Monday, March 31, 2008


The very first Americans, of course, were the indigenous population later known as “Indians”. From the very beginning, the Indian population was conflicted over the arrival of the Europeans and their colonization of Indian homelands. Some resented their coming, while others welcomed the newcomers, perceiving them as just another tribe with whom to share the bounties of nature. Ultimately, it became obvious to the Indians that the Europeans were there to stay and would eventually become the dominate culture. Some fought the inevitable and others embraced it. Sacajewea, whom I salute in this installment of my Profiles of Leadership in America, embraced it.

c. 1788—December 20, 1812

Americans, living today, owe much to our exploring pioneer forefathers. But, what of our exploring pioneer foremothers? In 1804, Lewis and Clark set out, with a company of some fifty men, to explore the Louisiana territory. The President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, had purchased the huge territory from France with very little knowledge of what it contained. He enlisted Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who had never set foot in that part of the land, to undertake this dangerous expedition and bring back that knowledge. Luckily for President Jefferson, and even more so for Lewis and Clark, the explorers met a young Indian woman on the way, who guided them through the most difficult and potentially perilous part of their journey. That Indian woman was Sacajewea.

Sacajewea was born a Shoshone around the year1784 in the area now known as the state of Idaho and was named Boinaiv (Grass Maiden in the Shoshone language). While still a child, she was stolen away from her family by the Minnetarres (an enemy tribe) and renamed Sacajewea (Bird Woman in the Minnetarre language) by her new tribe. Her Minnetarre captor later gambled her away to a French trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. She became Charbonnea’s wife and was living with him in the Dakotas in the autumn of 1804 when Lewis and Clark reached there. Sacajewea and her husband agreed to act as guides for the team of explorers. The group wintered at Fort Mandan where Sacagawea gave birth to her son Baptiste.

The Frenchman, Charbonneau, possessed marginal abilities as a guide, but his young Indian wife proved to be an excellent guide, showing exceptional courage and resourcefulness. On one occasion, Sacajewea risked her own life to rescue the records of the expedition and other valuables from an overturned canoe. She accurately directed the Lewis and Clark expedition to her own country, which she had not seen since she was a child. She also taught the company how to gather food and live off the land to survive when supplies began to run short.

When they arrived at the Shoshone tribal camp, she renewed her associations with old friends and family. It was here that she very likely saved the lives of the whole party of explorers. Sacajewea’s brother Cameahwait was now the chief of the tribe. His first inclination was to kill the white men for their belongings. But, because of Sacagawea’s influence, Lewis and Clark were able to procure food and horses from the Indians and were allowed to go on their way unharmed.

Sacajewea, finding that the rest of her family was dead, except her brother and her dead sister’s son, adopted her sister’s child (she named him Basil) and took him, along with her own child, on the Lewis and Clark trip. With her two children in tow, she continued as guide, leading the explorers to the Pacific Ocean, arriving on November 7, 1805. On the way back, they explored the Yellowstone region, which she also knew well. Upon returning to the Dakotas, Charbonneau refused all inducements to go back to civilization and Sacajewea remained with him. Little more is known about the rest of her life, but Sacajewea is believed to have lived to the age of 100 years, dying around 1784 in the Shoshone Indian Agency.

The white men of the Lewis and Clark Company had great respect and affection for this young Indian woman, who, while mothering two small children, was able to lead, teach, and even protect tough explorers on a very difficult journey. She created good will and trust, for at least a short while, between Indians and white Americans. Without her help and guidance, the Lewis and Clark expedition would likely have experienced disaster, and President Jefferson would not have received the wealth of information that he desired. Sacajewea’s roll in the Lewis and Clark exploration exemplified peaceful cooperation between Indians and white Americans. Sadly, that peaceful cooperation was seldom repeated in American history. Still, Americans that live west of the Mississippi River today, like the men in the Lewis and Clark expedition and President Thomas Jefferson, owe Sacajewea a lot.

Monday, March 24, 2008


America has always been noted for innovative and revolutionary ideas. Though Americans did not originate the concepts of democracy and republican government, it was in America that these concepts were given their best chance to take root, flourish, and survive. It was not a forgone conclusion that the American Revolution and its following experiment in government would be successful. On the contrary, it could have only been judged highly unlikely and improbable at best. The great American experiment of government by the people and for the people, as Abraham Lincoln later described it, was only made possible by great thinkers and great doers, willing to make great sacrifices of personal blood and treasure, putting all at risk. No one individual was more responsible for its birth and successful early years than the ”father” of our country, George Washington, my latest instalment of Profiles of Leadership in America.

George Washington
February 22, 1732—December 14, 1799
In May of 1787, the Constitutional Convention of the newly formed United States of America met to determine how their new government would function. These Americans of British decent were exploring new political territory. Once before, in the mid-Seventeenth Century, Englishmen attempted to live without a monarchy, but after little more than a decade of the political experiment, England invited Charles II to assume the throne. The Americans, via a successful war for independence, had again rejected an English king. The challenge for the Americans would be to avoid relying on an Oliver Cromwell type dictator. The answer came in the form of a three-branch form of government with a president at the head of the executive branch. The unanimous choice of the convention, to fill the office of president, would be George Washington.

