Just this past week I was in uniform, at Advanced Training Flight at the United States Marine Corps base in Albany, teaching a course that I wrote using leadership case studies from major military events that illustrate that one person making a decision can change the world. In one of these case studies, a simple schoolteacher in the most desperate of situations, when all seemed hopeless, made a decision that changed not only the direction of the battle, but its impact changed the entire world from that moment forward.
The example of that schoolteacher Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Gettysburg 150 years ago, reminds us that we’re in a great nation in which everybody can make decisions that can change the nation. Anyone can rise to the occasion, and being able to recognize the opportunity and to take advantage of that opportunity are key.
These first days of July – remembering Gettysburg, and remembering the declaration in Philadelphia in 1776 – are an American holiday. It’s not meant to be a worldwide holiday – nowhere else in the world do they commemorate the U.S.’s independence – but in spirit it is the envy of the world. The democratic republic built here has been criticized and it has been praised, depending on the administration in charge. Nowhere else in the world has the election of leaders impacted the world, as it has in the United States – and it still does. World news centers come to the U.S. for our political rallies. This light of freedom, although it has had its dim moments, still burns brighter here than anywhere else in the world.
I have carried a weapon in defense of Constitution; I know what it means to fight, bleed, and to defend our liberty. This experience from other countries that I brought back to the U.S. gives me a perspective that most people do not have.
I believe we still need the courage of leaders like Colonel Chamberlain. His example helps us recognize the difference between those who don’t know what’s going on under their leadership, and the leaders that make decisions and live and die by their decisions. Our country needs leaders that don’t bend to the whims of the political parties, but those who recognize they have to be the voice of reason for the U.S., as it impacts the rest of the world. This voice of reason will speak from a shared understanding of what it’s like to have suffered, that has not been privileged and pampered, and that is equal to the common man – and will be best able to represent and make decisions to support the rights of the common man.
The 4th of July reminds us to rally around our cause. It reminds us of liberty, and the sacrifice that has been made for freedom. It reminds us why the 2nd Amendment was created, and that those who would dance on its grave and scream for gun control, are grasping at a false sense of security. We need a leader whose objectives will help defend the Bill of Rights, not pervert them for political purposes.
Teaching the ATF course last week, and seeing the cadets respond to the decisions of leaders like Chamberlain, make it clear that we need a leader in Washington DC who has this perspective – for freedom and for liberty, not for more government or inaction by the political parties. Moments like this reminds us as citizens of the leaders who have fallen short in their decisions. It is time for a change – a change toward liberty, not away from it.
We have a lot of decisions to make. And the most important one is the direction of our nation. So let our next decision be the most important one: to change the direction of our nation for the next generation.
Thomas Jefferson reminded us that liberty struggles insistently against error and against tyranny. This day reminds us of how that struggle comes to a head. As we celebrate our independence, let’s be careful not to lose it. The decision is ours