The recent events in Charlottesville and Barcelona have caused me to reflect on the importance of leadership in ensuring that we, as individuals and as members of our various fraternities, move forward in productive ways that enhance our lives and our society in general.
Leadership involves many things, but I believe the most important attributes of a leader are integrity, honesty and commitment to the common good. These traits develop over a lifetime. They ultimately reflect one’s beliefs and priorities as to what is important and right. My personal development has been driven by many experiences, and the current situation reminds me of the sixties. There was a great deal of unrest and division in the US.
My wife and I were in our early twenties at the time. I had just finished my undergrad degree and we had just established a new life in a new town when I received my draft notice. I did not support the war in Vietnam; however, I was a proud citizen and believed in many of the things that made our country great and felt an obligation, as a citizen benefiting from these great things, to support the war despite my beliefs about the war itself. As a result, I accepted my draft notice, joined the U.S. Army and spent a year in Vietnam. During that time, I learned so many things, from a diverse group of people, which improved my understanding of people and the world—things I would not have learned had I not had this experience or been willing to embrace people and perspectives that perhaps I disagreed with.
Among the things I learned is that anyone can tear something down, but to build a strong future requires people to stand up for what they believe in and commit to making things better. Improvement is best served by inclusion, valuing others’ opinions and realizing that we all have a responsibility to not only our own improvement, but also contributing to the overall good. Hate and violence are not productive tools in this process. They cloud judgment and reason.