"My God! How little do my countrymen
know what precious blessing they are in
possession of, and which no other people
on earth enjoy!" Thomas Jefferson
I just finished an excellent book entitled The Foundations Of Leadership- Enduring Principles to Govern Our Lives, by Bo Short, the founder and president of the American Leadership Foundation. In this book, Short showcases 5 leaders and the qualities that made them so valuable to the freedoms we Americans enjoy yet today.
Short believes perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of America is "his or her inventiveness, imagination or what some have called " American know-how". Not just engineering but also the wealth of ideas that have revolutionized industry, education and the role of government."
Ben Franklin-Power of Vision
It was Franklin's inventions that gave him notoriety. He would often tell others to "look around you, the solution to most problems is right before your eyes." Not satisfied with the status quo, Franklin envisioned and then started a volunteer fire department in Philly, he started the University of Pennsylvania, he convinced his friends to share their books which in turn became the first modern public library in the colonies and he founded the first hospital in America. He also printed the first American novel.
John Hancock-Man of Courage
John's Uncle died leaving him as the wealthiest man in Boston and owner of a vast enterprise. John Hancock suddenly had great reason to become politically active. It was at this time that England began imposing taxes upon the young colonies. Hancock not only believed that England was wrong, he was willing to sacrifice everything to see to it that they were proven wrong. Hancock freely financed much of the opposition to the British Crown and died with virtually nothing left.
"...and for the support of this declaration...we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." Hancock who signed first, gave the all.
John Paul Jones- Perseverance at Any Cost
John Paul was born in Scotland and always had a fascination with the "high seas". At age 13 he became an apprentice on the fishing vessel Friendship which was headed for America. From that point on, John Paul could not stay too far away from the sea. He killed a man during a mutiny on board his ship and he had to flee Several years later a man named John Paul Jones surfaced in America. Jones, who had friends in high places managed to get commissioned as a lieutenant when the Continental Congress established the Navy and thus begins John Paul Jones fearlessness on the sea, and his brilliant maneuvering to bring the British Navy down.
Thomas Jefferson-Assuming Responsibility
Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia. His father was a prominent plantation owner with excellent ties to the British Crown. Jefferson enjoyed a privileged life. At age 14, Jefferson's father died and he chose to continue his schooling at William and Mary instead of running the plantation. It was at college that he met William Small, a professor who taught natural philosophy, and introduced Jefferson to men who would greatly influence his life.
Jefferson became a lawyer, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses at age 26. This is where Jefferson became acquainted with the likes of George Washington and Patrick Henry.
Jefferson was called upon to write up the Declaration of Independence which was then ripped to shreds by the members of the Continental Congress. His visions were often considered to be too radical.
Throughout the rest of Jefferson's life he would be called upon to step up and assume a position of great importance first to Virginia and later to the nation. Although weary, and often discouraged Jefferson would do all that he could. "Duty and responsibility,: Jefferson taught, "were the obligation of every citizen in a free society."
George Washington-Leading with Character
George Washington was born in Virginia to middle income planters who lived very near the wilderness. They were land rich and money poor. This propelled George to dream big. His education was haphazard, being mainly self-taught. At 16 years old, George left the family to become a surveyor's assistant. This proved to be a great asset to him. When the French and Indian War began, it was Washington who knew that territory and he became Virginia's first commissioned office. He served as the Commander in Chief in the second Continental Congress army. After winning the "impossible war" against the British, America needed someone of strong character to unite us. George Washington was that man.
"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an "Honest Man." ~ George Washington
Bo Short closes with some final thoughts:
"We have an awesome responsibility to protect the freedoms that have been gained for us by the blood and tears of our ancestors. Personal liberty was won at a tremendous cost."
" The struggle for religious and personal freedoms that so aptly defined the battle for American independence was claimed by men and women of conviction. The patriots, oddly enough, comprised less then half of the population. As is typical of the American spirit, they believed that pursuing what was "right" was more important the what was "popular".