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Democracy

Zelenskyy's 2019 inaugural speech goes viral for its exemplary display of humanity in leadership

zelensky speech

"The President is not an icon, an idol, or a portrait." – Volodymyr Zelenskyy

As conflict escalates between Russia and Ukraine, both of its leaders become figureheads for two opposing core values: dominance and democracy.

While Putin demonstrates the shadow side of using egoic will and force, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy symbolizes the heart-led, more natural power of compassion. The comedian-turned-politician is becoming a household name for bringing moments of light during an otherwise dark time.

One moment in particular is going viral: a photo of Zelenskyy, face covered in paint, laughing with his family. The photo is already uplifting, but it’s the caption that takes it all home.



The text reads: “During his inaugural address in 2019, Zelensky told lawmakers: 'I do not want my picture in your offices: the President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait. Hang your kids’ photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.'"

This is a leader who understands humanity.

In that same speech (reposted by The Recount), Zelenskyy shared how his 6-year-old helped him realize how “every one of us is the president now.”

He continued: “every one of us bears responsibility for Ukraine which we will leave to our children. Each of us, in our places, can do something for the development of Ukraine…This is our shared dream, but we have shared pains…Those who lost their own homes and those who in turn, opened the doors of their homes, sharing this pain…Those who didn’t manage to find their place at home but found earnings in a foreign country. Those who, fighting poverty, had to lose their dignity. But we will overcome all of this, for each of us is a Ukrainian. We have to be united, and only then are we strong.”

Zelenskyy and Putin each represent two paths at a crossroads. Which way will we go? Toward power at all costs? Or toward peace for future generations? This is a choice we must all make. And we must choose wisely.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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