Common Sense

Cavuto: Never underestimate the power of a first impression

A look at the messages leaders send


I want you to look at something and tell me whether just the look of this says something.

The new pope, eschewing his own separate papal pew to pray with the old pope in the same pew. Or bolting from his balcony addressing crowds below to wade into and touch those crowds in person.

Little things, but in these first days of his papacy -- powerful things.

Deliberate things on the part of a pope less focused on pageantry and more focused on people.

Sort of like when Jimmy Carter skipped the limo and walked in his parade to signal his would be a very different White House.

Or 16 years earlier, when John Kennedy wanted to send a very different message that his would be a less "common" more "Camelot" White House.

Never underestimate the power of a first impression.

Of a Franklin Roosevelt and his first frenetic 100 days or Lyndon Johnson's just right tone addressing a grieving nation in his first days.

Images not only send impressions, they often send signals.

Like Richard Nixon going to China, to reach out to a communist nation or just this past weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry going to Iraq, to speak frankly to that nation.

Sometimes such gestures are meant to dispel notions. Like Rand Paul using a filibuster to say Republicans aren't about "defense at all costs" or President Obama holding a private seder at the White House to remind Israelis he still cares.

Both using impressions to ease suspicions.

It's why you first have to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat in the same room before you can get them on the same page. Just like you have to get Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev clinking glasses on earth before you can get their countries doing a joint venture in space.

Little things can lead to big things even if they lead to nothing.

Sometimes, just seeing a new president like Gerald Ford making his own breakfast is all you need at the white house to show scandal-weary Americans at the time, there's a refreshing change going on at the White House.

Such images don't always last. But never let it be said, in the moment, they don't count.

That's not to say a pope wading into crowds brings any more crowds to the church. What it does say is there's a new pope in town, who clearly thinks they're worth the effort.

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. But I'm impressed by those who follow up and keep taking such chances to make a lasting one.