Where I come from, where I stand…
Perhaps the best illustration of my position on leadership and governance in our country is provided by the text of a speech that I recently had the honor of delivering at the SAR/DAR Pearly Harbor commemorative luncheon on 07 December, 2014 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The text of the speech follows.
UNITY AFTER PEARL HARBOR: WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE IN TODAY’S AMERICA?
First of all, please allow me to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for being asked to speak to such an august audience of patriots. You certainly all are patriots without doubt as evidenced by your belonging to the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. Are there any veterans of military service here this evening? Please stand and let’s take a brief moment to express our gratitude to these veterans for their service to our American nation.
My topic for this important event is titled, “UNITY AFTER PEARL HARBOR: WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE IN TODAY’S AMERICA?” I chose this topic since it seems, as an objective observer, that our great nation is currently more fragmented and there is less unity than possibly at any time in our history literally since the Civil War. Many of you may find this to be an exaggeration, but at my age, I’ve never seen such a level of angst and partisanship in the United States even to include the era of the Viet Nam War. I intend to take a brief look at how we stood together after Pearl Harbor and then look at where we stand now. I’ll discuss the inherent dangers of disunity as well as the national strength that comes from unity and propose some methods by which we might reach a state of greater internal harmony and accord. I think that this topic is of extraordinary import given the threats we face and the need for leadership that can successfully confront these threats and do so in a manner that brings our people together, rather than splitting us apart.
Let me first explain something important: By unity, I don’t mean a uniformity of opinion or that everyone in our country must be lock step in agreement on every issue—that would be a wholly negative situation and one that is in direct contradistinction to our national heritage and the system envisioned and sworn into law by our Founding Fathers. By unity, I simply mean an environment in our country where Americans are driven forward together by a common desire to do what’s best for the nation as a whole, as opposed to being driven apart by fractious politicizing aimed at fulfilling a strategy of divide and conquer. A great man, President John F. Kennedy, once said “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” And so it must be if the United States is to continue to fulfill its responsibility as the most important beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world’s history.
I don’t think that there’s too much question that World War II was the single greatest unifying event in our country’s history and that it was also the event that most defined America’s identity and role in the second half of the 20th century. America is now and has always been extremely reluctant to go to war. For many of the European monarchies that were, prior to World War I known as the “Great Powers,” the turn of the century from the 19th to the 20th was a time when they were, in many ways, looking for a reason to go to war. There were new technologies to be tried, new systems of government challenging the established hierarchy, and an adherence to a code of honor and chivalry among men-at-arms that seemed to be disappearing. Going to war brought with it the ability to address all of these issues, especially allowing for great, chivalric, gentlemanly cavalry charges and the like. This was the position of much of Europe’s leadership despite dire warnings that the machine gun and long-range, heavy artillery would make such tactics obsolete. We know obviously that the warnings went unheeded and that the leadership of these nations rushed headlong into war, which was a disaster in every respect. World War I also had the ancillary, unintended consequences of spreading Communism and leading in the eventuality to World War II. All of this is history.
America was drawn into World War I reluctantly after much internal soul-searching and debate. Our involvement in World War II followed a similar path of reticence.
Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto said, after the unprecedented attack on Pearl Harbor:
“A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.”
Another, more poetic version, popularized by the film “Tora Tora Tora” has the Admiral saying,
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Whichever quote is the most accurate really isn’t important. What is important is that this extremely intelligent and perceptive Japanese naval officer knew that the attack was a dreadful mistake. He had counseled against it, but then been ordered to plan and lead it, which, like a faithful military man, he did, at the eventual cost of his own life.
The following day, President Roosevelt stood before a joint session of congress and gave perhaps his most famous speech referring to December 7 as “a date that will live in infamy.” The Senate voted unanimously for war. The House voted in favor of war with only one vote against. A few days after the Pearl Harbor attack, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, who responded by passing a joint congressional resolution for full participation of America’s armed forces in World War II.
Despite extraordinary setbacks and losses in the Pacific initially, the United States, whose carrier fleet had fortunately been away at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor soon turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. Unity in support of the war effort never wavered at home, despite these setbacks and a long stream of bad news before American victories at the battles of The Coral Sea and Midway reversed Japan’s war fortunes.
