A Legacy of Leadership

Like many, I am relieved and thankful that the elections are finally over.  Depending on your political persuasion, you are likely relieved or despondent over the results.  I am cautiously hopeful about this country’s future, but realistic about the likelihood of a divided Congress and President working together.
The initial promises of compromise and working together quickly were replaced by barely veiled threats by both sides.   I left for Virginia on Thursday, glad to have some distraction from the non-stop political analysis.
Our trip took us to Richmond, Virginia for the wedding of Bethany and Pak.  Bethany and my daughter, Elizabeth were roommates their first year at Washington & Lee University.  Along with their friend, Marie, they were the three musketeers, inseparable at school and still fast friends thirteen years later.
One free afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit the Virginia State Capitol.  Having visited at least two-thirds of the state capitols, I must say that I quickly realized this was no ordinary state capitol.  
To begin with, this capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson himself.  The Virginia General Assembly held its first session in this building in 1788.  There are statues of the eight presidents that called Virginia home.  
In the center of the rotunda is a statue of George Washington.  This particular statue of Italian marble was made from a full body cast of George Washington.  It is spectacular and is widely considered to be the most valuable statue in the United States.
In this same building is a statue of Robert E. Lee.  It stands eight feet from the door in the old House Chambers.  It is at that very spot that Lee accepted the commission to lead the Army of Northern Virginia.  
Few state capitols have the beauty and splendor of Virginia’s capitol.  Within its walls a significant part of this country’s history has occurred.   
Later in the week we visited Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA.  This is where Robert E. Lee came after the end of the Civil War.  He became President of what was then known as Washington College, named because of generous gift given by George Washington to the college in 1796.   
Washington was instrumental in the very founding of this country.  There were seemingly insurmountable odds overcome by men of principle and character putting the common good above all else.
Lee helped reunite this country, even though he led the forces of the Confederacy in the Civil War.  He was married to Martha Washington’s great granddaughter, who herself was born at Arlington.  Lee helped move this war torn country forward using his considerable talents to rebuild what had been torn apart.
We think that times are tough for our country now as we face challenges at home and abroad.  Surely they are no tougher than what Washington and Lee and hundreds of other leaders faced.  Their leadership helped form, rebuild and maintain the best of what the United States is today.
As we face a new time with our nation’s leadership following the past week’s election, let’s hope that some of those that we elected will rise to the occasion.  This nation hungers for true leaders, not good politicians.
Washington and Lee left a legacy of leadership, strengthened by their personal courage, moral convictions and unfailing character.  I pray that one day my great grandchildren will look up with the same admiration at some leader of our own time.
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Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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