Thursday, January 21, 2010

Character Matters

I'm something of a dilettante when it come to American history. I've read some and thought some and developed a few of my own theories. One is that at pivotal times history often depends on a few people of extraordinary character. Not perfect people but people with extraordinary moral strength.
George Washington was many things, but the one thing everyone agreed on was his extraordinary character. His steadfast devotion to the cause likely was the critical factor in the success of our revolution. He was the unanimous choice of his peers to preside over the Constitutional Convention which produced the most remarkable document in political history, yet by all accounts he seldom participated actively, instead demonstrating his resolve and commitment. As first President of the United States he established many of the customs we adhere to to this day.

Robert E. Lee was in the tradition of Washington. He commanded the respect of everyone who knew of him. He was called the best officer in the United States Army before the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War when he called on the South to accept defeat, his moral force was enough to override the president of the Confederacy.

George C. Marshall was the only military man in the US who could promote Colonel Eisenhower over dozens of more senior officers. He was the only person who by strength of will could resist Churchill and the British General Staff. “The noblest Roman of them all" was how Winston Churchill once described him. FDR said he couldn't sleep if Marshall was not in Washington. After winning the war, he was given the Nobel Peace prize for winning the peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. was thrust to greatness. He was a young little known preacher when he was "nominated" to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His strong conviction in the rightness of his cause, without recrimination and with universal reason strengthened his supporters and undermined his opponents. The moral force of his calm righteousness showed the country the way.

If only our local leaders could be just a little more like them. A little more concerned with good and a little less concerned with get.

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