How did average Americans respond? C.L. Sulzberger in his book The American Heritage Picture History of World War II sums it up as follows:
‘The Pearl Harbor attack, of course, was a massive wake up call and a massive mobilization of the nation’s manpower and industrial potential. In both these areas the country was served well. Young men were drafted for combat duty and women volunteered for noncombat, support duties. Industries increased our labor force’s work week. Even before December 7, 1941, the United States began gearing up and between July 1, 1940 and the end of July 1945, the United States produced an astonishing 296,601 aircraft, 71,060 ships, and 85,388 tanks. Women likewise stepped forward to work in defense plants doing industrial and heavy manual labor work previously only done by men, ending forever the argument that a woman’s place was in the home.
As the nation geared up for war, another argument was settled. Isolationists could no longer argue that America must stay out of foreign entanglements and war. The only thing left to do was to defeat the perpetrators of the sneak attack that killed over 2,000 Americans.
As the bad news continued to flow from the Far East, American national energy and purpose strengthened. Red Cross volunteers, Irving Berlin patriotic songs, speeches and intense effort to mobilize America were all part of the intense need for Americans to prove they could hit back at Japan. Out of this first period of frustration grew the idea for an audacious bombing raid on Tokyo by the soon-to-be-famous Colonel James Doolittle.
The Doolittle raid did little damage on Tokyo and had absolutely no effect on the eventual outcome of the war. However, the psychological effect on the American public and national morale was electric. The astonishing feat of launching B-25 medium bombers from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet 670 miles from Tokyo absolutely thrilled Americans who were hungry for any good news during the first year of the war.
America’s response to Pearl Harbor, in sum, was shock followed by anger and resolve. American industrial might and a populace incensed and mobilized eventually led to the complete destruction of Japanese, German and Italian fascism and launched the United States to its preeminent post-war status as a true superpower.’
So, we can see the effect of unity which forges national resolve and strengthens our nation. But how can we get there in today’s America, and, perhaps more importantly, what have been the disastrous effects of disunity in our nation’s past? Let’s take a look at the latter question first.
We are all familiar with the Civil War, which began in 1861 and lasted until 1865 and left 600,000 Americans, both Union and Confederate, dead. Perhaps the best illustration of this is provided by an eyewitness account which has come to be known as ‘The Battlefield Tragedy of Malvern Hill, 1862.’
‘The Civil War could literally tear a family apart, pitting brother against brother or father against son as each rallied to the flag of the cause that captured his heart. There is no more dramatic evidence of this than the encounter that took place on the battlefield at Malvern Hill July 1, 1862. Captain D. P. Conyngham was an officer in the Irish Brigade and described the incident shortly after the war:
“I had a Sergeant Driscoll, a brave man, and one of the best shots in the Brigade. When charging at Malvern Hill, a company of Confederates was posted in a clump of trees, who kept up a fierce fire on us, and actually charged out on our advance. Their officer seemed to be a daring, reckless boy, and I said to Driscoll, ‘if that officer is not taken down, many of us will fall before we pass that clump.’
‘Leave that to me,’ said Driscoll; so he raised his rifle, and the moment the officer exposed himself again, bang went Driscoll, and over went the officer, his company at once breaking away.
As we passed the place I said, ‘Driscoll, see if that officer is dead – he was a brave fellow.’
I stood looking on. Driscoll turned him over on his back. He opened his eyes for a moment, and faintly murmured ‘Father,’ and closed them forever.
I will forever recollect the frantic grief of Driscoll; it was harrowing to witness. The dead Confederate Officer was his son, who had gone South before the war.
And what became of Driscoll afterwards? Well, we were ordered to charge, and I left him there; but, as we were closing in on the enemy, he rushed up, with his coat off, and, clutching his musket, charged right up at the enemy, calling on the men to follow. He soon fell, but jumped up again. We knew he was wounded. On he dashed, but he soon rolled over like a top. When we came up he was dead, riddled with bullets.”
After the Civil War, America was fractured and weak. It took decades to recover from this nightmarish event, for which, incidentally, the bills have only relatively recently been completely and finally paid.
