What do we need to remain optimistic about the future? We need good leadership. The wonderful story about the trapped Chilean miners confirms this lesson: with optimism, you have a chance. Without optimism, you’re done. How do you maintain optimism among a group of people in trouble? Good leadership is critical. Without good leadership, people give up. With good leadership, people will give everything they have for the group.
The inherent difficulty of our goals is another reason good leadership is essential. The task of regaining our freedom is so large, no individual can undertake it, and no group cannot accomplish it in a short time. The worrisome thing is, young people in our country don’t know what freedom is. They don’t know what it’s like. For them, the direction our government has taken is normal. Yes it’s true that many of the changes we’ve observed during the last decade were strongly rooted tendencies for a long time. We didn’t arrive where we are suddenly.
With that in mind, we need find leaders who can remind us where our constitutional protections lie, and how we can restore them. Sometime not so far away, our main political leadership won’t come from predictable sources. We already see a movement away from what people have called normal politics. The changes we’ve seen appear disconcerting, but we have to look for hopeful signs where they appear. We have to contribute to change according to the best lights of our citizenship. If citizens become engaged, we will find a way to recruit effective leaders. When people become active in political campaigns, for example, that increases our chances of finding good leaders. If a candidate is honest, we want to respond with some hope, even if we don’t care for the direction the candidate wants to take.
On the other side, we should not look for our leaders primarily in the two main political parties. We have to new find ways to recruit our leaders. Leaderless groups waste energy with unproductive squabbles. Because the Democrats and Republicans don’t function as good leadership training organizations anymore, we have to develop other recruitment methods, other opportunities for leadership. If we don’t do that, we don’t have a democracy anymore.
Life presents all of us so much difficulty, so much trouble. But we will be astonished. We will see the power of God and of human endeavor in our lives and in the world. We have already seen it. Who would have predicted what has already happened, in our country and in our own lives? It has been an unpredictable odyssey. Who are we to say what’s going to happen? Who are we to say what won’t happen? Winston Churchill asked, “What have we to fear? We have already been through the worst.” Therefore don’t lose hope, or resign yourself to hopelessness. Never, never give up. Press on. Churchill speaks to us everywhere.
So when will we meet Winston Churchill or, if a woman, Joan of Arc? Who will our leader be? Where will he or she come from? Don’t look for the individual in the usual places. Be open to a leader who might not have the credentials you expect: a person who doesn’t appear to be a leader. The whole country seeks an individual who has courage and integrity that is rock solid. The whole country yearns for a leader of conviction and competence, convictions based on wise judgment and competence based on true beliefs. People admire a leader of conviction, but they’ll experience disaster if the leader turns out to be incompetent. A leader has to act wisely, and too many are foolish. When a leader’s incompetent, steadfastness doesn’t look so attractive anymore.
I’ve wanted to speak hopefully here, but in fact we have to be careful what we do. We’ve all heard about white knights of old, and the danger that people can latch onto the wrong person. The wrong person can take you a long way in the wrong direction, as we have discovered too many times. Being careful doesn’t mean we have to select leaders the way we have always done so, but it does mean we pay attention to a person’s character. We should not lend our support to any leaders whose public character we doubt.
I’ve written elsewhere, in Revolution on the Ground, about the paths I believe our leaders should take. They are not easy climbs. They actually require some skill, discipline, and endurance. We have some storms ahead no matter who leads us, and no matter which paths we choose. For my part, I’ll take a path that leads to a good destination, under a leader who knows the way. I don’t care to travel with a poorly led group that winds up lost.
Steven Greffenius writes for The Jeffersonian, Next Free Voice, and Pacific Sunrise. Preview his recent books, Revolution on the Ground and Revolution in the Air, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Apple Books. To contact Steve, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.