It’s a pleasure to be up here in the Antelope Valley. The Boy Scouts in Los Angeles have a special badge you don’t have. It’s for setting up camp on the freeway because they’re stuck in traffic overnight.
It is truly an honor to be here tonight at the first annual American Heroes Dinner to pay tribute to those Boy Scouts and local citizens who have displayed outstanding leadership ability. It’s also an honor to share the platform with my dear friend Buzz Aldrin – the 2nd man on the moon. Of course, I learned something myself about being number two when I ran for governor.
And I appreciate the opportunity to serve as MC for this wonderful event. I’ve been asked to say a few words about leadership, and it’s a pleasure for me to express some of my thoughts on this important subject. One of my favorite definitions of leadership came from Harry Truman, who said “a leader can get someone to do what he doesn’t want to do and have him like it at the same time.” As all of you know, this is no easy task.
Leadership is always a timely topic from the executive boardroom to the city council chamber to the infantry platoon. Thousands of articles and books have been written about it and you can even enroll in classes designed to improve your leadership skills. But I can think of no better model of leadership instruction than that offered by the Boy Scouts of America.
Young men learn leadership by practicing it first hand in the Boy Scouts. Leadership ability is developed through participation in a wide variety of activities. Scouting builds self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-esteem. The mission of the Boy Scouts is to prepare young people to make responsible choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them strong ethical and moral values. Leadership ability often shows itself at a young age. And it certainly is fostered in the scouting community. And these young leaders here with us tonight represent all that is good about our society.
I’ve sometimes tried to emulate the Scouts, but there’s no truth to the rumor that I once tried to start a fire by rubbing two Democrats together. The awards we’re handing out this evening demonstrate that everyone has an opportunity to be a leader.
Many of the scouts here tonight are with their parents, and parents are leaders, too. Good parents – like good leaders – set the example. Good parents have lofty expectations. Good parents are unselfish and
completely devoted to their children. My mother and father taught me the most about leadership. Like the moms and dads here tonight, my parents were an inspiration for me. They had high standards of behavior and achievement for their children.
Some people say that leaders are born, not made. Others believe they’re made, not born. I’m in the latter category. I believe that leaders are born with certain natural abilities, but a person will not reach his full potential until he matures and comes to terms with what he’s made of.
Human psychology is complex, and there are as many styles of leadership as there are personality types, but the qualities I believe are most crucial can be developed. I call them the 4 C’s – Character / Competence / Compassion / and Conviction. All good leaders exhibit them.
Character is most important. It involves understanding right from wrong and the value of self-discipline and personal sacrifice. Within this category comes courage. What Hemingway called “grace under pressure.” Character is also about honor. An honorable person is one who is able to place the truth above his or her own personal welfare. Someone once said that character is what you do when no one else is looking.
There’s also an internal compass that keeps us on the path toward character, the human conscience. We all have a wise counselor that we can rely on. The little voice that tells you the right thing to do in every situation is your conscience. Take heed because it will tell you right from wrong, good from
evil, and honorable from dishonorable.
Next is competence. If a leader is not competent in his or her field, no one will follow. Knowledge is fundamental to competence. And with knowledge comes confidence and with confidence comes the ability to take action, which is indispensable. My dad always told me that it’s not enough to have
a good idea, you must be willing to act upon it. Without action, even a brilliant idea is worthless.
And we all realize why compassion is such an desirable quality. A leader who doesn’t care about the people who serve with him, will have neither their loyalty nor their faith. Pope John Paul II was a compassionate leader.
Conviction means believing in yourself and having the confidence to chart and stay the course you know to be right. Leaders with conviction have a sense of purpose and a passionate zeal to achieve their goals. They turn dreams into reality.
Buzz Aldrin and Larry McClain both had a passion for flying and in the course of their lives reached heights that had hardly been imagined in decades prior. Throughout the history of the United States, men and women have come forward in times of difficulty to help guide the country and have taken their
rightful places in the pantheon of great leaders.
We remember our nation’s founders – Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Adams among many others. We remember Abraham Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. We
remember Ronald Reagan. And today is no different. President Bush and Rudy Giuliani were praised
for their handling of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. And they will be remembered by generations to come.
Many more public officials – some here tonight – are providing able leadership at the national, state, and local levels.
Our nation has been blessed with many excellent leaders for future generations to learn from and we are fortunate to have their example because there will always be a need for many more. In the program tonight we salute the men and women of America’s armed forces. And we remember those who have fallen in the war on terror and in all the other wars America has fought.
Let us also salute and pray for the future leaders of our country – those here tonight and across America – who will serve in the military as well as the public and private sectors because They will determine our future.
Thank you and God bless all of you.