During World War II we saw ideologically-based hatred and division taken to an almost unbelievable extreme. At the Israel museum dedicated to the Holocaust, Yad V’Shem, there is a room where inventory photographs of the victims, prison mug shots, if you will, taken by the Nazi perpetrators are continuously projected, so as to give a face to the slain innocents. Endless of these are children, their bewildered, innocent faces staring numbly at the camera. At the concentration camp Dachau, the officers’ pistol range was located next to the crematorium where the remains of the innocent victims of atrocity were burned in an attempt to cover up genocide. Why were these two areas co-located? Because the Nazi officers used human beings for target practice. This, in what is probably history’s most extreme example, is where disunity can lead.
Let me add at this point, because I feel it is wholly appropriate, that as a Jewish veteran of the Marines and Navy, I feel it incumbent upon me to declare in the most earnest manner possible, that there is not now, nor has there ever been, a more important guarantor of the safety, freedom, and continuity of the Jewish people than the United States of America and her mighty armed forces. For this, I am personally indebted and am eternally grateful. This simple fact is the origin of my patriotism and undying loyalty to the United States of America.
What about after WWII? After WWII, America was faced with the Cold War. After decades of fighting in Korea, Viet Nam, and various hotspots around the globe, we emerged victorious. But where did this leave us? Initially basking in the glory of being “the world’s only remaining superpower,” we soon became somewhat listless. After 9/11, also another singularly unifying event, albeit for a brief period, we soon lost all semblance of unity as endless self-recrimination and politicization of issues led us into a confused mire.
So what are some of the sources of disunity in today’s America?
Instead of celebrating and appreciating our differences and, to the same extent, celebrating and appreciating the things we have in common, we are constantly torn apart as a people over race, religion, gender, ethnicity, politics, creed, belief and almost anything else that can be exploited for political advantage. More and more, we are seeing political positions expressed almost in religious terms. I can assure you that when political positions become like religion, objectivity is lost and eventually becomes impossible to achieve. It is objectivity that allows us to reach common ground—it must not be lost if we are ever to achieve unity.
I can also assure you that there is nothing wrong with being a Democrat and there is nothing wrong with being a Republican; there is nothing wrong with being a liberal and there is nothing wrong with being a conservative; so long as you, your party leadership, and your elected officials don’t put a political agenda before the safety, security, economic prosperity, and welfare of the country.
What about cynicism? How often we hear positions expressed from a cynical position as though the commentator or politician is the ultimate authority on some issue and those that are in opposition are purveyors of nonsense. I believe that cynicism is the pseudo-intellectual retreat of a weak mind. How much easier it is to be cynical and dismissive than to argue a point on its merits. Easier still to fall back on “Oh, you can’t talk to him” when civil argument and discussion without anger or vitriol is exactly what can bring us together—namely by sometimes finding common ground.
Our political leaders are, it seems these days, less leaders than politicians, setting their own re-election as their number one priority and putting their own personal advancement before the needs of their constituents or constitutional considerations. This is simply wrong and cannot continue if our country is to continue to function. I want you to remember this—a leader finds a solution for every problem; a demagogue finds a problem with every solution. We need leaders, we have more than enough demagogues.
Does the internet help the situation? A recent study in the cited in the Smithsonian magazine noted that reading internet news articles leads to anger, rage, and depression most commonly. Not terribly surprising, is it? And we wonder why so many young people feel lost and enraged—it may be because they are never shown anything positive or beautiful in their education, in the news media, or on the internet. There are so many extraordinarily beautiful things about our country and our history, so many wonderful monuments and natural spaces here and elsewhere, why focus solely on the ugly? It is so completely counterproductive.
Finally, unwillingness to take responsibility by any elected official from our President on down—Harry Truman’s saying “the buck stops here” has been all but forgotten by those in public life. It often seems that those in power, when things go wrong, rather than putting forth their best effort to find an effective remedy for the situation, put all of their energy into finding someone to blame for their own mistakes. This is the antithesis of leadership.
I assure you, We can attempt to understand and appreciate our worthy opponents’ positions and, while we may not agree, we can disagree in a manner that is civil and respectful. We can disagree without being disrespectful; we can talk about our strengths without talking about the other guy’s weakness; we can have a plan that doesn’t revolve around what’s wrong with their plan. As I’ve said, a leader finds a solution for every problem while a demagogue finds a problem with every solution! How many times have your heard “Our plan is better than their plan because it isn’t their plan as an argument for or against some position? This kind of thinking has led to our current morass.
