Sunday, June 8, 2014

Actions, Words, Honor and Patriotism ... The Secret to Leadership and Heroism is In the Doing ... Not the Talking

Actions speak louder than words.

In fact, one of my all time favorite expressions is the following, "What you do speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you say."

Politicians say a lot of things, and most of what they say is posturing for their supporters' consumption and approval.

Or as Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg once put it, "We all know what to do, but we don't know how to get re-elected once we have done it."

So let's get refreshed and hear an action based and genuine heroic leadership story that Senator John McCain related about what Henry Kissinger once did for, and not to, him. It will help us to remember what real leaders and heroes are called upon to do.

Notable & Quotable is subtitled 'John McCain remembers how Henry Kissinger helped preserve his honor as a prisoner of war:'

"Sen. John McCain's toast at a 90th birthday celebration for Henry Kissinger in New York, June 2:

To do justice to the life and accomplishments of Henry Kissinger would take—as Henry would be the first to agree—a vehicle longer than my few brief remarks. A mere single-volume biography couldn't really manage the task competently, could it, Henry?

So I'll limit my remarks to recalling one anecdote that I think illuminates the character of my friend.

For several years, a long time ago, I struggled to preserve my honor in a situation where it was severely tested. The longer you struggle with something, the more you come to cherish it. And after a while, my honor, which in that situation was entirely invested in my relations and the reputation I had with my fellow POWs, became not just my most cherished possession, it was my only possession. I had nothing else left.

When Henry came to Hanoi to conclude the agreement that would end America's war in Vietnam, the Vietnamese told him they would send me home with him. He refused the offer. "Commander McCain will return in the same order as the others," he told them. He knew my early release would be seen as favoritism to my father and a violation of our code of conduct. By rejecting this last attempt to suborn a dereliction of duty, Henry saved my reputation, my honor, my life, really. And I've owed him a debt ever since.

So, I salute my friend and benefactor, Henry Kissinger, the classical realist who did so much to make the world safer for his country's interests, and by so doing safer for the ideals that are its pride and purpose. And who, out of his sense of duty and honor, once saved a man he never met."

Summing Up

What John McCain said last week, and what Henry Kissinger did in Hanoi many years ago, are both appropriate and timely reminders that all Americans can carefully reflect upon in today's ultra politically wordy and apparently leaderless do nothing environment.

Timeless too.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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