George Washington was exceptionally prepared to fill the role of the nations first President and set the precedence and model for future holders of the office. Washington, primarily a farmer and businessman, was first brought to prominence by his military exploits in the French and Indian War as a militia officer serving under British General Edward Braddock. Though he was involved in few victorious actions, Washington is credited for great bravery under fire and for lessening, through his calm leadership, the degree of loss caused by blundering superiors. When the 2nd Continental Congress met in 1775, Washington arrived in a military uniform expressing his support of Massachusetts (which the English Crown considered to be in a state of rebellion) and his willingness to fight against Britain. On June 15, 1775, Washington was unanimously elected General and Commander and Chief of the Continental army. Though there was obvious danger that a strong general might use his army to set up a military dictatorship, the Congress expressed total trust in his character. Washington’s commission stated: “you are hereby vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service.”

Washington’s leadership during the war was exemplary. He recognized that the army needed to be under civil authority preserving congressional control. Often, when haste was necessary, Washington would act and then report to Congress. If Congress was displeased, he would not repeat the action. He was able to bridge the social gap between rich (including many members of congress) and poor (which included most of the soldiers in his army). He also bridged the political gap between militants (including Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin), the moderates, and conciliationists (like John Dickinson). These difficult tasks were accomplished while conducting a war against the most powerful army in the world. At his urging, a reluctant Congress declared independence from Britain to distinguish their war from a mere rebellion. Though he had many military successes during the war, perhaps his greatest success was keeping his outnumbered and ill-equipped army from being overrun and demoralized. Time and time again he exercised great control, and was able to preserve his army until the opportunity for ultimate victory presented itself.

After the war, Washington performed the duties of his presidential office with the same leadership qualities that he exhibited as a military leader. He again, by force of his personality and character, bridged the gaps between social and political groups. He included representatives from both conservative and liberal persuasions in his cabinet. Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State) and Edmund Randolph (Attorney General) were Liberals, while Alexander Hamilton (Secretary of the Treasury) and Henry Knox (Secretary of War) were Conservatives. Washington chose to steer his young country through its fledgling years by adopting a neutral stance in foreign affairs while leaning towards a stronger central government in domestic affairs. By doing so, he was able to both strengthen the nation’s economic union and keep the United States out of costly new wars with both Britain and France. Although he was generally averse to harsh measures, Washington was able to calmly use force when necessary (as with the whiskey rebellion) without bloodshed or reprisals. His steady guidance allowed his young republic the time it needed to safely start defining itself politically.

Unlike many other revolutionary first ‘presidents,’ George Washington was not forced from office by death or threat of death. After fulfilling a second term (again he had been unanimously elected), Washington retired, urging his countrymen to avoid party strife and to cherish the union and the constitution. Thomas Jefferson, who at times strongly disagreed with Washington, wrote of him, “His integrity was the most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known. He was, indeed, in every sense of the word, a wise, a good, and a great man.”

It has been suggested that the founding fathers of the United States of America represented more than their fair share of the greatest intellects of their time or possibly any other. The Constitution of the United States bears witness to their profound and inspired wisdom, as does their choice of a leader. In a time in history when the world was full of kingdoms, they chose a democratic republic. And to protect their political experiment they chose George Washington--the man who would not be King.

Curtis P. Nettles. An article on George Washington from the Encyclopedia Americana.

W.M. Southgate. An article on Oliver Cromwell from The World Book Encyclopedia.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


America is known as a place of opportunity, as a place where one’s genius can be developed and given a chance to be productive and, possibly, benefit mankind. In its youth, America was much the same, with entrepreneurs and visionaries exploring the possibilities. The British Government had settled its colonies in America for economic and strategic reasons, but the British subjects that actually came to these shores were seeking freedom to be what they wanted to be, to be free from perceived religious, political, and economic shackles. During the 17th and 18th Centuries, America was seen by many without opportunity as a place where a “nobody” could become a “somebody”. And, in some special cases, they could become a very important and universally celebrated “somebody”, like Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin
January 17, 1706—April 17, 1790

There are few people, if any, in today’s world who compare with Benjamin Franklin. In fact, there are few people of any age that compare with Benjamin Franklin. He was a writer, publisher, scientist, inventor, educator, politician, statesman, diplomat, philosopher, patriot, and philanthropist. No one, who did not serve as President of the United States, has influenced our country for the better more than Benjamin Franklin.

Born in Boston in 1706, Franklin was the 15th child and youngest son of Josiah (a soap and candle maker) and Abiah Franklin. He only attended school for two years and did not do well enough that his father felt he could afford to further educate him. His father kept young ten years old Benjamin home to work in the family shop. His schooling may have stopped but he continued to educate himself by reading every book he could lay his hands on, believing that, “the doors of wisdom are never shut” (Eiselen 413). Franklin did not like the soap and candle trade, so his father sent him to be apprentice to his older brother James, a printer. Franklin proved to be a skilled printer, but he frequently argued with his older brother. Franklin was secretly writing some popular articles under the pen name “Mrs. Silence Dogwood” that James was publishing. When James discovered that his younger brother was writing the articles, he refused to print any more of them. Franklin ran away at age 17 to Philadelphia and at age 24 opened his own shop and started publishing The Pennsylvania Gazette, writing much of the material himself. He also married Deborah Read that same year with whom he had two sons (William became governor of New Jersey) and a daughter.

As a printer–writer-publisher, Franklin developed his newspaper into the most successful one in the colonies. As a businessman he was innovative. Historians credit him as the first to publish a newspaper cartoon and to illustrate news stories with a map. He was even more successful with his publication of Poor Richard’s Almanac, which he wrote and published for 25 years. In the almanac he preached much of his philosophies of virtue, industry, and frugality with memorable wise and witty sayings such as, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” “God helps them who helps themselves.” “Little strokes fell great oaks.” And “He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals” (Eiselen 413).

