We live in an amazing country. After spending several days in our nation’s capital, visiting historic sites throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, and then celebrating the 4th of July watching fireworks in Seattle, I am reminded of the many brave actions both leaders and everyday citizens took throughout the course of our nation’s history to earn us the liberties we have today.
The true stories of the lives of our founding fathers and mothers, and other national leaders that followed are so rich - filled with both acts of heroism and mind boggling dichotomies. Their stories highlight the nuances of life and decision-making, revealing shades of gray that bear scant resemblance to the oversimplified stories painted in good and evil or black and white that dominate our news media today. Thomas Jefferson, who penned the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…” was also a slave owner. Stonewall Jackson, a revered general in the Confederate army, risked imprisonment for violating the Virginia Code of 1819 in establishing and teaching for a bible school for African Americans. Woodrow Wilson led the United States into WWI after a presidential campaign based upon the platform of peace - and passed the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution for women's suffrage after years of denying it.
These polarities give prominence to the fact that our own impact can be enhanced by small acts of courage, especially when we accept that, as humans, we will make mistakes but can also choose to be open to new evidence, to try to understand and forgive, and to re-shift our course. As Herminia Ibarra, an expert in leadership and professor at INSEAD more bluntly stated, "We have many selves, many roles, and many possibilities and some people’s different selves are more loosely tied together than others…”
As a result, we all have had and will have mixed records of fullness and folly. Our fears of failing, of being imperfect, of seeming inconsistent, etc. may prevent us from trying new things that we are developing conviction around that will make positive impacts. What would have happened if our founding fathers and mothers and those who followed succumbed to these fears and didn't have the courage to step out in front?
In celebration of our independence, I’d like to encourage all of us to take the opportunity to think about how you will show up with courage this week - even if it seems contrary to your prior actions. What new path might you take? What new challenge will you confront?
Would love to hear your thoughts and stories! Share them as a comment below!