Tag Archives: Kennedy

The Question Of Character And Courage


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“Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose”
–Tom Krause

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…We thought about it and we spoke about it for many years already and It has gone through our minds, perhaps someway for ages.

Not for everybody but for some.

Often we did see the examples in day to day life and we admired them wishing it could be our own, – less often we did read about it, in the papers or in some books perhaps, – besides from what we were able to see on TV, in documentaries or on DVD‘s

Do you remember the question going through your heart and mind as well?

Did we fail at times that we were running low and progress was slow, did we fail at the times we forgot about it as things seemed well, and there was perhaps no reason to ask again, – or to raise again the issue of character and courage?

We like to be of good character or want to be seen as such. We like to have courage and faith but there are moments we fail in both courage and good character. Not that those incidents give a fair assessment on the total of our actions, – but simply the fact is that we are never always good in character, or always good in showing courage.

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Is this an “open door”?

Yes, – it is, as trying to get to the bottom of the question of character and courage a fair assessment is required.

We like to be true to ourselves as well, but not always are we true to our real self. As I said once, freedom and choice are indivisible and need to be earned and conquered each day,each week and each month, – and the sum of those efforts may work in favour of both our character and our courage. Both courage and character are indivisible as well, – like so many things are related or interrelated.

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Whilst the secret of happiness is perhaps freedom, using the gift of choice the greatest potential, – the secret of freedom is courage. The last implying being able to make the right choice under any circumstances.

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A matter of character as well.

For sure any of us will have our weak moments as long as we raise when the storm sets in, – even when the storm imposes a strain or challenge on our position or principles, – when it imposes a risk for ourselves, our future and other things perhaps. When the storm comes the leaves may fly away as long as the tree stands firm, and when the storm settles, like so many storms, – the tree may start a new season as no storm will leave nature unmoved. It’s part of life, – it depends how we are grounded, being firm in our convictions or weak in our principles.

There are many small actions of character and courage, often shown when “we feel like it” or were “in the frame of mind” to do so.

Those actions are neither dramatic or huge as the actions of those leaders who at the right frame of mind, at both the right place and the right time in history, were able to turn events in favour of greater change for humanity, – nor are they as dramatic as the courage of the last moments when we are facing death.

Speaking about the very last, – this crossed my mind when a young woman in her 40ties got cancer. Her family around her and her older sister were there when her time came. They had their memories, laughter and sadness, but when she died it could be seen that she went back to her own Creator. She took her death with peace as she knew she went back where we all came from, despite the agony and pain at times. When this happens in your family, losing loved ones at young age, – you realise there are only a few things in life which really matter. It’s a small thing only to have been able in life to enjoy the sun, a small thing to have lived light in the spring, – to have both loved and done when we “leave our footprints on the sands of time.” And even those footprints will be wiped away as time evolves and little will be remembered, unless we showed both great love and courage. In this it’s all about the courage to love , the courage to live and the courage to leave a legacy, – besides the courage to face death when the last is facing us.

So courage again, in general, is important, – but the courage to love as well, the compassion of doing the things being both right and good at every point of testing. The courage to live life in such away as if every day could be the last one. This takes besides having a mental alertness to have courage, both in the simple things but in particular at times of adversity, at times meeting the facts of life, at times when it is required to go straight at things without dodging them. It means as well we have to pick up or seize the vital issue in a complex matter, without getting wounded by running away from it.

Long before he became US President, John F Kennedy did write a book about “Profiles in Courage“. A study of men in the historical and political arena of the US where they stood firm on their principles at times of challenge in either the US Senate or the House of Representatives (apart from some other area’s), – at times when crucial decisions were due to be made and the balance between conscious and public opinion or “public favour” were tense, at times when both the public and colleagues were hostile.

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Courage is not about the past, it is about the future, – and therefore the examples of courage are so important.

So many examples!

The soldiers who save their mates at the battlefield at risk for their own lives, the people fighting for human rights and going into areas and questioning the areas of controversy at risk for their lives, the courage to stand up when it is required for either a good cause or in a speech when the real issues need to be challenged. But also the people who stand out to help those at times of disaster, – bushfires, massive flooding and earthquakes etc, – all often not without risk for own life.