So how can we, as a nation, overcome these disturbing, negative trends and find a path to national unity?
The answer is simple—leadership. It is a simple concept but one that is thrown about often without the slightest idea of what it really means. What is leadership? Leadership is nothing more than the ability to influence a person or group of people to accomplish an assigned task or mission or to achieve a pre-determined goal. That’s it—sounds simple, right? But, though it’s easy to define, it can be very difficult to put into practice and to practice effectively.
The Marines point out there are fourteen leadership traits. These are
I would add three more traits to these without which, no leader can be truly effective:
Basic Human Decency
I ask all of you to consider how many of these traits, especially the most important—INTEGRITY—that our political leaders appear to practice frequently if at all? Which is, in and of itself, a true shame. Imagine how much more credibility our leaders in every branch of government would have if they simply demonstrated these leadership traits? How much better off would the country be? How much more of a feeling of a common destiny would we have?
We’ve all heard of JC Penney, haven’t we? I was recently in one of their stores and was disturbed to see how far this once giant retailer had fallen off. As I went back toward the customer service area, I noted, posted in the very back of the store, as far from any possible either customer or employee traffic area a set of rules for business penned by old JC Penney himself and, in the past, set before his employees as a means of communicating the best possible set of practices to make his retail business fair and successful. Here they are.
THE JC PENNEY IDEA, ADOPTED 1913
To serve the public as nearly as we can to its complete satisfaction.
To expect for the service we render a fair remuneration, and not all the profit the traffic will bear.
To do all in our power to pack the customer’s dollar full of value, quality and satisfaction.
To continue to train ourselves and our associates so that the service we give will be more and more intelligently performed.
To improve constantly the human factor in our business.
To reward the men and women in our organization through participation in what the business produces.
To test our every policy, method and act in this wise: “Does it square with what is right and just?”
I was so impressed with these simple, honest rules for ethical business practice that I photographed them and re-read them when I got home. It occurred to me that with simple modifications, these rules could apply to the federal government and even to the way young people interact within their school and community. Here are my modifications.
ADAPTATION OF THE JC PENNEY IDEA FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
To serve the American citizenry as nearly as we can to its complete satisfaction.
To expect nothing but fair pay and benefits in return for the service we render; we are not in the business of making profit at the taxpayer’s expense.
To do all in our power to pack our citizen’s tax dollar full of value, quality, and satisfaction.
To continue to train ourselves and every member of the federal government so that the service we provide will be more and more efficiently and intelligently performed.
To constantly improve the human factor in governance and when dealing with American citizens, who are the reason the federal government exists.
To reward our citizens and the men and women of the federal government through participation in the processes and opportunities that made our country great.
To test our every policy, method and act in this manner: “Is it just, fair, and right?”
ADAPTATION OF THE JC PENNEY IDEA AS GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
To serve my family, faith, community, and country to the best of my ability so that my actions support the ideals inherent in each of these.
To expect nothing in return for my loyalty and service except the respect and admiration of those I serve and support with my actions.
To do everything in my power to insure that the service I provide is equal to or greater in value than what I receive.
To continue to seek education and self-improvement so that I am able to be the best possible leader and citizen.
To constantly improve my interaction with peers, teachers, family members, parents and religious leaders without whom I would be unable to function, grow, and achieve.
To reward those who provide guidance, sustenance, shelter, and education in my life with my respect, honesty, and obedience.
To think before I speak and act and to consider every course of action carefully in this manner: “Is it fair, just, honest, and right?”
Imagine if our federal government followed these principles in devising policy or executing their responsibilities. How much more efficient and effective they would be. How much less than 18 trillion dollars might our national debt be?
Now, imagine a president whose only focus was on protecting our great nation and raising the standard of living for all Americans; who didn’t focus solely on politics and re-election; whose primary concern wasn’t fund-raising or insuring partisan power; who had no pretensions of taking the most brilliantly-conceived and devised system of government the world has ever known and converting it into some half-baked behemoth born of ill-advised theoretical conceptualizations that have not worked, do not work, and will never work. A president who understood and held sacred his or her responsibility to the American people would be able to sincerely and with integrity make the following presidential promises and vows and express the vision that I will lay out.
