dictators: An A to Z of Tyranny.”
The spirituality and religion website BeliefNet.com examines Alter-Gilbert’s book with an article “Even History’s Worst, Most Dispicable Dictators and Despots Managed to Do at Least One Thing Right.”
“Can good be found in even the most evil of history’s despots and tyrants? That’s the premise of author Gilbert Alter-Gilbert in his Desktop Digest of Despots and Dictators . It’s an encyclopedia of what he calls “some of the most monstrously warped specimens in the catalog of human personality.”
“History’s most egregious tyrants seem to exemplify the worst in individual character and behavior,” observes Alter-Gilbert. A devil’s advocate might assert that even these worst examples of humanity occasionally demonstrated certain praiseworthy traits and tendencies. That is to say, “that some semblance of virtue may dwell in even the blackest of hearts.”
When Donald Trump praises fascist dictators, oppressive tyrants, and militant despots, is he speaking from a place of admiration of those he’d like to emulate while ruling over the United States? Probably not. It’s more likely that Trump is transcendent and complex — allowing him to see good even in the worst people.
Successful business people need to see good even in bad situations. They need to see opportunity in all circumstances. Is the market going up? Good. There’s an opportunity. Is the economy crashing? Good. There’s an opportunity. Even a business as simple as a lemonade stand is a literal example of ‘turning lemons into lemonade.’ This is Trump’s mindset. He can’t help himself. He is programmed to see good in all situations and people. In order to be successful in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment, business people need to adapt, change, and always be looking for the silver lining. They must have a positive attitude, be creative, and paint a successful future on an ever changing canvas.
We’re accustom to seeing the world around us in absolutes: heroes and villains. We’re not trained to see the more complex reality that in all people and situations there can be good and bad. Perhaps for those who have vilified Donald Trump, the ability to see some good in all people would be helpful. After all, it’s a bit dishonest and inaccurate to equate Trump with Hitler. Is Trump planning to kill millions of people? Was Hitler simply a shrewd business man who may have underpaid a few contractors? Is Trump 100% pure evil and no better than a war criminal? These are inaccurate and unfair statements. If heads of state in the Western Hemisphere, and others around the world, can find something positive to say about Fidel Castro, can’t we also find something positive to say about Donald Trump?
The articles linked below offer further reading on this topic.
- “5 Controversial Dictators and Leaders Donald Trump Has Praised,” by Meghan Keneally, 6 July 2016 @ 11:24 ET
- “Fidel Castro’s death: Vladimir Putin calls Cuba leader ‘reliable friend’ as world leaders react,” CBS News / Associated Press, 26 Nov 2016 @ 9:50 AM.
- “Obama Extends ‘Hand of Friendship’ to Cuba Following Death of Fidel Castro,” by Katherine Faulders, ABC News, 26 Nov 2016.
- “Obama offers condolences to Castro family,” by Harper Needing, The Hill, 26 Nov 2016.
- “Trump and Obama offer divergent responses to death of Fidel Castro,” by Julian Borger, The Guardian, 26 Nov 2016.
Below are some videos that expand on the above article.
Obama Extends ‘Hand of Friendship’ to Cuba Following Death of Fidel Castro
ABC NEWS – 26 Nov 2016. President Obama offered his condolences to the Castro family and extended “a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” following the announcement by Cuban President Raul Castro that his brother, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, had died at age 90.
Obama, Donald Trump react to Fidel Castro’s death
CBS NEWS – Published on Nov 26, 2016. President Obama said that the United States is extending “a hand of friendship to the Cuban people” following the death of Fidel Castro. Errol Barnett has more.
Donald Trump praises Saddam Hussein
CBS NEWS – Published on Jul 5, 2016. During a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday night, Donald Trump praised the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Gaddafi & Saddam was a Mistake – Donald Trump
In an interview with CBSN Donald Trump Said “Killing Gaddafi & Saddam was a Mistake. I Support Putin”
Putin praises Trump as an ‘outstanding, talented’ man
FOX NEWS – Published on Dec 17, 2015. Russian president gives his take on the 2016 presidential election. Watch Lauren Green talk about Apple News, Dotcom Live, Elections, Europe, Republicans, Strategy Room, and World Regions.
Trump Praises Putin for his High Approval Rating in Russia
Donald Trump Has A Habit Of Praising Dangerous Dictators
Published on Jul 11, 2016. It is well know that Trump has expressed admiration for some of the world’s most dangerous dictators including Kim Jong-Un, Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin and Muammar Gaddafi. Trump has also praised the Chinese government’s handling of protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing where thousands of students were killed.