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The “New Frontiers” of Kennedy were neither East nor West, neither South nor North, – but in his own time as US President where he fronted the facts as they were. At the level of President Obama we find an untroubled spirit who tends to look at things in the face as how he meet them, and know them for what they are, – dealing with them at the right time and place.

Courage, – the combination of bravery at times, integrity more at times, – based on principles. And life is the arena where we are tested on those virtues, each of us at times under excessive pressure, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation and constant in praying, – for those who pray within the silence of our Creator.

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This is one of the dimensions of courage.

As Bob Greene once said: “You need to know what life you want (as well as what life you don’t want), then you have to muster up the will and the drive to go after it.”

This is courage as well.

Courage is like a diamond, “unbreakable”, with a hardness and the sort of light dispensing, – allowing to show people the various dimension of the light it reflects. As a gemstone it is a highly valued commodity, but courage in human life is an essential commodity, – not as highly traded perhaps but being graded as the one and only virtue at each testing point in life’s endeavours.

As the Roman poet Horace once wrote more than 2000 years ago: “Tomorrow we take our course once more over the mighty seas.”

It takes courage to do this, it takes courage to be the housewife with 4 children and going every day over the mighty seas of friction and care for loved ones, when the income is low and the prices are high.

Courage is “grace under pressure” as Ernest Hemingway once said, but it takes courage to raise the sails if the winds of grace are blowing, – and they don’t blow every day. At times it is easier said than done when the oil of daily life is going through our troubled sea of thoughts, as life may face some of us this way, – preventing to keep our mind smooth and equable.

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Tough times can come when we are at our weakest point, and raising up to be the “unbreakable diamond” we want to be may arise at the worst possible times, as we may be discouraged as human beings as due to ongoing misery, – as due to staring at the water without being able to cross the sea.

Blessed are those who keep our hopes up in those circumstances.

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The circumstances when we can’t get into the mountain ranges as due to the desert where human feet can’t go, – as due to the ends of unknown seas when neither wind nor sails are the tools we normally use to find direction. Human life has those circumstances where there is neither boat nor sails, neither the morning breeze at a blue ocean nor the sight of a destiny.

Perhaps it was once there, but for some it has gone from their sight, – those being depressed under the most horrendous circumstances of both poverty and abuse, – deprived from education and diminished in self-destructive perceptions.

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That’s life, – a mixture of both tragedy and triumph, both with implications and expectations, both with dangers and failures all around.

But still, as once the 3rd  US President said: “One man with courage is a majority.”

From that point it is true that the courage of “one man standing up for an ideal” as Robert Kennedy once said, standing up to improve the lot of others, others who suffer the implications of injustice, – is an act of courage as well.

The courage of helping those with neither hope nor courage. The courage to send forth the implications of peace, against oppression and resistance. The courage to build up a current in which people can raise their tiny sails on restless boats, – to cross the barriers and waters they have to cross to build a life for their own, both with value and dignity.

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“The world is a lost place” as some would say, – however not for those who judge themselves on the contributions they have to make, and the goals they have to shape, – to improve the lot of others.

And then when we have to face death ourselves as part of an eternal cycle, – the question is not how much money we made. The question is whether we tried “to love our neighbour as ourselves” and whether we made a genuine effort to improve the lot of those who really needed this.

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Indeed, when we are going back from where we came, the only one Creator, – our time has gone, our attitude has gone, both our joy and abundance have gone, – but what stays in the twilight of memory, in the actions of people we had an impact on, is whether our private chart during our discovery on both the earth and the sea did contain the light of spring: that we have loved and done, that have done and loved.

This is what takes courage, – courage in sustained ways, but also the courage of the diamond with that single strong reflection which holds everything together, – by sharing it freely from our heart and spirit, in whatever life asks us to do in all those things we need to do.

This is a question of courage and character, a question of encouragement or discouragement, – the question or ask to be a sparkling light as we have the privilege of a free choice to be this way.

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This is what matters most, the question of character and courage, – the matter of grace under pressure and the ability to make the right distinctions when the heat is on, – all this with wisdom and perseverance.

Thank you!

