Leadership: Resolve and Fortitude and Perseverance In The Face of All Odds

2009 June 1

There is a fine line between realism and pessimism, between facing a situation with courage or facing a situation with gloom.  I know as well as anyone else that things are difficult.  Our family has already been directly and badly hit by D.C. policies.

Our heritage as Americans is one of resolve and fortitude and perseverance in the face of all odds.  It is one of advancing when we can and holding ground when we must.

Earlier this year Hot Air linked to an article by Thomas L. Friedman that discussed the demise of leadership, Are We Home Alone? I want to focus in on one quote from his opinion editorial:  (My emphasis in all of the quotes below).

“There is nothing more powerful than inspirational leadership that unleashes principled behavior for a great cause,” said Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and the author of the book “How.” What makes a company or a government “sustainable,” he added, is not when it adds more coercive rules and regulations to control behaviors. “It is when its employees or citizens are propelled by values and principles to do the right things, no matter how difficult the situation,” said Seidman. “Laws tell you what you can do. Values inspire in you what you should do. It’s a leader’s job to inspire in us those values.”

Leaders inspire by words and by example.  Their values and principles have been inculcated within their minds and hearts and they hold fast to them.  They may know moments of despair, but they continue on steadfastly.  I think of Washington at Valley Forge and Churchill at the beginning of World War II.  We forget as we look back on history that these men and others did not know the outcome when they persevered in the midst of an outlook that was bleak.

I have read, and I believe, that without Washington’s leadership of character our country would never have been born.  The summer before Valley Forge, he wrote to Major General Philip Schuyler:

We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth New Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times.

Washington and his troops endured the winter of Valley Forge; the Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, an ordained Presbyterian minister, recorded these words from a Quaker named Potts:

‘There,’ said he, ‘laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods pointing to a close in view, I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods & to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, & the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world.

‘Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying.

Churchill’s first speech as Prime Minister on May 13, 1940, included these famous words:

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

He said to General Ismay:

“Poor people, poor people. They trust me, and I can give them nothing but disaster for quite a long time.”

Yet Churchill persevered and carried England by the force of his words, saying to the school boys at Harrow over a year later on October 29, 1941:

The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible catastrophic events in the world – ups and downs, misfortunes – but can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our country and of our home? Why, when I was here last time we were quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six months…

Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must “…meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same.

“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go…surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.

Going back to the history of our own country, M.E. Bradford in his book Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution wrote that there were some “150 to 200 principal Founders of the Republic” (p. 88).  Many contributed in both word and deed.

Thomas Paine:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

As Patrick Henry cried out “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

William Wirt, the biographer of Henry, says that when Henry took his seat, “no murmur of applause was heard. The effect was too deep. After the trance of a moment several members started from their seats. The cry to arms! seemed to quiver on every lip, and gleam from every eye. They became impatient of speech. Their souls were on fire for action.”

Where does this leave us?

First, we can be grateful to God for raising up leaders like Robert George and Sarah Palin.  We can recognize and support their efforts as we examine and learn from their thinking and deeds.  Will we agree with everything they may say or do?  No, but the Founders had more than their share of disagreements, yet as they argued they worked together.

Second, we can also examine the values of those who would be our leaders and discern the smokescreen of rhetoric from the reality of character.

Third, we can look to our own character.  What are your principles and from whence do you gain moral clarity and the courage to act for right and persevere?  Do you have an anchor that holds in the midst of storm?  Where do you find the power to continue even when you stand alone?  I am a Christian and I consider it to be no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of our Founders would have been able to draw their principles and courage from their Christian faith.  As Bradford wrote (ibid, pp. 88-89):

As I have come to know through my own work, the concept of the Framers as ordinary Christians, as members in good standing of the various Christian communions found in early America, is supported by the recorded patterns of their lives. What I propose in the way of a collective portrait draws upon evidence from the usually ignored 95 percent of that group—ignored because they are not precursors of the present dispensation in law, ethics, and public policy.

Fourth, consider your own area of influence and leadership.  We all influence one another by word and deed.  We may have only a small circle of influence or we may suddenly find ourselves in an arena that is larger than we ever imagined.  Wherever we are, who you are is important.  We will all have our moments of discouragement and even despair when we need the help of others, but what is the overall pattern and thrust of your days?  Of your words?  Of your deeds?  The day of small things will only lead to the day of larger things, if we encourage and influence others to act rightly.

As Dov Seidman said:

“There is nothing more powerful than inspirational leadership that unleashes principled behavior for a great cause…What makes a… government “sustainable…. is when its…citizens are propelled by values and principles to do the right things, no matter how difficult the situation….Laws tell you what you can do. Values inspire in you what you should do. It’s a leader’s job to inspire in us those values.


Quotes:  New York Times; Bartleby.com; The Independence Hall Association (ushistory.org); The Churchill Centre and Museum at the Cabinet War Rooms, London; M.E. Bradford, Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution.

Crossposted in a modified format to J’s Cafe Nette and RedState Member Diaries.

21 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 June 1 8:43 am
    janzam permalink

    The delusional masses continue to be delusional!

    President Obama contends he inherited the nation’s ongoing economic problems and that his actions since taking office are not to blame. Sixty-two percent (62%) of U.S. voters agree with the president that the problems are due to the recession that began under the Bush administration.