Although Franklin never actively sought public office, civic leadership was constantly thrust upon him. In 1736 he became clerk to the Pennsylvania Assembly and then agreed to be Philadelphia’s postmaster. His work as postmaster so impressed the British government that, in 1753, they offered him the position of deputy postmaster general of all the colonies. Franklin improved the postal service throughout the colonies and even Canada. He worked constantly to improve his city by establishing the world’s first subscription library, organizing a fire department, reforming the city police department, starting a program to pave and light the dirty city streets, and raised money to build a hospital. By these efforts, he helped Philadelphia to become the most advanced city in the British colonies.

As a scientist and inventor, Franklin was inexhaustible and completely philanthropic, choosing not to patent or benefit financially from his many inventions. One of the first men in history to experiment with electricity, Franklin proved, with his famous kite experiment of 1752, that lightning was electricity. He used this knowledge to invent the lightning rod, urging others to use his device to protect their lives and property. Once, he tried to electrocute a turkey only to shock himself unconscious. He later remarked, “I meant to kill a turkey, and instead, nearly killed a goose” (Eiselen 415) (Perhaps this is the real reason that he esteemed the turkey above the eagle as a symbol for The United States). Other inventions that benefited his fellow man were his fuel-efficient stove design and the bifocal glasses. Once, after viewing the first successful balloon flight in France, he heard bystanders scoffing, “What good is it?” Always a forward thinker, Franklin responded, “What good is a new born baby?” (Eiselen 415).

In 1754, when the French and Indian War broke out, Benjamin Franklin offered a plan for the colonies to unite to defend themselves. He printed the famous cartoon of a disjointed snake with the caption, “Join or Die.” His ideas for “one general government” that was presented to a conference in Albany would later find its way into the Constitution of the United States. Though his plan failed to be ratified, Franklin worked hard to support the British army in its fight against the French and their Indian allies, securing horses, wagons, and other supplies and equipment while raising volunteer armies to help defend frontier towns.

When friction started to develop between Britain and her colonies after the French and Indian War, Franklin worked to keep the colonies British, while protecting what he believed were the colonies rights. In 1757, Franklin was sent by the Pennsylvania legislature to London to lobby parliament in respect to tax disputes. For most of the next 18 years until 1775, he remained in Britain as an unofficial ambassador representing the American point of view. Franklin preferred that America remain in the British Empire, but only if the colonists’ rights were protected. He pledged to pay for all of the tea destroyed in the Boston Tea Party if Parliament would only repeal its tax on tea. His proposal was rejected and he returned home two weeks after the American Revolution had begun.

Again, Franklin was chosen to serve in the Second Continental Congress, where he again proposed a plan (similar to the Albany Plan) to unify the colonies, which laid the groundwork for the Articles of Confederation. He was chosen to again organize the postal system, which he quickly accomplished, giving his salary to the relief of wounded soldiers. He helped Thomas Jefferson draft the Declaration of Independence and signed it, declaring, “we must indeed all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately” (Eiselen 415b). Later that year (1776) at age 70, Franklin left for France where he would, as ambassador, eventually charm the French into joining the Americans against the British. Without Franklin’s success in securing the help of France, the American Revolution would likely have failed.

After the war Franklin returned to Philadelphia and served as president of the executive council of Pennsylvania (Governor, basically) and attended the Constitutional Convention. He was instrumental, by his wisdom and common sense, in keeping the delegates from going home when negotiations got sticky. At his suggestion, the delegates prayed, at the beginning of each day of business, for spiritual guidance. Franklin declared, “…without his (God’s) concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to the future ages” (Benson 18).

Franklin was proud of what his country had accomplished. He had personally signed the four major documents in early American history; the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of peace with Britain, and the Constitution of the United States. He even hoped that the example of the Americans would lead to a United States of Europe. But, Franklin knew that much was left to do. Two years before his death, he was elected President of the first anti-slavery society in America. His last public act was to appeal to Congress to abolish slavery.

He had accomplished many marvelous things in his lifetime. He was a great man that did many great things and was greatly loved. In 1789, (one year before Franklin’s death) George Washington wrote in a letter to Franklin, “If to be venerated for benevolence, if to be admired for talents, if to be esteemed for patriotism, if to be beloved for philanthropy, can gratify the human mind, you must have the pleasing consolation to know that you have not lived in vain” (Eiselen 416). In his will, Franklin simply wrote of himself, “I, Benjamin Franklin, printer…”(416).

Article on Benjamin Franklin by Malcolm R. Eiselen from the World Book Encyclopedia 1970.
This Nation Shall Endure by Ezra Taft Benson.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Why do people want to come to America? Mostly, I think they want to come here, these days, for economic opportunity--the millions of illegal immigrants storming our unprotected southern borders for the past 20 years to find jobs testifies to that--and there are still some who would come here for political liberty, though I think in much lower numbers than the 1950s and 1960s. And to some degree, would-be immigrants seek the freedom of religion. In our early history, It was clearly much the same, with the people craving economic opportunity, political freedom and, to a much greater degree than today, religious freedom. The world needed a place like America. And, the world needed unselfish leadership to create such a place. And so I offer another instalment of Profiles of Leadership in America:

William Penn
October 14, 1644—July30,1718

When one visits the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor they can read the famous lines written by Emma Lazarus:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
During the 17th Century when religious outcasts (many of which were tired and poor) were seeking asylum from persecution, there were few, if any, such places in the world as Emma Lazarus describes. However, a young convert to Quakerism, William Penn did envision such a place, and planned to make it happen in America.