 Paul 

Paul Alexander Wolf

https://paulalexanderwolf.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/we-dream-of-things-that-never-were-and-say-why-not/

 

 

The Art of Leadership and Lessons from the Past – Edward M. Kennedy


Edward Moore Kennedy
Edward Moore Kennedy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leadership lessons  (Edward M. Kennedy)

 
“Ted Kennedy’s life is a reminder that much can be achieved by late bloomers; that you don’t have to have your career all figured out by the time you’re   
   25, 35, or even over 45.”
             – Sarah Green in a post on Harvard Business Publishing.

His life was marked by tragedy and somehow recklessness perhaps in his early years, but change within himself  later in life  made him become one of the greatest Senators in US history. He went through personal lessons of resilience and agonising redemption, realising that he had to face his own shortcomings., – which he did.

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We have to make sometimes very personal choices in life and whatever triggered his change,  he started to reshape his life in his late 50’s making him from the age of 59 until his death a most fascinating leader – showing that leadership starts with self-control and responsible decisions. However not only this.  If we are fortunate enough in life to find someone who loves us for what we are,  we may be able to multiply affection and love by giving of what we once received.

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Good leaders are just human beings as well, the last at times forgotten by the public and media.

The assassination of his 2 older brothers contributed to his first years of struggle and (hidden) heartbreak, – “Teddy” now representing his  “legendary” family following events in 1968.  However he really found a new voice whilst standing up for those not too well off in American society, showing to be a key figure amidst liberal principles.

Edward Moore Kennedy (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009) was the Democratic US  Senator for Massachusetts, serving almost 47 years. He was the second most senior US Senator when he died and the third or fourth longest-serving member of this college, being perhaps one of the most positive and powerful legislator’s in American history.

 

He was the last surviving son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr; the youngest brother of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy (both assassinated in public service)  and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the last being killed in action in World War II; and the father of Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy. After the assassination of his brother John an Robert he was for many years the most important living member of  the Kennedy family.

Kennedy’s New York Times obituary described him: “He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy.”

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Following his failed presidential bid, Kennedy became one of the most influential members of the Democratic Party, and was later in the 1990’s called a “Democratic icon”as well as “The Lion of the Senate“.  Kennedy and his Senate staff wrote more than 2000 bills and more than 300 were enacted into law. Kennedy supported another 550 bills  becoming  law after 1973. Kennedy was most effective in dealing with Republican senators and administrations, sometimes even at the irritation of some Democrats. During the G.W. Bush administration, almost every bipartisan bill being signed had significant involvement from Kennedy. A late 2000s survey of Republican senators ranked Kennedy first among Democrats in bipartisanship, which should be an example for the Republicans (in 2011). Kennedy was committed to  the principle “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” and would agree to pass legislation he viewed as incomplete or imperfect with the goal of improving it down the road. Somehow different we see this with President Barack Obama as well. As long as it works for the better progress, often a good compromise is required. In April 2006, Kennedy was selected by Time as one of “America’s 10 Best Senators”; the magazine discussed that he had “amassed a titanic record of legislation affecting the lives of almost every man, woman and child in the country” and that “by the late 1990s, the liberal icon had become such a prodigious cross-aisle dealer that Republican leaders began pressuring party colleagues not to sponsor bills with him”.Even the Republican presidential nominee John McCain said in May 2008: …”[Kennedy] is a legendary lawmaker and I have the highest respect for him. When we have worked together, he has been a skillful, fair and generous partner.” At the time of Kennedy’s death, sociologist and Nation board member Norman Birnbaum wrote that Kennedy had come to be viewed as the “voice” and “conscience” of progressive America ( American progressivism). He worked on major issues of our time including civil rights, healthcare, the war in Vietnam, Watergate, and the quest for peace in Northern Ireland.

Kennedy’s passion was at times most powerful and contagious.  Besides this he was able to disagree on issues without making it personal. He was therefore greatly admired across the political spectrum.

What can we learn from him in terms of leadership, – without subdividing the issues too much?

1. “Stick- to – itiveness” and give it the very best performance.

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Whilst his performance at the start of his political career was a learning curve and subject for improvement he won his Senate seat for the first time during the Presidency of his brother, Jack Kennedy. He was perhaps in a fortunate position but for certain was he not “a celebrity Senator”.  He proved this after each re-election, especially when he began performing for his constituents and collaborating with his colleagues.