  2. 2009 June 1 10:57 am

    Where is everybody???

  3. 2009 June 1 11:21 am

    Bravo. Bravo.

    (Of course I’m somewhat biased, just a little.)

  4. 2009 June 1 11:30 am


  5. 2009 June 1 12:08 pm
    phineas gage permalink

    Good article from a smart political analyst.

    Don’t run toward the center. Redefine the center.

    Return to conservatism. Given what is happening, there has never been better opportunity. The GOP would be crazy to do otherwise.

    And yet.

  6. 2009 June 1 12:21 pm
    INC permalink

    Thanks, phineas. That is a good article. I put “article” in bold to indicate the link.

    Did you see that I quoted you the other day?

  7. 2009 June 1 12:21 pm
    janzam permalink


    I took the time during the noon hour to read your thread in it’s entirety. It’s truly well written, and the premise behind what you wrote is outstanding. Role-modeling our ethics has been a tried and true expression of leadership.

    Unfortunately our current leader relies more on arrogant self confidence rather than the humility expressed in the excerpts you submitted by Washinton or Churchill. The press obligingly parrots what our leader says, puts it in their publications without curiosity as to the “facts,” and the masses then process their views, rather robotically, by believing everything they read or hear on the news.

    It’s a vicious cycle we are involved in today. And, for another outstanding leader to emerge and make positive policy revisions, his/her voice and actions have to be loud and permeated with enough clarity to clear the fences of a biased press and their mesmerized followers.

    It’s going to take one very special person to do this in the near future!

  8. 2009 June 1 12:27 pm
    INC permalink

    Thank you, Jan. This one really flowed. I had been impressed by the quote from Seidman and had saved it to use. On Saturday I knew it was time to write!

    Today we may need more than one leader–a number of special people on all fronts.

    Too many of our current “leaders” do not understand the power of principles.

    They only understand the power of position.

  9. 2009 June 1 12:41 pm
    janzam permalink


    Too many of our current “leaders”…understand the power of position. That succinctly is what it is all about. Nicely said!

    Enjoyed the Barone article, Phineas. He is usually such a pragmatist, and this is no exception. But, the “center” he is alluding to is the centralized govt., not the center of any political principle:

    Republicans today should be less interested in moving toward the center and more interested in running against the center. Here I mean a different “center” — not a midpoint on an opinion spectrum, but rather the centralized government institutions being created and strengthened every day.

    I really liked what Barone said at the end of his article, lending the 1946 example as a way republicans might currently consider heading.

    Republicans ran in 1946 on the theme of “Had enough?” and won big enough majorities to lower taxes, revise labor laws and abolish controls.

  10. 2009 June 1 12:49 pm
    phineas gage permalink

    Yes, I realize that, jan. He is specifically saying ‘don’t try to run toward a political center to appease as many people as possible and becoming Dem-lite in the process, run hard against the appalling centralization being carried out by the radical Obama administration.”

    In other words, return to conservatism.

    This is what I have been saying for a long time.

  11. 2009 June 1 12:52 pm
    phineas gage permalink

    INC, how did you ‘intensify’ the link color? I’ve been irked for some time now that when I post links they are barely visible, but I didn’t know how it could be remedied. Thanks for the edit.

    Thanks also for the cite–I think that may have been a blog first for me.

    I’ve really enjoyed your last several posts; as jan said, they have been very well written

  12. 2009 June 1 1:11 pm
    justrand permalink

    excellent post, INC.

    We hae an excellent crop of leaders here at BJG…but we can’t just “lead” ourselves! We need to find others, share information, and identify opportunities to use our resources to resist the tide of insanity threatening to overrun us!

    cheers…and thx!!

  13. 2009 June 1 1:12 pm
    INC permalink

    Thanks, phin.

    I just did the bold tag with the link title that’s within the link tag. The links used to intensify automatically in comments, but since the site update, they don’t any more. Sometimes I miss a link!

    Hope this works. This is done with escape sequences so the tags don’t disappear!

    <a href=“URL”><b>Link Title or Phrase</b></a>

    I saved that quote from you as well! I thought it was a good one!

  14. 2009 June 1 1:25 pm
    INC permalink

    Justrand, thanks. We need lots of pebbles and enough rocks that will hopefully gain some momentum, move some boulders and start an avalanche!

  15. 2009 June 1 1:31 pm
    INC permalink


    This was one reason I added the quote from Bradford regarding “150 to 200 principal Founders of the Republic”. That’s a lot of people. Many of their names we would not recognize unless we were professional historians, yet all made a difference; enough of a difference that a scholar like Bradford would include them as principal Founders!

  16. 2009 June 1 1:33 pm
    conservativetony permalink

    Speaking of leadership change, I think something along the lines of 1994 is going to happen in 2010.

    Remember when the voters threw out a lot of the Clinton Democrats in Congress out on their asses? This scenario is much worse.

    Unfortunately, at the same time we threw them out we brought in a lot of our own ‘asses’. We’ll see how the primaries go. Time to clean house.

  17. 2009 June 1 1:37 pm

    PHIN: To bolden your links, you an also print them in caps instead of lower case.

  18. 2009 June 1 3:20 pm
    justrand permalink

  19. 2009 June 1 4:06 pm
    Colorado KnightOwl permalink

    Excellent thread INC….thank you!

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