Category Archives: leadership

Keeping Our Eyes Above The Waves

AN EXCEPTIONAL LEADER

Over the past few days, as we’ve watched Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson step in to take over security operations in the midst of this past week’s civil unrest in Ferguson, MO, it’s become obvious that he is a truly exceptional person. The immediate good news in this, as reported in a related Washington Post article, is that Johnson’s first day on the job resulted in “Hugs, kisses and a night of peace (replacing) tear gas and unrest.” The more long-term and more challenging part of this is that Captain Johnson is, in fact, exceptional. If all of our nation’s leaders would emulate Johnson’s conduct, thus making him the rule rather than the exception, our country could be vastly improved.

AN EXEMPLARY LEADER

A great way to begin learning how to go about this emulation would be by looking at statements Captain Johnson made in Friday’s (August 14, 2014) press conference and most importantly, by looking at his responses to the questions he received. The comments that I found to be most meaningful in this regard are outlined as follows: Continue reading

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Dr. Ben Carson – My Absurd Concerns

MY SKEPTICISM

When I first heard that Dr. Ben Carson might run for President in 2016, I have to admit that my immediate reaction was one of skepticism. It’s not that I don’t have a high regard for Dr. Carson or that I don’t see him as a good choice for President. It’s just that far too many times in the past I’ve seen the sudden popularity of an admirable person lead to many placing their hope in that person, as a likely candidate for higher office and then seeing that lead to disappointment. In Dr. Carson’s case, my skepticism came from a sense that placing hope in him as a political candidate would result in disappointment due to his lack of experience in that role.

MY ABSURDITY

As I’ve come to know more about Dr. Carson, I’ve come to realize that my initial concerns about him, as a potential presidential candidate, were absurd. I recognized that I was really only worried about his ability to campaign. With that recognition, I thought, “Our current President is arguably the best campaigner I’ve ever seen and yet, to me, he is clearly the worst President in my lifetime.” From that, the absurdity of my initial concerns about Dr. Carson became evident and as I’ve learned more and more about him, I’ve come to believe that he has all of the talents that are necessary to be the successful leader that we’re lacking in our current President.

THE REAL BEN CARSON Continue reading

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Filed under America’s founding ideals, Judeo-Christian values, leadership, politics, Presidents

The Amateur

TheAmateur-Cover211The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House is the title of a book by Edward Klein that was first published May 15, 2012. The Google eBook synopsis of this publication says:

“It’s amateur hour at the White House. So says New York Times bestselling author Edward Klein in his new political exposé The Amateur. Tapping into the public’s growing sentiment that President Obama is in over his head, The Amateur argues that Obama’s toxic combination of incompetence and arrogance have run our nation and his presidency off the rails. ‘Obama was both completely inexperienced and ideologically far to the left of Americans when he entered the White House,’ says Klein. ‘And he was so arrogant that he didn’t even know what he didn’t know.’… From Obama’s conceited and detached demeanor, to his detrimental reliance on Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett’s advice, to the Obama’s extravagant and out-of-touch lifestyle, The Amateur reveals a president whose blatant ignorance and incompetence is sabotaging himself, his presidency, and America.”

MY GROWING SENTIMENT

Of course, at the time of its publication, there were reviews praising it (generally, by right-leaning individuals/organizations), as well as reviews trashing it (generally, by left-leaning individuals/organizations). Since the book’s publication date was well into the primary season for the 2012 presidential election, it came at a time when I had already decided to vote for the Republican Presidential Nominee that November. So, although I don’t think my views were quite as harsh as those presented by the Google eBooks synopsis, I’d say that I had come to be in general agreement with its theme. Since then, sadly, I believe that President Obama has continued to prove that Klein’s allegations were completely accurate, if not understated. And, sadder still, affirmation of this truth seems to continue to grow and even accelerate, on a nearly daily basis.

