Over the weekend, I had a chance to talk with a teenager about her experience of this election season.

On the one hand, I was really impressed: she’s paying attention, knows the issues, has clearly thought-out positions, and talked about others’ positions with a level of empathy that I often struggle to muster.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine what this is like for teenagers now, and told her so. Though I’d say most of my classmates agreed on specific policy choices, especially the invasion of Iraq, I didn’t think of any of them in strictly partisan terms. And a little bit of The Daily Show was as edgy as our mimetic political commentary got: there was no constant immersion in (mis)information and everybody else’s individual opinions.

Both sides would probably agree, on some level, that leadership matters: as social animals, we look to people in positions of power, and we pay very close attention to the words they use. We can’t help it.

Whether or not teenagers should be on Snap is not a debate I’m eager to enter. But we can control the influence coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and I’m definitely in favor of leadership that helps explain the world to kids, rather than leaders (and a world) we have to explain to kids.

Times and standards have definitely changed, but we all know baseline truthfulness and decency when we see them. At that level, oceans of information and continents of commentary are all gloss on the essence of a person and his or her actions.