Penn was the well-educated son of wealthy Admiral Sir William Penn. Though he came from a well-to-do family, Penn was attracted to the teachings of the radical preacher, George Fox. Against his father’s wishes, Penn joined with the Society of Friends (Quakers) and became one of the faith’s most ardent defenders. During his career, he was arrested and imprisoned several times for his religion, but he never relaxed his faithfulness to it.

Quakers believed that the Holy Spirit or “Inner Light” was capable of inspiring everyone (even women). They had no paid clergy and no official creed. These beliefs plus the fact that most of the Quakers were of the bottom wrung of the social ladder and chose not to tip their hats to the social elite, made the Quakers extremely unpopular in England.

Although he was not the typical Quaker, William Penn’s personal experience with religious persecution, his sense of right and wrong and his religious faith prompted him to provide a safe haven for his fellows. Using his own great personal wealth and calling in on a debt owed by King Charles II to Penn’s father, Penn was able to secure a land grant in North America which was named Pennsylvania. Penn founded and designed the city of Philadelphia (city of Brotherly Love). He created a government with more than the usual democracy, hoping to limit the “power of doing mischief, that the power of one man may not hinder the good of the whole company.” He, like Roger Williams before him, treated the Indians fairly and wished to live with them as neighbors and friends. And again, like Roger Williams, he enlarged on the image of America as a freedom-loving place and provided much of the philosophy that would later be borrowed by the architects of the Constitution of the United States. Before his death, Penn wrote his “Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe”, in which he outlined a plan for a league of nations based on international justice.

Though William Penn spent limited time in his colony and he died a virtual pauper in England, he left a great legacy and a great vision for the future. Not only did Quakers from England, Germany, The Netherlands, and Wales flock to Pennsylvania, but Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Catholics were attracted to Pennsylvania’s religious toleration as well. And though Penn’s “peaceable kingdom” eventually suffered from the absence of his leadership, during his time, he lifted his “lamp beside the golden door.”

Monday, March 17, 2008


Here is my next instalment of Profiles of Leadership in America. Not all efforts by great leaders are counted as immediate successes or even as successful as intended. Nevertheless, intentions often count for much and, in the case of James Oglethorpe, his dream of a Georgia, successful and offering freedom for all, eventually became reality, although almost a century after his death.

James Oglethorpe
December, 22 1696—June 30, 1785

Last, but not least, of the original thirteen American colonies was Georgia (named for England’s King George II). When one thinks of Georgia today, they may think of the pro-slavery state deep in the antebellum south. Though it did eventually become a great stronghold of slavery, its founder, James Oglethorpe did not intend it to be.

James Oglethorpe was a well-educated English soldier that, as a young officer of 18 years of age, had served with distinction in the Austrian army of Prince Eugene of Savoy in his campaign against the Turks. In 1722, Oglethorpe was sent to Parliament, where he became acquainted with and concerned about the abuses of the debtor’s prison in London. He was appointed to a committee to investigate the abuses, and it was at this time that he conceived of his plan to send English debtors to North America to establish yet one more colony. He planed also to establish an asylum for oppressed Protestants throughout Europe.

The fact that England wanted a defensive buffer between Spain’s colony in Florida and her own colonies to the north probably encouraged the King of England to grant a charter to Oglethorpe in1732. In 1733 with 120 original colonists he established Charleston and Savannah, and served for 10 years as Governor. His military experience served him well as he defended his colony and its neighbors against the Spaniards and Indians from Florida. His military successes and his efforts to trade with the Cherokees enabled Oglethorpe to render to the Crown services much beyond the usual of a colonial administrator. In 1739, during the War of Austrian Succession a related lesser conflict known as the War of Jenkin’s Ear erupted between Georgia and Spanish Florida. With Seminole Indian allies, Oglethorpe managed a number of successful raids on Spanish forts, with the ecception of a failed seige of St. Augustine.

Because the colony's primary role, in the British Governments’ eyes, was as a military buffer between English and Spanish-held territories and because of Oglethorpe’s personal views against slavery, the original plan for the colonisation of Georgia did not include, or allow the use of slave labour. In contrast to the other American colonies, Oglethorpe, as Governor of Georgia, insisted that slavery be forbidden in his colony. He not only hated slavery because it degraded blacks, but also because he believed that it promoted laziness in whites. He believed that slavery was contrary to the principles that his group was trying to embrace—of lifting the oppressed. He feared also the threat of bloody revolt, as was experienced in South Carolina’s Stono Rebellion of 1739.

James Oglethorpe’s attempt was, in some respects, a failure. The conditions for release from debtor’s prison, that Parliament set, were so difficult to meet for most debtors that very few actually arrived at Georgia’s shores. Almost half of those immigrating to Georgia were Germans, Swiss, and Scots including a few Jews. In some respects the anti slavery position kept the colony from competing economically. Land holdings no larger than 500 acres and no slave labor made it difficult to raise profitable cash crops like rice or tobacco. Many settlers began to oppose Oglethorpe and regarded him as a dictator, causing newer settlers to move on to the north, to South Carolina, where they felt less restrictions and a better likelihood of economic success. In 1750, after a series of political defeats, Oglethorpe essentially gave up his opposition to slavery and the ban was lifted. It was not long after Oglethorpe returned to England that Georgia followed the lead of her sister colonies and embraced slavery.

Although he was able to preserve his colony for England militarily, he returned to England, financially strapped because of the many non-repaid loans he made to his colonists and disappointed that slavery would surely take hold in his colony. After his return to England, in 1745, Oglethorpe was promoted to the rank of Major General. During the Jacobite War of that year his conduct resulted in a court marshal and equital. He was later raised in rank to full General and died in England.

