On September 15, 1974, I delivered an address in the chapel at my Alma Mater. I graduated from a boarding high school military academy in Carlsbad, California; Army and Navy Academy. The President of the Academy asked me to address the Cadet Corp on the mentioned date. While searching a file the other night for another item, I located my prepared remarks. I’ll spare you the entire presentation, but I would like to share several passages with you. I wonder if my words are as introspective today as I at least thought when I spoke them some 40+ years ago.
There is a magnificent oil painting which hangs in the Roosevelt Room directly across from the President’s office in the White House. The picture is that of the 53 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Quite noticeable, and unusual, is that the picture remains unfinished. Just like that picture, the American Revolution remains unfinished, and we, today, are witnessing the tensions of this great American Revolution. For all of America – our President, and our fellow citizens, the coming years will be a time of decision. We must decide whether we have reached our limit; whether our greatness is past; whether we can go no further, or in the words of Thomas Wolfe, “the true discovery of America is before us – the true fulfillment of our mighty and immortal land is yet to come.”
There is a quotation from Lincoln which I think is applicable today. He said, “I believe there is a God. I see the storm coming, and I believe He has a hand in it. If He has a part and place for me, I believe that I am ready.” I, too, see a storm coming, and already this storm is beginning, and I firmly believe He has His hand on and over this storm. If He has a part and place for me, I believe I am ready! So, I ask each of you do you see the storm coming; do you believe He has His hand in and on it? Now I ask, will you rise and have a part, and will you be ready?
I come before you today to challenge you. To challenge you to study the art of leadership, developing responsibility, a sense of pride, duty, integrity and accomplishment. All over the world, particularly in newer nations younger men (and women) are coming to power – men who are not bound to old slogans, chants, suspicions and delusions. Men, who, in their own rights are pioneers. I stand today in this chapel only yards from the soothing sound of waves coming ashore on the Pacific Ocean; land that was once considered the last frontier. And from the lands that stretch 3,000 miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort, and sometimes their lives to build a new world. They were not the captives of their own doubts. Their motto was not “every man or woman for themselves” but “all for the common cause.” They were determined to make a new world in this young nation called America. To make a country that was strong and free, determined to overcome the hazards and hardships, and to conquer the enemies that threatened from without, and within.
Sadly, our great Nation is once again facing some of those similar struggles from those who do not wish for us to succeed, and to remain free and vibrant. It would be easier to ignore the challenges of becoming a pioneer. It would be easier to fall into the safe status quo life style that abounds. But I ask you not to! I ask you to stand strong and be of good courage; neither be dismayed.
For courage, not complacency is our need today; leaders not followers is what we need more of today. One valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. Our goals will not be won by mere rhetoric. The harsh facts of the matter are that we stand at a turning point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation can long endure; whether our society with its freedoms of choice, its breadth of opportunity, its range of alternatives and hope can survive. Can a nation organized such as our survive? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and will to survive?
Are we up to the task? Are we equal to the challenge? All mankind awaits our decision. A whole world is watching to see what we will do.
A couple of years ago, I heard of a father who one night went to his son’s bedroom to see if he was tucked in and asleep. He peeked in the bedroom door most quietly, and then realized his son was on his knees saying his prayers. The Dad overheard his son say clearly; “Help me to grow up to be the kind of man my daddy is.” The father withdrew unnoticed. He went straight to his own bedroom and got down on his knees and prayed; “Dear Lord…please help me to be the kind of man my little boy wants me to be.”
Over the next months and couple of years, great decisions will have to be made, and even defended as to what kind of country do we still want to be? Will we still embrace the principles and values our Founding Fathers presented to us as a gift, if we will keep them? Or do we surrender this exceptional experiment of government no other country has, and some try to emulate? The hour grows late, and you and I have work to do. I pray you will say, “Dear Lord…please help me be the pioneer America was founded on and still needs for the journey ahead. Dear Lord…help me be an example to my children, and children everywhere as to the person of integrity and strength of character our Forefathers would have nodded at and recognized if we passed on the sidewalk.”