Here we are in the midst of one of the nastiest primary seasons anyone can remember--and suddenly this Canadian shows up at the White House.
The president basically swoons; the press goes nuts. What's the deal?
Actually, quite a few Canadians have been wondering that as well, as their 44-year-old, freshly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has managed to charm most of his country and a lot of the world.
Last night, he was the guest of honor at the White House for a state dinner. As Vox put it:
People are excited. And I mean really excited.
"Seriously, with his looks, heart, and mind, he's dreamy," an anonymous senior Obama administration official told Politico. The official went on to refer to Canada's leader as "my new political crush."
What's the secret? Here are a few lessons you can pull from Trudeau's story. If you want to be the kind of person who seems to charm just about everyone effortlessly, it helps if you can:
1. Be good looking.
Who are we kidding--it helps, right? Trudeau is a young, good-looking guy among politicians. Here's his photo from three years ago, when he was in a celebrity boxing match:
Lesson: You don't have to be a supermodel or an Adonis, but recognizing that others will make snap judgments based on your appearance, and caring about how you look, can make you more charming.
2. Be authentic.
Here's what NPR said in its review of his rise:
"I think there's more to it than looks," NPR quoted Althia Raj, the Ottawa bureau chief for the Huffington Post. "I think there's the sense he seems authentic. ... They feel like he's a little bit like one of them. He embraces social media, he's present, he's kind of cheeky, he's a Star Wars nerd. And they feel connected to him."
Lesson: So many people want shortcuts, but the truth is that most of us can smell inauthenticity a mile away. And it's even worse when we're deceived for a while and then figure it out.
3. Be progressive.
I don't necessarily mean liberal--although Trudeau in fact is a member of the Liberal party. Instead, I mean forward-thinking, and associated with progress and the future.
As an example, when Trudeau named his cabinet last year, it was made up of an equal number of men and women--the first gender equity of its kind in government anywhere in the world. When a reporter asked him why that was important to him, he replied simply, "Because it's 2015."
Lesson: Be optimistic and forward-looking. Few people are truly going to be charmed by someone who insists our best days are behind us.
4. Be decisive.
Here's an example. The arrival of Syrian refugees in Canada was controversial, much as it has been in the United States. Trudeau took an immediate stand, however, announcing that his government would welcome 25,000 Syrians to resettle in Canada. (The U.S., with 10 times Canada's population, has agreed to admit 10,000.)
Here's the part where Trudeau went to the airport to meet some of them and welcome them personally.
Lesson: Not everyone will agree with what you do, but it's usually better to decide, act, and move forward.
5. Be opportunistic.
The name Trudeau has a lot of history in Canada; the prime minister's late father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984. The elder Trudeau was "a charismatic but divisive leader who drove sleek, foreign sports cars, dated celebrities, and married a much younger Margaret Sinclair--Justin's mother--a woman 28 years his junior," NPR reported.
The younger Trudeau had no interest in politics for the first 30 years or so of his life, and was a teacher, snowboarder, and bartender before he entered politics.
Trivia: During college at McGill University, Trudeau was on the debate team, and once faced off against his fellow Canadian, future U.S. senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, in a competition at Yale University.
Lesson: Charming people recognize there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of opportunities--assuming they do so in an ethical way.
6. Be invigorating.
Remember that part about the boxing match? He fought a Conservative senator (a shorter but heavier and tougher-looking rival) in 2012. Trudeau won, by TKO. Here's the video. Skip to about the 11-minute mark to see the part where Trudeau pummels and bloodies his opponent in the third round, and the referee has to stop the fight. (Oh, how I wish we put politicians in the ring like this in the U.S.)
Lesson: This actually goes along with caring about how you look. People admire others who stand up for what they believe in, and are willing to take a punch if necessary. Usually we mean that figuratively--but literally helps too.
7. Be friendly.
Although he was quoting an earlier prime minister, Trudeau's first speech after being elected included this notable line: "Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do."
During the election, his "sunny" campaign contrasted with the harsher attacks (although honestly, nothing compared with the U.S.) of the ruling Conservatives. Here's what the Canadian newspaper National Post--a conservative paper--had to say after the election, in which Trudeau beat incumbent Stephen Harper.
"Harper was all business, and lately his business relied on mounting a campaign that was divisive and mean. ... Team Harper bet that appeals to the darker aspects of human instinct would get him reelected. In doing so he overlooked a simple truth: Canadians are nice people. They believe in a sunnier way."
Lesson: Charming people can be tough--and sometimes have to be. But most of us would rather spend time with happy, optimistic people--and we might well find them more attractive.
What do you think? Are there other keys--and to my Canadian readers, what do you think of Trudeau?