Eventually, slavery and fewer restrictions on land ownership transformed Georgia into a booming colony. Though it became an economic success in his absence, Oglethorpe’s Georgia was an experiment in noble humanity that failed. If James Oglethorpe had been as good a financial leader as he was a moral leader, perhaps he could have changed the philosophic tide in the southern colonies. If the need for profit could have been met without resorting to immorality of slavery, the term “antebellum south” might not have meaning today.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


For several years I have been thinking of writing a book of a collection of my essays about persons from American history, who I believe exhibited exceptional leadership that influenced, for the better, American society, or influenced the direction that we, as Americans, have come so far. I think it is important to recognize how we got here and who helped lead us here. I am personally very conservative, both politically and socially, so in my opinion, there have been many 'leaders' in America's history--though likely revered by those who embrace a more progressive political philosophy--who have exhibited little positive influence on the development of the United States of America.  Therefore, I choose not to include those persons in this collection. Some of the persons I include may have had some progressive tendencies during their careers and embraced, what I would consider, some misguided causes, but I include them for what positive actions or ideas they contributed, to who we are as a nation.  So, this is the first instalment of my effort, to which I plan to add to on a timely basis. I hope it will generate some comment from readers and, perhaps, promote some suggestions of other historical figures to consider. I have posted some of these before, but since I have a lot more readers today than I did when I first started this blog site, I have chosen to post all the of essays again, with the newer ones which have not been posted before, before I publish them. So, here goes...

Profiles of Leadership in America
By Randall D. Mundy

Every four years, we in America divide ourselves in political parties or groups of political thought or persuasion, and discuss the leadership qualities, or the lack thereof, of the myriad of candidates seeking the highest office in the land. I find it interesting that any one candidate can be aggressively held up by one group as the epitome of leadership and the obvious savior of the nation, while another group will be blind to the same individual’s attributes, in fact they will be convinced that he or she is an utter fool and/or completely devoid of true honest character. Our political process allows us to narrow the field of candidates until eventually the electorate chooses a leader for the next four years.

In a perfect world, in a democratic sense, we would all get behind the new president and support him or her in the direction they take us for the next 4 years, and then solemnly revisit the selection of a new leader or the re-election of the current leader for the next cycle. But, in the real world of American politics—my study of American history teaches me that it has never been otherwise—a debate continues, with nary a respite, as to his or her leadership qualities, with intermittent polls asking the public what they think. The obvious attempt here is for media groups and opposition parties—often they are one and the same—to influence the nations' “leader” to be led by public opinion and to shelve whatever plans he or she may have had to lead us into greatness.

And, every few years polls are taken to find out who the American public thinks were the greatest Presidents. Of course the American public is influenced in their opinions by short memories and very little historical perspective. They tend to choose Presidents close to their own life time, or persons that the current educators are particularly enamored with. There are obvious choices among American presidential icons, such as Washington and Lincoln, because of their dramatic actions at important times in history. Because of their prominence in our history, they can hardly be ignored for their greatness, although there are those who look for chinks in their personal armor to reduce their stature. The truth is that they were great men and, though they may have had some personal flaws, they were willing to make personal sacrifices and lead out when opposition would have defeated lesser men.

But, here in America we have not been led by politicians alone. There have been many American leaders in business, entertainment, and religion that have helped lead us to where we are today. Our American social and political system allows us the freedom of choice. We are free to try to lead and we are free to follow whom we will. As a student of history, I have noted many individuals, some well known, some not so well known, who I feel have been leaders of historical consequence. These leaders are important to me because they influenced, for the better in my opinion, how we live in America today, politically, socially and religiously. And because I deem it important to understand the importance of good leadership in our society; to recognize its qualities in our fellow Americans; and to embrace it, developing those qualities in our individual lives, I have written some short histories, spotlighting individuals who, to me, epitomize leadership in America. I am sure there will be some who may initially disagree with some of my choices, be it for their personal political or religious persuasions, but hopefully they will consider my reasoning and be influenced by my arguments to see their merit. But, after all, it is a free country and we are free to see great leadership where ever we choose. The following are some of my choices.

Roger Williams
December 21, 1603—April 1, 1683

Roger Williams is believed to have been born December 21, 1603 in London, England--the records of his birth were destroyed in a later fire. A child of merchant-class parents, Roger entered an apprenticeship in his teens to jurist, Thomas Cooke. Cooke was taken enough with Williams that he became his patron for education, eventually sending him to Cambridge. Williams excelled in foreign languages, including: Dutch and french, and the ancient languages of Greek, Latin and Hebrew. At the age of eleven, Williams had spiritual conversion. He later took holy orders in the Church of England, but deciding that the Church of England was corrupted and teaching false doctrine, he eventually became a Puritan while at Cambridge. He married Mary Barnard in 1629, with whom he shared six children--all born in America--and in 1631 he brought his bride to America.

Upon arrival to American, Williams was invited to become the minister of the church at Boston. However, Williams was uninterested in the position, declaring that the church there was still too unseparated from the Church of England, that civil authority should not punish infractions against Ten Commandment laws, like idolatry, Sabbath breaking and blasphemy. He also preached that all should be free to worship according to their own convictions and that freedom of religion and separation of church and state were fundamental to true Christianity. 

