What does America need? More leaders like this trio of heroes.
There are three people I personally have the highest regard for:
Gen. Colin L. Powell.
Guion Stewart Bluford Jr.
Mae C. Jemison.
I mention these heroes, these leaders, because in my opinion they demonstrate human perseverance and determination. Like Barack Obama, we can look at their example and point to them and say, “They are true leaders. They didn’t give up. They and others like them represent the best of what human beings can be.”
True and insightful leaders, enlightened leaders, are lights in dark times. They are beacons piercing the fog of ignorance, delusion and fear. They give hope. They’re not afraid to make tough decisions and bear the burden of the consequences of those decisions. They display humility, courage and inner strength. By their example and self-sacrifices, like a good parent, they lift up those who need their strength the most.
Those are virtues our nation needs right now.
In my opinion, Powell, Bluford and Jemison exemplify the qualities of true leadership. I have no idea what they’re like in private, but publicly they’re even-tempered, thoughtful and their demeanors engender trust and confidence. Even if you’re not in agreement with what they’re saying, you want to listen to them. They didn’t have their careers handed to them. They earned them through hard work and perseverance.
Powell is the first African American secretary of state and the first to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
My admiration of Bluford is more personal. Growing up during the early years of the American space program, I wanted to be an astronaut. Most of my friends laughed at me. “They’ll never let a Black man go into space,” they said. I didn’t believe that though.
On August 30, 1983, Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. blasted off into the heavens onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. It made me feel damn good to see the first African American on a NASA space mission. Bluford was born in Philadelphia. He attended the same school I did, Overbrook Senior High. And by the way, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Penn State University in 1964. I mention Penn State because more than a few of my colleagues attended that institution.
My regard for Jemison, like Bluford, is equally personal since she is the first black woman to travel into space, serving as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. She orbited the Earth for nearly eight days in September 1992.
Oh yeah, she also appeared on an episode of Star Trek as Lieutenant Palmer in the story titled Second Chances. Just FYI – I love Star Trek. I signed on to a five-year mission on September 8, 1966, and I’m never leaving the bridge.
But I digress.
By true leadership, and now I’m speaking in the political sense, I’m talking about men and women who clearly demonstrate and understand that to be in a position of leadership means they are servants of the people they have sworn to lead and protect.
In any discussion of leadership, it’s important to remember that we’re all human beings. None of us is perfect. Even the best and brightest are flawed. We get some things right and other things wrong and truthfully, being in a position of leadership is a burden. That is especially true when one stands on the national stage, because in the words of a true visionary leader from about 2000 years ago, “To whom much is given, much will be required.”
I don’t know who is going to win the presidential election. But I would love to see the next president show us the qualities of my three personal heroes.
Larry Miller is a Special Projects Manager in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia Office.