The Bugler

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What Makes a Leader?

Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. Public domain.

As the airwaves are filled with the constant chatter of the men and women who would like to be President of the United States, we should take a look back and see what were the defining attributes of the two men whose lives we celebrate during the month of February, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Washington was certainly not elected for his intellect. He had the equivalent of a grade school education, whereas some of his contemporaries, most notably John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were highly educated men. It is amazing how many essays are written on George Washington and primarily on George Washington and his leadership.

Richard C. Stazesky, made a presentation in February, 2000 to The George Washington Club, Ltd., where in an article titled "George Washington, Genius in Leadership," he cited numerous reasons for Washington’s success. He states that, "His contemporaries and subsequent commentators have enumerated many factors that entered into the selection by his peers for these three strategically important positions: physical size and presence, charisma, energy, multi-faceted experiences, charm, courage, character, temperament, being a Virginian, wealth, ambition, his reputation as a stalwart patriot and, especially after the Revolution, the regard, admiration and affection of the populace at all levels of society. The most commonly cited characteristic given for his emergence as the supreme leader is his character. The most infrequently cited, as far as I have observed, are his intelligence and his ideas."

See GWPapers.Virginia.edu to read the entire article.

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln by Mathew Brady. Public domain.

Lincoln, on the other hand, would never have had a chance in today’s media and personal appearance circus. Lincoln was too tall. His hair was unruly, his shoes were unpolished and his subject to long bouts of depression. He had the equivalent of only one year of formal school but taught himself to read. This gangly man with ill-fitted shoes drew in his audiences not with his voice, but with his thoughts. He pushed people to think about ideas, to talk about ideas. He was an amazing leader, who convinced the man he had defeated for his party’s nomination for President, William H. Seward of New York, to be his Secretary of State. Seward was skeptical at first, but was quickly won over and became Lincoln's close personal friend and advisor while working side by side with him for 8 years. Can you imagine that happening today?

Doris Kearns Goodwin, the author of the Lincoln biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, argued that Lincoln was a great leader, who pulled together the greatest minds of the time. He listened to different points of view and shared not only his successes but also took his share of the blame for failures. He was also a great communicator. He did not need a teleprompter to read prepared remarks. He wrote his own speeches and had a great ability to communicate his vision.

For the sake of the United States, we must all hope that the next President of the United States will be a great leader, who can steer our country through the challenges of these very turbulent, but fast changing times.

Blizzard of '16: Thank You for Your Service

Facebook had several posts of the Sentinel guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. This public Facebook post by Brian Ohler of Connecticut makes us all thankful.

Charles Gauldin guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Public domain.

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