He had an unwavering tenacity and perseverance which did include in a steady pace mastering the details, studying and learning amidst changing issues.Kennedy rolled up his sleeves and earned his place, even through rough and threatening times. He continued planning , timing and cultivating a degree of patience. The reward for his “stick-to-itiveness” was that he knew he stayed the course by following “True Compass”

When Mitt Romney challenged Kennedy for his Senate seat in 1994, the crucial moment of their debate — which probably made  Kennedy win the re-election — involved Kennedy pressing Romney for the specifics on his health care plan, with Romney forced to  admit that he hadn’t worked out all the details. “Well that’s what you have to do with legislation,” the Senator replied. Kennedy knew the job. His career rewards followed from his service and perseverance to master the details to be required for progressive change.

Ted Kennedy faced various public crises which could have destroyed him, yet he proved to be resilient and able to learn.  He restored confidence in his leadership. The still-mysterious incident at Chappaquiddick where a young woman drowned nearly ended his career. Whilst showing at that particular time no courage and ducking accountability he bounced back by redoubling his efforts to do his job well. Even fumbling during an important interview during his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1980, he recovered by applying more energy and passion to his work in the Senate.  He was not perfect but he learned from his mistakes and became a better human being, persistent and committed as he was.  Besides this he never claimed victory for himself but was generously able to share credit

2.Find a purpose recognised by yourself as a very strong one.

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Kennedy reached a stage of mind  to feel that his live belonged to the community and his newly found values did suspend part of his ego. He rejoiced in burning up for the values he stood for before handing the responsibility for his course to the next generation. Ted Kennedy believed in public service as the best profession and in government to help all citizens getting their chance for a better quality of life. Once he found his voice and his core mission after overcoming some misery from the past his position and “Compass” were clear and often he spoke for the people who could not speak for themselves.  The goals were so important that he was willing to work with political opponents in the Senate to reach agreement on measures that served the people.He supported President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind legislation” for school reform.  The cause of children less privileged was that important to him that he rather would compromise and get a bit done whilst the alternative was no action at all. He took action by calling on higher principles which did resonate with principle centred members of the other party. He proved that his ability to compromise for a better outcome was a strength rather a weakness, the last based on ongoing efforts to build strong relations across the political spectrum. With at times an emotional appeal for what he thought to be right he was able to get the more intellectual minded on board from the other party. His emotional bank account on the Senate floor had a large surplus, he was well liked and well trusted on his views.


3.Never forget family & friends.

The hard-working Ted Kennedy was at heart a family man. After the assassination of his brothers he was the stronghold and the father for many amidst the larger Kennedy family, keeping people together, encouraging close to lost children, playing touch-football at the family compound in Hyannis Port and arranging  family outings to historic sites,-  apart from sailing away from the pier in Hyannis Port through the waters of Nantucket at the Cape. In spirit his late brother President John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy were always close to him and the love for his extended family guided him through tough times in his life. He was a role model for some of the Kennedy children and helped them with their own belief system and the power of the words: “I can” and “I will”.

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He did neither always agree with family nor friends but he was able to agree to disagree without losing his affection or staying amicable. Whilst being able to continue to be friendly and loving he was able to work together with a range of people, based on trust. He understood the power of being considerate  and friendly.

In summary:

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Did Ted Kennedy add value to life? Yes he did! He stood for the people who had no voice, trying through legislation to improve the living conditions of fellow citizens for many in his country. He made no major paradigm shift as eg Gandhi did with the perception of “non violence ” (under all circumstances). However Teddy Kennedy tried to mobilise the available recourses in the US Senate to help change at various levels. He stood by his principles but was prepared to listen and seek compromise for the better. He was a trustworthy icon in the US Senate working with an excellent team supporting him to work the required changes for the better. He was not free of mistakes and made a few but made good on them by getting a better person and sticking to his compass, which always directed him back to the original course of action. He had a mission, imagination and was both persistent and committed to give it the best performance, – at some stage not for his ego anymore but for the benefit of others. He did own up to his mistakes and learnt from them with a faith to allow eventually the higher power in himself taking over.

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With his belief system Involving the will of giving and with his own trials and errors in life, he showed us: “Together we can, together we will!”

And that’s enough, –  good enough!

Thank you!
 Paul 

Paul Alexander Wolf

https://paulalexanderwolf.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/we-dream-of-things-that-never-were-and-say-why-not/