WHAT I PRAYED FOR

Undoubtedly, those whose reviews trashed Klein’s book professed that he had only assembled his assertions to support opinions of Obama that he had held from the outset of his presidency. And, I’m just as sure that they would level the same charges at me. With that, I’d remind them of an article I wrote at the time of President Obama’s first inaugural, entitled A Prayer in Baltimore. In that piece, I said: Continue reading

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Mount Rushmore Worthy

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In a recent article, entitled President Washington’s Day, I proposed changing from a Presidents Day, which celebrates all U.S. presidents past and present, to a President’s Day … President George Washington’s Day, to recognize Washington as the one who exemplifies true greatness in the office of president. Although I believe that Washington did clearly set the standard for true greatness in that office, it doesn’t mean that he is the only president deserving of being honored for true greatness. With that said, it does beg the question, how does one measure true greatness among the 44 who have held the office of U.S. President?

It struck me that, to answer this question, a good place to start might be to take a look at the criteria used to select the presidents whose statues appear on Mount Rushmore. In doing that, you find that Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who conceived the idea of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, defined his concept by saying:

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

These four criteria … founding, expansion, preservation and unification … aren’t necessarily the best and only way to gauge true greatness among those who had served as U.S. President up to the time of the Mount Rushmore Memorial’s dedication in 1936. However, it would be most difficult to argue with the choices that Borglum made – i.e. Washington for founding, Jefferson for expansion, Theodore Roosevelt for preservation and Lincoln for unification. Of course, both expansion and unification are criteria that could come into play again. But, preservation is the one that seems to have the most ongoing significance. Since I see preservation as being at the heart of Here I Raise My Ebenezer’s aim to serve as a platform for presenting views that support America’s founding ideals, that is the basis I’ll use here, in considering which presidents, who have served since 1936, have shown true greatness that would merit their being added to the Mount Rushmore Memorial.

As I also noted in the article entitled President Washington’s Day, there are two presidents who have served since 1936  who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored in this way. These are Nixon and Clinton. Likewise, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders. My list here includes: Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter and Obama. That leaves Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.

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For me, the clear and obvious choice is President Ronald Reagan. Preservation and restoration of America’s founding ideals were hallmarks of his administration. He took on the leadership of an America that had been diminished by that waste of a war in Vietnam, the shame of Watergate and the socioeconomic malaise that ensued. And, without pointing the finger of blame at any predecessor, he inspired our return to socioeconomic wellbeing by leading us towards an America that he always described as “a shining city on a hill.”

rushmore with reaganOf course, I understand that not everyone will agree with my assessment here. If you, at least, agree that, in honoring those who have served as U.S. President, it’s important for us to only recognize those who exemplify true greatness, whether or not you agree with my criteria for selection or the list of those I’d exclude from consideration or my list of those I’d include for consideration or my ultimate selection of President Reagan, I’d like to hear from you. Likewise, if you are in agreement with my process and my conclusion, I’d welcome hearing your added thoughts on the topic.

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President Washington’s Day

washington04072012

PRESIDENTS’ DAY

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it was traditionally celebrated on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth. However, according to History.com, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

ALL PRESIDENTS, GREAT AND SMALL?!

I think it was a damaging mistake to change from honoring the best of our presidents, as we did when I was growing up, to celebrating them all, as is done today. No doubt, some will say that my lament here is nothing more than me being sentimental about how things were “back in the day” but I truly see this shift as resulting in a loss for our culture. I see it as being akin to the philosophies of “no winners or losers” and “everyone gets a trophy”. With these, in what is likely to have started as a well-intentioned attempt to protect those with lesser abilities from being mistreated, the result is a homogenous society where all are rewarded equally, regardless of what effort is applied to their varying sets of talent. And, since there is no greater reward associated with greater effort and/or greater ability, the incentive to actually strive for greatness has been dramatically diminished. That seems to me like just the opposite of the standard we should be setting in establishing a holiday in recognition of America’s presidents.

Of course, I recognize that some may view Presidents’ Day as just being meant to honor the office. I’m OK with that but I believe most Americans look at Presidents’ Day in the way History.com described it, “… a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.” With that being the case, I ask: Have they all been great and are they all deserving of being honored as such? In looking at the list of 44 U.S. Presidents, I think it’s pretty obvious that the answers to these questions are no and no. As a matter of fact, there have been two in my lifetime who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored with their own holiday. One of these famously said, “I am not a crook.” He was. The other just as famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He did. Ironically, with both of these, if not for their acts which truly dishonored the office, they might have been remembered as among our best presidents, if not among the greatest.