A promise to:
– Always engage in free and open trade with other nations
– Never interfere in the internal affairs of other nations
– Always act in America’s interests while always attempting to guarantee the mutual security of the United States and other nations
– Always seek peaceful resolution to conflict
– Never underestimate an adversary
– NEVER ABANDON AMERICANS IN THE FACE OF DANGER
A vow to:
– Make our nation the most prosperous, safest nation on earth
– Make our children and young adults the best, highest-achieving students on earth
– Never spy on Americans
– Promote our market economy so that innovation, advancement, and success are accessible to all Americans
– Make government work for Americans
– Make government less intrusive
– Reduce the size of government
– Make our military the best-equipped, best-trained, most ready force on earth
– To never, ever put politics or my own best interests in front of the best interests of our nation
A vision of:
– An America that is again a beacon of hope for people all over the world
– An America that is the world’s innovation think tank
– An America that defines progress, creativity, health, and a clean environment
– An America that leads the world in research, science, and development
– American cities rising to new heights of vibrancy, livability, and sustainability
– American family farms and ranches that wholesomely feed our country and maintain the best rural traditions of our nation
– An America that our citizens and our Founding Fathers would be proud of
All of this stems from really the one most important of the leadership traits I’ve outlined above: integrity. With integrity as the inviolable rule of governance among the three branches of government, everything I’ve said could easily be put into practice.
Rather than constantly nay-saying and emphasizing the negative and how the Other Guys just don’t get it; how our plan is better because it isn’t their plan; our leaders must focus on the promise of a brighter future for all Americans. They must step out of the way and let American inventiveness and ingenuity be the beacon that lights the way for a new spirit of innovation and achievement for every American, most especially for our young people! They must constantly promote and praise our incredible American Character so that people can once again take extraordinary pride in our extraordinary nation! They must teach young people about the incredibly positive things our nation has achieved. While we should never forget the mistakes we’ve made—and there have been many—it is OK to teach young people about the indomitable spirit and tenacity that has gotten us through unprecedented crises and seen us rise to meet unbelievable challenges successfully and in a manner that has indeed defined our American Character, and yes, President Putin, our American Exceptionalism! Our strength in the face of adversity—such as the adversity we faced on December 7, 1941—is what has made us who we are and has made us, unquestionably, the greatest nation in the history of the world. We must continue to be that nation if we are to achieve the unity we so desperately need.
The solution to our current dilemma may be provided in a touching anecdote about President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Told by Albert H. Griffith, it follows:
“It was on the last Saturday of Sept., 1862, after the second battle of Bull Run. The forty odd hospitals in Washington were full of sick and wounded young men of both contending armies, the wounded Union and Confederate soldiers lying side by side on adjoining cots.
Early that morning President Lincoln left the White House, determined if possible to visit every hospital in the city before the day was done, in order that he might bring to the sick, wounded, and dying the comfort and consolation of his presence. And so, early in the morning, beginning at the Georgetown University Hospital, in the far western end of the city of Washington, he continued all day on his tour of mercy and love. Late in the afternoon, when the sun was fading over the western hills, he knelt beside the cot of a Confederate soldier in the Navy Yard Hospital, in the eastern end of the city, and there he prayed for the badly wounded lad, little more than a child, who lay dying.
Then, weary and worn, the tired President stepped into a waiting carriage. Then, a nurse came after him, calling to him to say the dying Confederate lad was pleading to see him again. Weary and worn though he was, he returned at once to the dying lad’s bedside, and asked, ” What can I do for you?”
“I am so lonely and friendless, Mr. Lincoln,” whispered the boy, “and I am hoping that you can tell me what my mother would want me to say and do now.”
“Yes, my boy,” said Lincoln, as he again knelt beside the dying lad. “I know exactly what your mother would want you to say and do. And I am glad that you sent for me to come back to you. Now, as I kneel here, please repeat the words after me.”
