Friday, July 31, 2009


It's an old chestnut that a statesman is a dead politician, but every now and then you run across a real statesman. Someone who puts leadership ahead of ego, promoting the common weal.

ASM826 asks an important question:
6. With your counselor's approval, choose a speech of national historical importance. Find out about the author, and tell your counselor about the person who gave the speech. Explain the importance of the speech at the time it was given, and tell how it applies to American citizens today. Choose a sentence or two from the speech that has significant meaning to you, and tell your counselor why.

What famous speech would you pick if given this assignment?
I'm cheating, since this wasn't a speech, but a letter. Sent from President Lincoln to General Grant upon the latter's capture of Vicksburg. Lincoln had been free in his advice to Grant during the campaign, all of which Grant had ignored.
I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did -- march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port-Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.
The sentence is this: I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.

This was a man who knew to keep his eyes on the prize. He knew that all history would remember was victory, and the sooner the bloody conflict was past, the sooner the country could start to heal. There have not been many since who would so put their ego aside for the good of the country, but this is what to look for in a leader.

From Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative.


ASM826 said...

If I was your Merit Badge counselor, I would accept this effort for number 6, asking only some questions about what you knew of President Lincoln, his career and his time in office.

doubletrouble said...

"...who would so put their ego aside for the good of the country..."

Jus' like the current resident of that great house... err, wait- never mind.

One of my favorites is also from Honest Abe, & that would be:

"...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Not very original, it being one of the most quoted speeches evah, but still, it gets me right here...