THE GREATEST OF THE GREAT

Thankfully, many of our 44 presidents have been distinguished. But I think there are just a few who were truly great. Chief among them is President Washington. In addition to the fact that he will always hold a unique position, as Father of Our Country, there are many other aspects of his life that can be pointed to as great. Arguably, one of the greatest things about his presidency was something that he didn’t do. He could have become King George I of the USA or U.S. President for lifetime. But, in keeping with the objectives set forth in the U.S. Constitution, that were ‘in order to form a more perfect union”, Washington willingly relinquished his presidential authority in 1796, at the end of his second term. In an article entitled The Wisdom of George Washington, Hoover.org provides the following comparison to illustrate how very exceptional this act was:

The world’s most generous prize money is attached not to the Nobel Prize but to the Mo Ibrahim Prize, awarded for good governance in Africa, as determined by a very simple test: a democratically elected leader who actually leaves office at the end of his term. The winner receives five million dollars plus two hundred thousand dollars a year for life. The 53 African nations yielded one claimant in 2011, but none for the two years previous. The precedent set by George Washington has not been easy to establish elsewhere, prize money or not.

With this in mind, rather than continuing with a Presidents’ Day that honors all U.S. presidents past and present, I’d like to see us return to honoring George Washington, as the Father of Our Country and as the U.S. President who set the standard for true greatness in that office. Whether we do this on the third Monday in February or on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth, doesn’t matter to me. What does matter to me is preserving America’s founding ideals. As this relates to the subject at hand, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have only been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders, when we set aside a special day in appreciation of the office of U.S. President. Rather, I see it as most fitting to observe a President’s Day … President Washington’s Day, to recognize the one who showed the most honor to the office through greater effort applied to greater ability, as our nation’s leader.

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Above Reproach

Christie Press CongerenceThis past Thursday, in addressing a scandal in his administration, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conducted himself in a way I’d like to see emulated by every government official. Not surprisingly, political pundits are weighing in with their views on various ramifications of this crisis. The impact of this on Christie’s potential 2016 run for U.S. President seems to be chief among these observations. I believe it’s thanks to this mentality, fomented by the press and how this influences government officials (especially the elected ones), that forthright behavior, like this example of Governor Christie’s, has become so rare in our public office holders.

A little over six years ago, in an article entitled Honest Politician , I discussed the sad reality that this term, Honest Politician, is accepted as an oxymoron in America. This is a key reason why, since that time, I’ve chosen to withdraw from my once fairly active role in politics. However, that decision was based on what I saw happening throughout the political spectrum, not just at the national level. In fact, the “straws that broke the camels back” in my case came more from experiences in local politics. And, to a great degree, they involved individuals I’ve supported, who I thought were well aligned with my views. It’s not that I expected perfection from these individuals but I did expect that, when blunders were made, they would own up to them. Sadly, what I saw were some really bone-headed decisions being made and these were accompanied by a complete unwillingness to admit to any errors in judgment. Added to this was the disappointment of seeing those with whom I’d placed my trust being willing to associate with anyone who could offer them some political advantage, no matter how despicable the ally is otherwise. Frankly, I just got to a point where I could no longer stomach having any part in this.

So, maybe American politicians are getting what they deserve with “Honest Politician” being accepted as an oxymoron. But, what about the American public, are we getting what we deserve? I have to say, “I think so.” One of the most recent glaring examples of this was having President Obama repeatedly state, “We will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.” He, clearly, knew this wasn’t true every time he said it and yet he hasn’t owned up to that. Furthermore, he’s taken no corrective action regarding the circumstances that led him to do something so foolish and harmful to so many. I’ve been encouraged that, in response to this, according to recent CNN/ORC polling, a growing majority of Americans are finding President Obama to not be trustworthy or honest. But, let’s not forget, it hasn’t been that long since we twice-elected an adulterous Presidential Candidate who dodged the culpability of his philandering by questioning the meaning of what the word “is” is. And yet, instead of mocking and rejection, many still regard him as a heroic figure.

