The following is from an article entitled “A Bicentennial Briefing,” by George E. LaMore, Jr., appearing in Farm and Land Realtor, November, 1975, pp. 9-11.
“There are those who prescribe more schools, more education. To this I say, Hogwash! We are up to here in education and got ourselves into this mess. No, ours is not a shortage of brains, but a shortage of integrity. Our problem is not one of knowledge but one of morality. The most embarrassing human fact I know this late in the twentieth century is that we have human knowledge enough and to spare to solve nearly all of our social problems but we lack the gut-level goodness to use our wisdom that way. We have the facts, we have the knowledge, but we lack the values to use them rightly.
“Thus there are certain qualities which I insist on in any new leaders or groups of leaders from whatever generation. The first of these qualities is self-discipline. You cannot master the world until you first master yourself. You have to become the first citizens of the kind of world you say you want. Too many cases of our so-called new leaders practice the private morality of alley cats and the corporate morality of the jungle, and you know how long a society based on such values would last.
Sense of History
“The second quality I insist on is what I call a sense of history. By this I mean an awareness of how the game has gone so far; not that tomorrow’s game will repeat yesterday’s, but it will have a family resemblance. Too many of the revolutionary leaders of modern times have had it as their basic strategy to “break with the past and start fresh.” When you break with the past you just start over again from scratch, repeating all the blunders already contained in the history books you burned so you could tell your lies retroactively. Progress does not come from breaking with the past but from building upon the best of the past, and to do that you have to know it.
“The third quality I seek in any authentic leader is humility. By humility I mean the capacity to hear other voices besides one’s own. Too many of the shrill leaders in modern demonstrations in universities have sought to shout down or even shoot down anybody with an alternative voice. This is tragic! Our leaders must have the capacity to listen as well as to speak—the capacity to learn as well as to teach. Humility is the capacity to face one’s faults before one’s faults prove fatal.
“When we have restored in our leaders and ourselves this basic integrity which is self-disciplined, aware of history and creatively humble then we shall again have a sense of identity—who we really are and where we are going. The great English scholar C.S. Lewis once asked, “How can we see God face to face until we have faces?” That is the heart of the matter. Too many theological writers have suggested that it is God who is anonymous and faceless. No. It is we who have lost our identity and we must find it again.
“But supposing integrity could be restored to persons and government, would this be enough? My answer is no, not quite. Integrity is a quiet goodness, goodness with its motor idling, goodness going nowhere. No, in addition to integrity there must be a sense of direction—leadership. But here our crisis is acute.
“As Dostoyevski once put it, ‘Man is a creature who has to live for something,’ and when man is desperate enough for something to live for he is liable to follow almost anything that moves. This is the phenomenon that worries me most. There is no other way of explaining [how] man has followed the most insane messiahs and fads up to the present time.
“Some of the most fateful words of our century are not liable to grab you until I tell you who said them. The words are ‘The capacity of modern man to believe is almost unbelievable.’ The author? Mussolini, and he should know, for it is almost unbelievable that modern, sophisticated man could have fallen for that tub of lard and sworn, ‘Il Duce can do no wrong!’ But he did, for he was desperate for something to live for.
“I fear that we are in a season when charismatic leaders are liable to start coming out of the woodwork making wild promises… By charismatic leaders I mean those who have amazing power to electrify and motivate others. …Their success largely depends upon their arising in what I call a charismatic situation. A charismatic situation always has two components. They are: a vacuum of leadership and a romantically motivated populace. Into the vacuum of leadership steps the new messiah making impossible promises, and for a reason people longing for the light will follow him. By a romantic populace I mean people who do not respond with their heads but with their hearts.
Living in the Meantime
“In seasons like this there sometimes arises in societies a renewing grace. This grace that renews men and societies seldom arises in man’s seasons of confidence and arrogance, but in his seasons of confession and humility… If you believe this possibility of renewal, then you understand the central strategy of the greatest commencement address ever given. It was not given at any college or university but on a rural hillside in Galilee two thousand years ago. The basic idea was this: New life cannot arise in us until we first admit our sickness for only then can we be healed. Blessed are we when we admit our emptiness; only then can we be filled.
“This is the only hope that I can hold before you on this eve of our nation’s bicentennial, and you may want to respond: That’s a mighty sober hope! And you are right, but the longer I live the more I am convinced that sober hope is the only kind of hope man ever could trust. Thus I wish for us this powerful renewal, and I wish for our nation a blessed birthday, and I have spoken the way I have because I am persuaded that these two events depend terribly much upon each other.”
~ David Norris