“Great Leadership is the ability to create a dream of what is possible and convince people that it is probable.” Martha Engeman
As a student of history, politics and our shared American experience, I have been watching Ken Burns' series The Roosevelts on Netflix which chronicles the lives of Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. All three were driven by the desire to uplift America, reduce suffering and set our nation on a course that would help us fulfill the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that is laid forth by our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence.
Despite making mistakes, and experiencing devastating physical setbacks in life, Teddy and Franklin persevered. Teddy overcame debilitating asthma and Franklin lived with the crippling effects polio throughout his Presidential years.
We don’t exit this life without trials and tribulations that shape our character and redefine our life path. The real measure of a person is how they respond when circumstances of their own or outside influences conspire against them. That is when we are called to dig deep on the reserves of strength, wisdom and determination that are needed to survive any challenge.
Life takes both courage and faith—courage to move forward when the road is uncertain and faith that in the end, the sun will always rise on each new day. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t know that we were going to weather the Great Depression or prevail during World War Two. Instead he just kept doing what he thought was the next right thing. Some choices turned out to be brilliant and others to be ill-advised. But he believed in himself, in our country and in our people. He asked and cajoled us to be more than we thought we could be. Great leadership is the ability to create a dream of what is possible and convince people that it is probable. Great leadership pulls us up and reminds us that when we work together toward the common good, we can create more than we can imagine.
Each generation has its struggles and successes. Each generation has its strong and weak leaders—those who drive us to great heights and those who remind us of our demons. A true democracy is one in which we the people wake up, step up and act. We will make mistakes. But if we are guided by a belief in ourselves, our fellow citizens and the desire to make things better for all, than together, we can move mountains.