Friday, July 6, 2012

The American Flag: Fabric or Symbol?

We have a friend in Florida who is a commander of the Marine Corps League in Florida that asked me to write a note on the American Flag for the newsletter. On behalf of the July4th festivities, I offer it to my readers this July, 2012: There are many symbols of American freedom that are all around us, each and everyday. As we enter the month of July, we are confronted with these very symbolic representations that remind us of who we are as a nation, and what we stand for as a united people. Whenever we celebrate July 4, we celebrate the birth of our nation when a few brave and courageous individuals met in Philadelphia to declare with one voice: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." After reading the article about Betsy Ross in the June newsletter, I was inspired to remember those sacred words of the Declaration of Independence, especially when being reminded of the greatest symbol of our country, the American Flag, our Star Spangled Banner. I am sure everyone knows of the story how General George Washington asked Mrs. Betsy Ross of Philadelphia to sew the standard that would become the American flag. (For anyone interested in more detail, check out this link A committee of Congress made up of Robert Morris and George Ross (both of Pennsylvania) accompanied by General Washington met with Betsy Ross (who happened to be an acquaintance of the General, and a well-renowned seamstress in Philadelphia. Prior to making the Star Spangled Banner, she had a reputation for making signal flags for the Pennsylvania Navy of 1775. As recounted by Betsy's daughter and other family members she was paid 14 pounds, twelve shillings, and two pence for the project.   The exact directions from Congress can be noted from the following resolution approved by the members in the design of the new flag that was passed on June 14th, 1777 and read: "Resolved. That the flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a field of blue representing a new constellation." Regardless, the American flag has been an important part of my life and the lives of our countrymen. For every Marine will always be energized by the raising of that very flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, or standing erect and tall on Firebase Charlie in Da Nang, Vietnam, or proudly in the desert encampments of Iraq, and the mountainous gorges of Afghanistan. The American Flag is an important symbol of our American freedom, and our way of life, defended proudly by the Corps, for over two hundred years. God Bless the USA.

The Leadership Variable

" I learned that history is shaped by the use of power, and that different people, leading the same army, with, therefore, approximately the same power, applied it so differently that the army seemed to change from a pack of noble fools at Fredericksburg to panicked cowards melting away at Chancellorsville, then to the grimly determined, stubborn soldiers who held the ridges at Gettysburg, and then, finally, to the disciplined, professional army that ground Lee to dust in Grant’s long campaign. It wasn’t the soldiers who changed. It was the leader. And even though I could not then have articulated..." (Card, O.S.(1991). Enders Game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates. P. VIII-IX.) Whenever I consider the dilemma of leadership affecting organizations I am drawn to that quotation by Orson Scott Card in the introduction of his acclaimed science fiction novel Enders Game. His apt description of the crisis that Abraham Lincoln had in finding someone to effectively lead the might and resources of the union army at the outset of the Civil War was truly a problem, especially when his golden boy, in the selection of the proper, well-dressed, and verbose George McClellan could not lead his way out of a paper bag, let alone a significant defeat of the Army of Northern Virgina. It wasn't until a Ulysses S. Grant was appointed to lead the Grand Army of the Republic that the war eventually was won by the Union. This typical example of what I call the "leadership variable" is played out in our school organizations,as well. If you have the right person in a leadership role of a principal's position,supervisor's position or superintendent, the success of the organization will be assured. The quandary is how do you find successful leaders? Boards of Education need to be bold enough to make changes and decisions to leadership positions sooner, rather than later. The risk would be devasting to keep ineffective people in these roles. Just look at the example of an incompetent George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, George Meade, and others that had no idea on how to beat the Confederacy from winning the Civil War. In education, the stakes are equally devastating.