If we are getting what we deserve in this regard, I say, “It doesn’t have to remain that way.” When you think about it, we’re actually getting what we are letting ourselves deserve. So, I say, “Let’s change that!” Let’s stop putting up with American politicians dodging the truth by letting them debate what the meaning of the word “is” is. Let’s stop accepting allegory, as an excuse for not being genuine. And, by all means, let’s continue to express skepticism with things that don’t seem credible. But, shouldn’t we, at least, allow the possibility of an American politician saying what they mean and meaning what they say? If we don’t, what is their incentive to do so? Moreover, shouldn’t we be demanding this of our politicians instead of just accepting that, in our nation, “Honest Politician” is an oxymoron? By doing so, I think we end up deserving better and thus, getting better. So, whether or not you endorse any other thing about Chris Christie, I say it’s to our benefit to laud him for his courageous handling of the current scandalous crisis in his administration.

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Fifty Years Without JFK

Kennedy AssassinatedNovember 22, 1963 is commonly known as “The Day America Lost Its Innocence.” It’s, also, widely accepted that nearly all Americans living at that time have detailed memories of where they were and what they were doing on that day. Since I was leading a very active life in the American Midwest fifty years ago, I witnessed the reality of these things. So, I can share some of what I recall about my related experiences, as well as offer my perspective on that loss of innocence.

BACK THEN

On that Friday in 1963, I awoke in our four-room (that’s four-room, not four-bedroom) home. It was in a blue-collar area of my hometown. I’d lived there with my single-mom and two siblings since I was born. Considering those circumstances, it may have been difficult to see from the outside looking in but life seemed pretty great to me. I was sixteen years old, I had just gotten my driver’s license and I had just finished playing a season as a starting defensive guard on my high school’s football team … we were undefeated that year. I still went to church where I received my salvation. I had loving relationships with my mother, my sister, my brother and extended family members on my mother’s side. I, also, had loving relationships with my father and extended family members on his side. In addition to family, I had a good social life. I was part of the “in crowd” at school. We had a formidable circle of friends and acquaintances throughout our community and I had my first “real” girlfriend … we were “going steady”. When it came to finishing my education and then finding success in work, things were looking pretty bright. My performance with high school studies was at a National Honor Society level, I had a couple of Junior Colleges interested in me as a football player, there was a state university in my hometown and even if nothing developed with scholarships, there were plenty of factory jobs available in town where I could earn what I needed for college tuition, books, etc. I don’t recall consciously having the Shakespearean thought “the world is my oyster” but things in my life seemed to be lining up pretty nicely.

THAT DAY

I don’t really recall what I did for lunch on November 22, 1963, but I had gone somewhere away from school. When I returned, I went into the gym where most other students who shared my lunch period were hanging out; waiting to go to whatever class they had for the period after lunch. Just before the bell rang, to end my lunch period, my “steady girlfriend” appeared and she immediately asked if I had heard that President Kennedy had been shot. She was a year younger than me and she was also known to be “creative” with the truth”. So, my instant reaction was something like, “Oh come on, Louise! That’s not even funny!” Some around us reacted similarly but there were others chiming in that they had heard it was true. Then, the bell rang and there was an increasing buzz of related conversation, as we left the gym and headed towards our respective classrooms. My post-lunch class was English. I don’t recall a thing from that day’s class except that, along with the other students and the teacher, I was most distracted by what I’d heard about the President’s shooting. That distraction peaked with an announcement, about 15 or 20 minutes into the class period, coming over the public address speaker, housed in a small wooden cabinet, centered above the blackboard at the front of the classroom. For some reason, I think the announcement was made by a female school staff member but I don’t really remember whose voice I heard. And, I don’t remember exactly what was said in the announcement, except that President Kennedy had been assassinated and that school was being immediately dismissed.

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