October 11, 2008

Learning From Past Presidents In Moments Of Crisis, Doris Kearns Goodwin

How do we determine what makes a great leader? Is this only knowable in hindsight? Can we know in advance who will mold, make, enable, encourage, and foster greatness in the country and in the world?

In a few weeks, we will elect a president, a person who will appoint cabinet leaders, federal judges, and create policies and priorities. No one wants to settle for less than greatness in this choice. Regardless of political party or position, we are looking for greatness in a leader.

Click on this post's title to watch Doris Kearns Goodwin tell the stories of two presidents (an 18 minute mini-lecture). Both men were great, but in different ways and not for the reasons we commonly ascribe. I am a life-long history buff. My undergraduate degree is in history and although I am not a professional historian, I appreciate the search for insight and knowledge from the past. The lessons are there, if we are willing to seek them out and study them.

Much of the Bible consists of history and biography. It's no accident because in the stories of people and nations, we find our own stories: failure, ambition, love, success, struggles for meaning, resignation to failure, hopes for a better future. We also find God moving in the human experience: guiding, inspiring, sustaining, stopping, redirecting, correcting, helping, forgiving, loving. Someone once told me you can find the gospel in every well expressed art form. Good stories are good art and they teach what I call "forever lessons."

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