Then, while the lad, facing eternity but with the recollections of a good mother in his mind, rested his head on the arm of Abraham Lincoln, he repeated after his only present friend the words that his mother, then praying at home for her boy, had taught him to say at her knees before bedtime:
“Now I lay me down to sleep…”
Can our nation ever find unity without the terrible, terrifying trauma of attacks against Americans such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11 to forge our resolve? I believe that the answer is a resounding yes! But we must first learn to accept and celebrate our differences while understanding that our common heritage and our common destiny as Americans binds us together. We must learn to ignore the divisive admonitions of career politicians and re-learn the pride in our history and the strength that comes with unity. We must, in short, forget the exhortations to focus on the things that tear us apart, and, instead, re-learn the most important commonality that brings us together: that we are—each and every one of us—Americans!
Thank you, God bless you, and Merry Christmas to all of you.
I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland when it was really little more than a small town. My father was a biochemist at NIH and my mother was an art teacher than guidance counselor in the local public school system. After graduating from Walter Johnson High School, I attended the Johns Hopkins University where I graduated with a degree in Political Economy. I worked on a Kibbutz (collective farm) in Israel before going on active duty in the United States military. I began my professional life as a United States Marine Corps officer after graduating college. My specialization was in the intelligence field with an additional designation as a foreign area officer for Latin America. I worked in a variety of positions but spent the majority of my time involved with counterinsurgency efforts in El Salvador. My fundamental philosophy regarding foreign policy was formed during this period and is illustrated in my novel El Volcan, which is Spanish for ‘the volcano.’ In short, I believe that our approach to foreign policy should be one that places emphasis on developing programs with the host nation’s culture as the main starting point (if not the centerpoint). I also feel certain that by addressing mutual security concerns, rather than focusing solely on our own objectives, our policy would be much more effective. This is not to say that we should follow this doctrine to the detriment of our own security–quite the contrary. If the above approach would compromise our own safety in any specific situation, it would have to be abandoned. My feeling is, however, that if we were to use these two underlying principals as our starting point, we probably would run into less trouble down the road.
After I left the active duty Marine Corps, I attended medical school at Hahnemann University School of Medicine (now Drexel College of Medicine) and graduated in 1998. I then completed my residency in neurological surgery at University of Louisville School of Medicine, and returned to active duty as a navy neurosurgeon at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. Upon completing my tour (which concluded 22 years of active and reserve military service) I took a position as a staff neurological surgeon at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. I am currently a member of the neurosurgery staff of the PARS brain and spine institute in West Virginia and Ohio.
Many people in the United States are concerned with the lack of unity and the extraordinary polarization of our society. Much of this has come about as a result of unabashed political activity that seeks to literally ‘divide and conquer’ as a means for furthering ambition, obtaining high office or political appointments, and self-enrichment. This has been done in a cynical manner with absolute disregard for the welfare or our nation and the well-being of our citizens by politicians without consciences. There are so many examples of this behavior by elected officials that it would be impossible to detail all of them in any one document. Nefarious, self-serving legislation, programs, and policies aimed at vote-buying or directly enriching donors are being instituted at every level of government without any concern for the long-term consequences of such actions or the detrimental effect these behaviors have on our society. The question on many Americans minds is: IS UNITY STILL POSSIBLE?
In my opinion, as you can see from the above speech, the answer is a resounding yes. Most Americans understand that when we demonstrate unity, we are stronger as a nation and our people are better off. Unity allows us to show resolve in the face of crisis and allows for streamlined, effective action in order to do what’s right—and, believe it or not, most people really do know the difference between right and wrong. What sort of leader can bring this about?
First of all, it is important to establish the difference between a leader and a political demagogue. A LEADER FINDS A SOLUTION FOR EVERY PROBLEM—A DEMAGOGUE FINDS A PROBLEM WITH EVERY SOLUTION. It sounds simple, but just listen to the sort of petty bickering that passes for good governance these days. It would be easy to find a plethora of examples to impugn a particular side of the current polarized political system with regard to the above dictum, but both sides are equally guilty and it is inexcusable no matter where it comes from. To truly lead the country rather than simply engage in pointless demagogery and partisan squabbling, the next president must be willing to make and keep the series of promises and vows and express the vision described above.
Is there such a leader on the current political horizon? It really doesn’t seem that there is, and it doesn’t seem that our press, news services, legislators, or pundits could ever allow such a person to ascend to such an important leadership position. This is what, in essence, is wrong with our political system in the current state into which it has evolved: There are too many poorly-informed, opinionated, and cynical power brokers deciding our future for us. These greedy people have too much to lose if an honest, non-political leader were to be elected, so they would fight tooth and nail to prevent such a thing from happening. This is why the choices we seem to face are invariably poor—much of the process for selecting who can enter the fray is controlled by moneyed interests with enormous financial stakes in election outcomes. Our entire political system has, it seems, boiled down to one thing—money.
