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Our country's origins should be familiar to all, but unfortunately, they aren't.

The trend in many circles in education is to only emphasize history from the 20th century until now.

But to do that is to miss some of the most crucial events in all of world history, including the beginnings of the world's most powerful republic.

With each new generation, it seems that fewer and fewer American citizens know very many of the details of America's birth.

She was conceived with the writing and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence -- one of the most eloquent documents ever penned -- a perfect expression of the American mind.

Against great odds, she was born out of a revolution and, in the worst days of that revolutionary effort, she had a rag-tag army and a dysfunctional union of states.

The best days of the American Revolution, however, were characterized by the United States having great leaders, brilliant thinkers (some of them geniuses), committed allies, a disciplined army and a frequent reliance upon Divine Providence.

Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Adams (both John and Sam), Hancock and later Madison all made up some of the best leadership and best thinking in all of American history.

In fact, it would be difficult indeed to find another period in American history with so many accomplished and capable men, all of them coming together, contributing their abilities for the good of the country.

We could say that the stars aligned at the right time for America.

Or we could simply say that God formed, like Abraham Lincoln said, "a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," and that, without a doubt, God had, just as the prayerful chorus says, "shed his grace on thee."

In looking at all of the events that came together for America in the late 1700s, leadership is one that cannot be underestimated.

George Washington himself, first as a general and later as president, served as an excellent example of what leadership is all about.

As a military leader, he demonstrated a reliable presence, an ability to provide inspiring words, and a fearless demeanor in the midst of battle.

More than one account describes how he rallied troops and how he courageously stood firm even when exposed to the dangers of the fight.

Such a solid determination -- one that makes a man apparently unfazed by the dangers of a battle -- has been exhibited by other military leaders as well.

For example, during World War II, General Douglas MacArthur was known to inspire confidence with his presence, often exposing himself to battlefield conditions within the range of enemy bullets and nearby explosions, without flinching. He demonstrated a calm demeanor that brought great encouragement to even the lowest-ranking soldiers in the fight.

Author John Gunther wrote of MacArthur, "His physical courage is legendary; it is quite safe to say that no general officer in modern history, let alone a theater commander, ever took such risks."

Authors Ted and Donna Kinni wrote that in 1942, in the Philippines, MacArthur would go outside during air raids to study enemy formations and to provide visible encouragement to the men on the ground. First Lieutenant John Wright said MacArthur would be out in the open "giving orders and directing men with great calmness and confidence ... He was completely unconcerned for his own safety and set an impressive example for us junior officers."

General George S. Patton provides another good example. He wrote in his book, "War as I Knew It," that to build morale and inspire troops, a leader must talk to them directly, and the only way to do that was to get near the real fight. It was dangerous for a general to be close enough to the battle to hear the bullets flying through the air, but Patton did so without any hesitation.

Other accounts confirm that Patton supported the front-line troops by being visibly present, even in the face of danger.

As a general during the American Revolution, there were times in which Washington did much of the same, galloping into battle to rally terrified troops and to encourage them to press forward.

In their 2017 book, "Killing England," Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard described Washington's influence throughout the war, and how he often made his presence known among the ranks as troops marched into battle. "George Washington," as they described him at one battle, "inspires, cajoles, and commands the respect of one and all."

Leadership is crucial to the success of any endeavor, be it in business, in education or in military efforts.

And it was especially important in the establishment of the United States of America.

• • •

David Wilson, Ed.D., of Springdale, is a former high school principal and is the communications director for the Transit and Parking Department at the University of Arkansas. His book, "Learning Every Day," is available on Amazon. He may be contacted by email at Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 07/04/2018

Print Headline: The origin of leadership and America's birth

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