Take a Stand

attitude, character, communism, Constitution, freedom, leadership, Podcast, Success, supreme court, trust, virtue

Podcast # 19   On Taking A Stand

Learn how holding fast to your character leads to greater opportunity in this podcast!

Throughout history there are those who boldly plant themselves in the critics path to defend just principles. The strength of their character preserves freedom and justice for all.  Listen to this inspiring story of one in our modern era who did just that.  He represents the thousands of others who, in pivotal moments, put adulation, power and even popularity aside to protect the principles that set us free.   Enjoy this powerful podcast about James Donovan!

Saving a Wretch, Finding a Friend & the Will to Change the World

achievement, Blog Entries, character, freedom, virtue

John Newton, author of the profound Christian hymn Amazing Grace was indeed a “wretch” in need of saving in the year 1748, but it was physical liberation not spiritual he desired. Not yet 24 years of age, he had already experienced impressment in the navy, flogging and forced servitude after being shanghaied in Africa.  Ironically, after his physical liberation from slavery he turned back to the industry that had once shackled him and wallowed in the abhorrent slave trade eventually captaining several slave ship.  After years of participating in this inhumane business, searing pain and remorse opened John’s calloused heart.  He experienced healing through a miraculous conversion to Christianity and entered the ministry where he would have a profound influence on a young man named William Wilberforce.

Wilberforce experienced a dramatically different upbringing, enjoying the advantage of wealth, education and a charismatic, friendly personality.  In great contrast to Newton’s enslaved state in his mid-twenties, at the same age Wilberforce was enjoying the exhilaration of political success after winning his first term in British Parliament.  Wilberforce was the life of the party in social settings and was inclined towards pleasure seeking.  However, while traveling through Europe with his former schoolmaster, Isaac Milner, a shift from his hedonistic tendencies occurred.  He and Milner light heartedly discussed any topic, but when it came to religion Milner would grow serious and reverent.  William chided his friend for his sobriety, but even his whit and charm could not move him to levity on the subject.  Milner acknowledged that he could not  match his gift for debate and persuasion, but told William that when he wanted to engage in a serious discussion about the subject he would be ready.  These serious discussions came and Wilberforce quickly found himself at a spiritual crossroad.

Upon returning to London, he was perplexed by his emotions.  With out his friend Milner, who had returned to Cambridge, he was left to face them alone.  Understanding he needed a spiritual mentor his mind turned to John Newton, a clergyman he knew as a boy but hadn’t seen in some 15 years.  Newton, who had experienced radical personal change in his conversion to Christianity, stood ready to advise William not just on spiritual matters, but on the direction of his career.  He counseled him to stay in politics rather than turning to ministry so he could use his gifts, position and connections to change the world for good.  William left this meeting in peace knowing that he must discover God’s purpose for him.  As part of this process he consulted his good friend William Pitt who would soon become Prime Minister of England.  Pitt assured him either decision would not change their friendship, but he did urge him to stick with politics.  Wilberforce ultimately concluded, “My walk is a public one…my business is in the world… I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which providence has assigned me.”

And what was the post which providence had assigned?  In his own words he wrote, “God almighty has placed before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (or the moral conduct of society).”  This concise and clear mission statement would drive him through the most daunting opposition for the rest of his life.  To better appreciate the magnitude of this mission, one must realize that he was taking on a centuries old lucrative British industry.  Not only did many powerful people stand to lose greatly, but numerous jobs throughout the British Empire would be lost.  Powerful lobbies therefore stood in his way questioning why Britain should just hand the slave trade over to foreign countries that would perpetuate it anyway.

A man on a mission however does not count the odds, he proceeds with faith, but even Wilberforce with his phenomenal gift for debate and his skill at coalition building could not move this established industry and year after year his bill was rejected. Finally, in 1796 his jubilance at having the votes to end the trade was crushed in the very hour of the vote when he discovered that the critical moderate swing voters he needed had been lured away from the floor by the lobbies with nothing more than free opera tickets.  It failed by just 4 votes. Simple enticements for entertainment had kept the slave trade in operation.

In spite of these set backs and other challenges ranging from severe health problems, bouts with depression and physical exhaustion, Wilberforce pressed on.  He also endured vicious personal attacks which branded him as un-patriotic during the War with Napoleon.  For decades he withstood all this and steadily moved towards his goal with character, tenacity and the support of friends like Pitt, Milner, Newton, his wife and the dedicated members of the Clapham Circle.

Finally, after persevering for 20 years, the momentous day arrived when parliament was poised to pass the bill.  The atmosphere was charged with electricity as Wilberforce stood to deliver a moving speech.  As his final words went silent, thunderous applause erupted throughout the hall.  Sensing it was at last finished he dropped in his seat and wept openly.  As the tears flowed freely the applause grew louder and gave way to an unprecedented three cheers for Wilberforce.  The final vote was 283-16, a decisive victory and an overwhelming show of support.  Wilberforce who had been vilified, ridiculed and  slandered became a national hero because of his unshakable courage, perseverance and character which in the end elevated him above it all!