With absolutely no illusions about the possibility of someone like me ever having the opportunity to run for high political office, I submit the following for the sake of argument only.
WHY I WOULD MAKE A GOOD PRESIDENT:
I am an experienced medical doctor and so understand our healthcare system; have had extensive experience in foreign affairs prior to medical school as a military intelligence officer; am a decorated veteran of military service; have benefited from educational opportunities second to none; and understand what it takes to lead and have extensive practical leadership experience both within and outside of the military.
My point with this is not to blow my own horn, but simply to illustrate by providing an example. If our current president could be considered qualified to lead the country with his pre-political experience, than certainly I could do the job, minus the constant eye toward the political ramifications of every decision, no matter how minute. Yet, given our current system of favor-mongering, power-brokering, biased journalism, and polarization, I could never hope to run for office—I don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars and I don’t know any billionaire donors. The only thing I have going for me is leadership ability, which isn’t enough these days. The preceding speech to the DAR/SAR above reveals my philosophy with regard to the responsibilities inherent in government service, which, if followed by a president, would lead to positive outcomes. I’ll reiterate the JC Penney idea noted above simply to drive home the point.
I was visiting JC Penney and doing some shopping not too long ago and had wandered back to the customer service area seeking assistance with a purchase. Posted on the wall in the very back of the store in an area nearly devoid of customer or employee traffic was a series of rules written by old JC Penney himself and adopted by the store back in 1913. They follow.
THE JC PENNEY IDEA, ADOPTED 1913
– To serve the public as nearly as we can to its complete satisfaction.
– To expect for the service we render a fair remuneration, and not all the profit the traffic will bear.
– To do all in our power to pack the customer’s dollar full of value, quality and satisfaction.
– To continue to train ourselves and our associates so that the service we give will be more and more intelligently performed.
– To improve constantly the human factor in our business.
– To reward the men and women in our organization through participation in what the business produces.
– To test our every policy, method and act in this wise: “Does it square with what is right and just?”
The location of these important rules for retail business success is a clear indication of the disinterest shown by this once-giant company in its own founding principles. This is perhaps why the company is currently struggling.
I believe that these principles have extraordinary application to the federal government and have taken the liberty of modifying them to fit that venue. My modifications of these principles so that they apply to our government and its personnel follow.
ADAPTATION OF THE JC PENNEY IDEA FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
– To serve the American citizenry as nearly as we can to its complete satisfaction.
– To expect nothing but fair pay and benefits in return for the service we render; we are not in the business of making profit at the taxpayer’s expense.
– To do all in our power to pack our citizen’s tax dollar full of value, quality, and satisfaction.
– To continue to train ourselves and every member of the federal government so that the service we provide will be more and more efficiently and intelligently performed.
– To constantly improve the human factor in governance and when dealing with American citizens, who are the reason the federal government exists.
– To reward our citizens and the men and women of the federal government through participation in the processes and opportunities that made our country great.
– To test our every policy, method and act in this manner: “Is it just, fair, and right?”
I would be astounded if what I’ve written above doesn’t resonate with most Americans, irrespective of their background, race, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation. As I’ve said above, most Americans know what’s right.
Finally, I am certain that human beings are born with a brain so that they can face a set of circumstances, analyze the situation and determine a course of action that will lead to a positive outcome. Why are our politicians so incapable of doing this? As one of my mentors, the great neurosurgeon Henry Garretson once told me, “Cookie-cutter neurosurgery is a disservice to your patients.” In other words, leadership is situational—always taking the same approach to every issue without regard to current circumstances is a recipe for disaster, which is pretty much where we find ourselves at this moment in our nation’s history. It is time for people to throw off the shackles of strict party-line approaches (cookie-cutter politics) and find leaders who are willing to ACTUALLY LEAD. The following series of suggestions provide solutions which I think are practical and workable and, if implemented in an altruistic manner with only the good of the country at heart, could lead us out of our current morass. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written.