By Sarah Al-Arshani
Students burst into laughter as Former FBI Director James Comey recounted his unexpected firing in May 2017, during a speech at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts last Monday. Comey spoke on ethical leadership and the current political landscape at this years Edmond Fusco Lecture moderated by University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst.
Comey said since his firing he’s been on a mission to share with others what ethical leadership should look like. He said the example set by the current political climate has been filed with lies and deceit and is unhealthy for the growth of this country.
“Maybe I can use my voice to paint a picture of what it should look like,” Comey said.
He said that an ethical leader should possess two sets of qualities: they should be kind and harsh, and confident and humble.
He also said that President Donald Trump was like a wildfire that was bringing pain and destruction to the country and that in order to grow, citizens had to “awaken the giant” by confronting the destruction, getting involved and voting.
The former FBI Director expressed how at the time of his firing he thought agents the Los Angeles Bureau were playing a trick on him, when he noticed news stations on the TV screen announcing his alleged resignation and later his firing.
“At this point in my life believe it or not I felt tremendous job security,” Comey joked.
He expressed that he had worked to keep an arm’s distance from Trump due to the nature of his position, and explained how former presidents understood that distance between the FBI Director and the president was a necessity.
“The guy did not like me, and I was okay with that,” Comey said. “Our relationship, since before he became president, was a series of efforts by him to pull me close and me to push away. He would try to hug me, I would push away.”
Trump, he said “did not know anything about leadership” and was neither humble nor confident.
“Ethical leadership isn’t about decisions. It’s about the way you make decisions,” Comey said.
Max Seifert, a junior political science major said Comey’s speech was compelling.
“I think he did a pretty good job at connecting to the audience. He got a lot of people laughing, a lot of people engaged which I think is important when you’re talking about especially something as divisive as leadership in the current political climate,” Seifert said.
Despite his criticism of the current president and the lack of leadership, Comey said he was optimistic about the future of the country. He said that the optimism lies in people who are now choosing to get involved rather than withdraw.