Much has been made of the founding fathers coming to the North American continent looking for religious freedom. Though those of our forefathers that came to the New World first were indeed able to enjoy religious freedom, it is ironic that in most cases they were unwilling to make similar freedom available to those who came after them. Unlike other New England Puritan leaders like Congregationalists John Winthrop, John Eliot and John Cotton, Roger Williams felt that the “New England Way” of religion was tied too closely to the state.

Williams opposed compulsory church attendance and interference by the government in religious beliefs fearing that such meddling would only corrupt the church. Roger Williams was well respected by most every one of his peers, but his questioning of the legality of congregationalism and his insistence that church and state remain separate were judged subversive and ultimately led to his banishment from Massachusetts.

Williams journeyed south and proverbially put his money where his mouth was. Purchasing land from the Narragansett Indians, Williams started a new colony named Providence and invited all dissenters from Orthodox Puritanism to move there. Although its Puritan critics called this new settlement, which became Rhode Island, “Rogues’ Island”, those seeking freedom for their own particular brand of worship streamed into the colony. In some 15 years it grew to accommodate 800 plus settlers and was considered the only colony in New England that practiced religious toleration. Though it was too often imperfectly practiced throughout some periods of our American history, Williams' idea of religious toleration would become the American ideal.

Roger Williams was by most standards a humble Christian. He apparently did not believe that he had a monopoly on religious truth or at least felt that there might be much more truth for him to know. American poet and editor William Cullen Bryant concludes in his book, Picturesque America, that although Williams was an ordained minister, Williams believed that there had been a great apostasy from the church that Christ had organized. According to Bryant, Williams, because of his understanding of Scripture, was awaiting a restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the calling of new apostles as the foundation, “There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking. Picturesque America, p. 502) Williams earned his living as a farmer and not as a preacher. He spent much of his time doing missionary work with Indians and was trusted greatly by them. He was truly interested in their spiritual insights and tolerant of their religion. Much of the good will that existed between Indians and New Englanders in 17th Century North America was attributed to Roger Williams’ relationship with the Indians.

It should probably be lamented that those others coming to America, fleeing religious persecution, did not better follow Williams’ example of friendly, honest and equitable treatment of Indians. However, the leadership that Roger Williams provided has been felt for generations. His concept of the necessity of separation of church and state was borrowed from later by Thomas Jefferson and has since been the focus of much debate in the United States even till now. Perhaps, his greatest contribution to our civilization is that he was first to make reality of the myth that was freedom of religion in America.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tag, you're it?

I just visited my daughter, Heidi's, blog site to see what was up with her and she said she had been "tagged" and so was telling some interesting things about herself. I guess, now that I stumbled onto here blog and read her bit, I've been "tagged". I think that means that I am supposed to write a bit about my history and peculiarities. So here goes:

I was born in Topeka April 2, 1952, when I was only 0 years old. My dad was a roofer at the time, but had also worked as a coal miner before WWII. During the war he stormed the beach of Normandy and fought his way all the way to Germany. My mother was a homemaker for most of my life, but during my early years she worked for a baby-sitting agency where she was on call to babysit for couples who needed a night out on the town. I went with her and usually watched TV. One of my first words was "Joy" due to a Joy dish washing liquid commercial.

Television continued to be my primary tutor throughout my childhood and I must say that I was well educated--lots of history, even some accurate history, was taught on TV in those days. Neither of my parents went beyond the 8th grade SO I wanted to get through the 8th grade and be a roofer like my dad. Later, I changed my opinion, but though I graduated from high school, I ended up roofing anyway. In later years I broke out of my rut and finished college with a BA in History and MS in Occupational safety and Health.

I served a mission for the Church in Guatemala and El Salvador between 71' and 73' and came back to chase the Golden Ring of a music career. In the process I met Karen and we chased it together for many years. During that process we had 5 kids: Jesse Lee, Tyler Dean, Heidi Lynn, Ingrid Louise, and Dylan James. I have lived in Topeka; El Salvador; Guatemala; Topeka (again); Provo, Utah; La Mesa, California; Lakewood, California; Bellflower, California; Antioch, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; Topeka (one more time); and Riverton, Utah. I have visited most of the states in the continental United States.

I have had a top ten record on the radio, had a part in a European TV mini series filmed in Utah, "Paradise Reclaimed" ( I was a cowboy), had a part in a CBS made-for-TV movie, "The Conviction of Kitty Dodd" (I was Kevin Dobson's friend) and played a criminal being arrested in a series pilot set in Nashville starring Lorrie Morgan that went no where. While in Nashville, I signed an artist agreement with a production company that shopped my group around for a year and a half and had a close miss with Asylum Records, who really liked our album, but they thought we were too old to sign to a contract. So i continue to write and produce and sell my music out of my basement studio.

As a child I enjoyed molding clay and play dough into figures of people and animals and developed a talent for sculpture by the time I got into Jr. High. Mt art teachers in Jr. High and High School thought I was going to be famous someday. After taking a sculpting hiatus of over 30 years I took up the effort again and am in the process of making my teachers dreams come true--I hope.

I used to be a pretty good athlete, excelling in most sports I tried--my dad's genes were responsible for this--but i never had the self discipline to do anything of real import in sports beyond entertaining myself. Now, I'm nearly 56, overweight and way out of shape. So I watch sports for the most part and hope to see my kids excel.

Speaking of overweight, I love a good steak and most every other food available to me. I like going to restaurants with Karen and enjoying a good meal. I also enjoy watching movies, old and new, and still get educated by watching TV. I am also a voracious reader, reading everything from light entertaining novels to serious biographies. Religion and politics get a fair bit of my attention and I listen to talk radio interspersed with audio books of various subjects while I drive around in my work.

