While Americans continue to struggle with a deadly virus and financial starvation, excellence in national leadership has been reduced to a group of toxic enablers that appeal to an insular “base” that promotes our worst impulses instead of our best.
The ’60s suffered its own challenges. Civil rights. Vietnam. The assassination of three political leaders. But then something stunning happened. We landed two men on the moon and brought them safely home. It took the work of 400,000 men and women to achieve this. It took the collaboration of multiple corporations and government agencies. It took multiple failures, but we succeeded because of our aspiration to greatness.
Over the course of 244 years, we imagined great things and then built them. We created great cities, dams, cured diseases, built an immense economy, generated jobs, fought wars to achieve freedom for ourselves and others. We created a great land of opportunity that fostered scientists, artists, athletes, builders, businesses. We cared and respected our neighbors despite our differences. We accepted responsibility, solved problems with reason and facts, and didn’t follow leaders who were more interested in selling greatness than achieving it.
Despite all the chaos of the last 4 years and a deadly virus that hasn’t been seen in more than 100 years, something stunning happened. The scientific community successfully developed a vaccine in just 332 days. It took the work of thousands of men and women around the world to achieve this. It took the collaboration of multiple countries, corporations, and government agencies. It took billions of dollars. And we succeeded because of determination and a pursuit of excellence.
Fires, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, depression and disease – we came through them all because we didn’t care about the skin color, religion, political ideology, or the social standing of those we helped or who helped us.
Throughout all our struggles, we have relied on visionary leaders and statesmen to guide us through obstacles and see the horizon of possibilities: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John McCain, Thurgood Marshall, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rachel Carson, Dorothy Day, Helen Keller, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Colin Powell. And that’s only a handful.
We are only as strong as our desire to improve ourselves; only as good as our moral standing; only as great as our commitment to work together in the pursuit of excellence.