Lead On, Mr. President

Those who make it their habit of studying leadership philosophy will have much to muse about for some time in the wake of President Bush’s 6th State of the Union Address. Facing for the first time in his presidency a congress controlled by the opposition party, along with many in his own party who have increasingly distanced themselves from his Iraq policy; and facing an American electorate that views him as popularly as Richard Nixon was viewed just 6 months prior to his resignation, George W. Bush proved himself a man and a genuine leader.

Mr. Bush clearly articulated for the first time why and how the situation in Iraq deterioriated into near chaos, pointing to not only the people groups responsible for the chaos, but more importantly giving clear definition to their philosophy and motives. And just as importantly, the president made the case for standing firm in Iraq on the principle of American morality. He pointed to an important fact: Al Qaeda is a group of Sunni extremists, and he cogently identified their objective as overthrowing moderate governments while establishing safe havens for their operations and terrorizing Americans to force us to retreat in fear, abandoning the cause of liberty. The president properly framed the violence and chaos in Iraq as a reaction of the enemy to the democratic processes implemented in Afghanistan and Iraq in an attempt to undo them.We become complicit with the enemy if we allow their strategy to force us into retreat and to abandon the cause of liberty in the Middle east.

Mr. Bush framed his resolve – and his call for our resolve – within the context of Scripture, which he called ‘timeless truth’:

American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required.

Those words were originally spoken by Jesus in The Gospel of Luke 12:48 as an incentive to faithful stewardship of a master’s property. Jesus makes it clear it is not our wealth that makes us successful, but rather what we do with our wealth that will determine our success or failure in the world. America in recent years has lost sight of the source of its bounty and in doing so has abandonded any sense of responsible stewardship for that bounty. When you truly believe that all you have is yours by your own strength, you bear no sense of responsiblity for sharing it with others. Our wealth and our liberty as Americans has been loaned to us by the One who truly owns it: our Creator. How we have stewarded our Master’s property will be determined in the end at our judgment before this same Master. Accountability is the true motivator for how we engage the world community, not only when it comes to terror, but more importantly when it comes to the greater social issues of disease, hunger, and poverty. To whom much is given of him much shall be required.

The president showed genuine resolve and true grit, and most importantly he demonstrated how to lead when other voices are pointing in a different direction, especially when he said:

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.

Lead on, Mr. President.

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