I was arrested once in Nashville on two charges of assault. I was trying to talk to some kids who had been harassing one of my children, whom they threatened with bodily injury--they thought they were tough. They didn't seem to be taking me seriously enough when I confronted them and told them to cut it out, so I grabbed them both by the necks and held their heads against a storefront window while I explained how serious I really was about it. When I learned later that a warrant had been issued for me--the little toughs weren't as tough and self reliant as they thought they were, I GUESS--I turned myself in and threw myself on the mercy of the Nashville judicial system. I payed a fine for being a protective father and went my merry way. I have since kept my vigilante activities to a minimum.

I manage safety for two roofing companies at the moment, but I keep my hand in the music and art as well. I love my family and enjoy time with my kids, hoping that they will settle close to where Karen and I are, so that I will be able to enjoy them and their own families as they develop, well into my old age.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cinderella, What's It All About?

My wife and I recently went to see the new Disney Movie,"Enchanted". It was a passably good movie, "cute" as my wife said. It basically paid homage to Walt Disney's past efforts to bring classic fairy tales to the big screen. Modern retelling of fairy tales have allways interested me. There seems to always be an agenda by the producers of such films, subtle or overt. I was reminded of a paper I wrote in college on the very subject.

Cinderella, What’s It All About?

You may be surprised to learn that a seemingly harmless fairy tale such as Cinderella can be the source of heated debate. To some, it is just a simple story that teaches that being good is more desirable than being bad, without much else to be concerned with. To others, who are predisposed to notice, even Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” contains important social, political, or psychological material. As a fairy tale, is Cinderella subversive? Does it have the power to corrupt young minds? Does it expose the workings of the unconscious mind? Some critics, with compelling arguments to support them, say yes to one or more of those questions. Although it seems clear that some elements of social, political and even psychological import can be found in Cinderella, I reject the notion that they are of equal importance to the basic theme of the story; that it is more desirable to be good than to be bad.

Of course, we have many versions of the story to choose from, but the Walt Disney version of Cinderella is the one that we, here in the United States, are most familiar with. It seems to be a blending and an editing of the two most popular renderings from 17th and 18th century Europe, Cinderella by Frenchman, Charles Perrault, and Ashputtle by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. It is Disney’s version of the fairytale that bothers children’s storywriter Jane Yolen. She seems to embrace earlier versions of the story, including Perrault’s. “Perrault’s ‘Cendrillon,” says Yolen, “demonstrates the well-bred seventeenth-century female traits of gentility, grace, and selflessness, even to the point of graciously forgiving her wicked stepsisters and finding them noble husbands” (pp.539). The American version (partially Perrault’s) does not reach Yolen's standards, “America’s Cinderella has been a coy, helpless dreamer, a ‘nice’ girl who awaits her rescue with patience and a song” (pp.539). “She is a sorry excuse for a heroine…” says Yolen, “She can not perform even a simple action to save herself…”(pp.544). Yolen of course does have a point; Disney’s Cinderella is not, if I may be as bold as Ms. Yolen, Clint Eastwood in a ball gown and glass slippers. But why is a “nice” patient girl who likes to sing necessarily a bad role model? Patience is considered by many to be a virtue and I have seen action hero Clint Eastwood sing in at least two movies.

With the possible exception of one of the newest Hollywood versions, "Ever After" (where Danielle-Cinderella knocks the prince off his high horse), feminists, like Madonna Kolbenschlag, tend not to like any of the Cinderella versions. From the earliest Chinese version to those of more recent times, feminists see Cinderella as a political attack on women. Kolbenschlag sees Cinderella, as the epitome of bad role models for young girls: The personality of the heroine is one that, above all, accepts abasement as a prelude to and precondition of affiliation. That abasement is characteristically expressed by Cinderella’s servitude to menial tasks, work that diminishes her. This willing acceptance of a condition of worthlessness and her expectation of rescue (as a reward for her virtuous suffering) is a recognizable paradigm of traditional feminine socialization. Cinderella is deliberately and systematically excluded from meaningful achievements. Her stepmother assigns her to menial tasks; her father fails her as a helpful mentor. Her sisters, inferior in quality of soul, are preferred before her…. Like many of the Jews, who went to the gas chambers in World War II, she has internalized the consciousness of the victim (pp.535).

Sex is also an issue for Kolbenschlag. The warning to Cinderella, to come home before midnight, translates to “Too much time spent ‘abroad’ may result in indiscrete sex or unseemly hubris, or both. ‘No excelling’ and ‘no excess’” (pp.537). Granted, Cinderella came from a less enlightened time and would probably not be written in today’s world. But does it go unnoticed, to the feminists, that in virtually every version of the story, the bad people are the self-important women who dominate poor Cinderella. Cinderella’s father is often depicted as dead (as in the Disney movie) or entirely under her stepmother’s thumb (Perrault’s version) in these stories. And as for the sexual repression issue of the midnight curfew, would a Murphy Brown, single-mother type Cinderella be more to their liking?

It is not only modern feminist critics that have had problems with Cinderella. The late-eighteenth-century author and educational authority Sarah Tanner also warned parents against immoral fairy tales. Cinderella, Tanner said, “paints some of the worst passions that can enter into the human breast, and which little children should, if possible, be totally ignorant; such as envy, jealously, a dislike of step-mothers and half- sisters, vanity, a love of dress, etc” (Lurie, pp.16, 17). Tanner is, of course, right that these passions that she lists are “some of the worst,” but are they not presented as such in the story? These unseemly passions are also exposed to young readers in many stories from the Bible. It does not seem possible to me to appreciate good behavior without recognizing bad or to judge morality without witnessing immorality. I know that I am quoting Ms. Tanner out of context, but being “totally ignorant” does not seem like such a good idea either. Content should be judged by context.