Today it is nearly impossible for us to perceive the deplorable conditions that accompanied the trafficking of 11 million plus slaves out of Africa or comprehend the conditions that caused millions to perish in the process.  Thankfully we don’t deal with this moral dilemma in the same way today among the governments of the world because inspired men like Wilberforce who surrounded himself with worthy friends chose to fight injustice in his day rather then deferring it to another generation.

Bishop Desmond Tutu said of William Wilberforce, “[He] shows us that one person can make a difference.  Few of us will be in Parliament as Wilberforce was, but all of us are part of community.  Each of us can find ways to serve each other…”  Today, the political landscape appears daunting and people clamor for change but doubt that leadership exists to bring it about.  Whatever concerns the reader may feel about our current condition, remember that legislative bodies have always been slow to act and have been overly preoccupied with intrigue, favor and special interest.  But, before this thought overwhelms you, think of Wilberforce and remember that it only takes one to create positive change in the world.  Are you one who will?

Trust, Traitors and Tax: What Does Trust Cost?

freedom, resolutions, trust

I received a visit the other day from an agent of the US Department of Defense.  Upon presenting his credentials to me, he asked if I would be willing to entertain a few questions about the character of a friend of mine who I knew was considering a high security clearance position with the DOD.  I experienced no cross examination or intense scrutiny, but the questions were devised to establish two things: first, was this man trustworthy and second, was he moral?  This short conversation caused me to consider the cost of distrust in our society.

I’m not just talking about the cost of government policy created to determine the character of the employees who will be placed in positions of trust, but rather the unseen economic and relational costs born by societies of low trust.  Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, “Our distrust is very expensive.”  Consider the expense of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, enacted in the backlash of corporate scandals ranging from Enron to WorldCom.  According to Steven M. R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust,  implementing one section alone of that bill cost 35 billion dollars, leading him to declare, “Compliance regulations have become a prosthesis for the lack of trust—and a slow-moving and costly prosthesis at that…when trust is low, speed goes down and cost goes up.” (p 14) Such cost I remember well while acting as a General Manager in an International 500 Corporation tasked with trying to comply with that very act.  Even though I could understand the motive, I felt less trusted and more divided between compliance and productivity then ever.

While we can measure the dollars and cents costs of low trust environments economically, can one measure its impact on peace and security?  Benedict Arnold and his associates during the Revolutionary War provide an excellent case study on the subject.  Arnold was a brilliant military man, fearless in combat and courageous beyond measure, but his actions off the battlefield did not endear him to others.  On more than one occasion, he resigned his commission rather than subject himself to a fellow officer promoted into a command he felt he deserved.  Time and again his pride and ego tripped him up and broke down trust as he abandoned his team.  His loyalties were to himself.  At one point his character was questioned in a court martial proceeding that ended in a formal reprimand.  In spite of these suspicions, Washington needed capable military leaders and decided to give Arnold another chance by granting him command of West Point, a strategic American fort.

In debt, suffering from envy and feeling disrespected, the duplicitous Arnold, turned his back on his country and plotted to surrender West Point to the British in return for 20,000 pounds and a command as general in the British Military.  In a dramatic espionage climax, the plot was discovered, and Arnold escaped down the river to a British ship just before Washington rode in to his quarters with the intent of capturing the traitor.  The costs were high, trust had been lost on both sides, the British paid over 6,000 pounds to Arnold and gave him a high commission and a significant pension, but noted British Parliamentarians such as Edmund Burke considered this an erosion of military strength, stating, “the sentiments of true honour which every British Officer [holds] dearer than life, should be afflicted” by this action.  Military and Government officials on both sides had lost respect and trust as a result of one man’s actions.

With critics on both sides of the ocean, Arnold had gained a high commission but had lost respect.  James Thatcher, an MD during the war, quoted an officer in his journal as having said, “It is not possible for human nature to receive a greater quantity of guilt than [Arnold] possesses.  Perhaps there is not a single obligation, moral or divine, but what he has broken…His late apostasy is the summit of his character.”  Arnold died at age 60 suffering from dropsy, gout and delirium before passing on, but his greatest pain must have been the loss of respect and trust which he had so doggedly pursued.

It’s been said that nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.  High trust yields high self confidence, powerful relationships, improved economic conditions and strong organizations.  So the next time you consider breaking your word to yourself or others, consider the cost of broken trust and then resolve to lubricate the track of success with actions that build trust!

George Washington and Analysis Paralysis?

achievement, Education, freedom, George Washington, Personal Application

It’s hard to imagine George Washington experiencing analysis paralysis, but the truth is we all do.  The trick is overcoming it.  CLICK HERE TO FIND out what Fred Smith, Founder of FedEx and George Washington have in common….