Then we have those who seem bent on analyzing everything that they come into contact with. Freudian psychologist Bruno Bettelheim likes Cinderella and sees the fairy tale as being replete with therapeutically valuable messages to the unconscious. In Bettelheim’s mind, sibling rivalry and oedipal conflicts are the main issues that Cinderella can help young people sort out. “On the surface,” says Bettelheim, “Cinderella’ is as deceptively simple as the story of Little Red Riding Hood…But under this overt content is concealed a welter of complex and largely unconscious material, which details of the story allude to just enough to set our unconscious associations going…. Which arouses deep interest in the story and explains its appeal to the millions over the centuries” (pp.528). As might be expected, Bettelheim has some thing to say about repressed guilt as it pertains to Cinderella’s popularity: Every child believes at some period of his life—and this is not only at rare moments—that because of his secret wishes, if not also his clandestine actions, he deserves to be degraded, banned from the presence of others, relegated to a netherworld of smut. He fears this may be so, irrespective of how fortunate his situation may be in reality. He hates and fears those others—such as his siblings—whom he believes to be entirely free of similar evilness, and fears that they or his parents will discover what he is really like, and then demean him as Cinderella was by her family. Because he wants others—most of all, his parents—to believe in his innocence, he is delighted that ‘everybody’ believes in Cinderella’s. This is one of the great attractions of this fairy tale. Since people give credence to Cinderella’s goodness, they will also believe in his, so the child hopes. And ‘Cinderella’ nourishes this hope, which is one reason it is such a delightful story. (pp.529)

Bettelheim believes that redemption for the guilty conscience is the good message that this fairy tale holds for the young unconscious mind. It is likely that Bettelheim is also correct with much that he says. Freud would surely be proud of his disciple’s thoughtful insight. But is it not an injustice, to the simple overt theme of the story (goodness is better than badness), to give so much power to possible covert messages that were not, in all likely hood, even thought of by the fairy tales originators. An unintentional covert message may have psychological impact, but it should not be allowed to overshadow the intentional overt message.

Given all of the social, political and psychological dimensions that Cinderella may possess, it is still only a fairy tale, and a good one at that. Even the simplistic Disney version has much to offer us in today’s society. He may not have included, as Jane Yolen rightly criticizes, the mercy and forgiveness that Perrault’s Cinderella exhibited, but to his credit, he chose to leave out the blood and vengeance of the Grimms’ version. This would have at least pleased Sarah Trimmer, had she lived to see it. The common thread through all of the various Cinderellas is the nice sweet little girl who treats others (including little birds and mice) the way she would like to be treated. The fact that she is treated shabbily by those who should have treated her better never alters her kind nature. She repeatedly turns the other cheek. Perhaps it should be no surprise that, in Christian Europe at least, these personality traits should be looked upon as desirable. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ teaches his followers:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they, which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they, which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… (Mathew 5:3-10, K.J.V.)

Clearly, if we judge Cinderella’s actions by Christ’s Beatitudes, we should call them anything but weak. In fact, they are exemplary. In her book, Don’t Tell the Grownups, Allison Lurie suggests that feminists believe that Cinderella “is a kind of brainwashing, intended to convince them that all little girls must be gentle, obedient, passive, and domestic while they wait for their prince to come”(pp.18). And again Kolbenschlag remarks, “…in most of the tales Cinderella disappears into the vague region known as the ‘happily ever after.’ She changes her name, no doubt, and—like so many women—is never heard of again”(pp.537). I am not sure why it would be unreasonable to expect a happy unselfish girl to ultimately live happily ever after. Surely, we would not expect that her wicked stepsisters could pull it off.

Though I have tried to argue with a bit of humor, it is not my intention to ridicule or demean, but to defend a fine old fairy tale that should be valued for what it was intended to be. Cinderella, in all of its cultural variations through the ages, is a story about living the golden rule and being rewarded for a good life with happiness ever after. I guess, by some people’s standards, we have been brainwashed, but my daughters and I like Walt Disney’s Cinderella just fine. In fact, I expect to watch it again and again, “happily ever after.”

Behrens, Laurence, and Leonard J. Rosen, Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum.
6th. Ed. New York: Longman, 1997
Bettelheim, Bruno, “Cinderella”: A story of Sibling Rivalry and Oedipal Conflicts. From
The Uses of Enchantments. New York. 1976. Rpt. In Behrens and Rosen 524-31
Perrault, Charles. “Cinderella. “ Behrens and Rosen 486-91.
Grant, Campbell, Walt Disney’s “Cinderella.” Behrens and Rosen 516-18
Grimm, Jakob, and Wilhelm Grimm, “Ashputtel.” Behrens and Rosen 491-96
Kolbenschlag, Madonna, “A Feminist’s View of ‘Cinderella.’” From “Kiss Sleeping
Beauty Good-bye.” New York. 1979. Rpt. Behrens and Rosen 533-38
Yolen, Jane, “America’s ‘Cinderella.’” Children’s Literature in Education.
Vol. 8. New York: Curtis Brown, 1997 21-29. Rpt. In Behrens and Rosen 538-45

Alison Lurie, “Don’t Tell the Grown-ups; Subversive Children’s Literature” Little,
Brown, 1990.