Call me naive or idealistic, but I have always believed in humanity’s inherent greatness. Over the years, I’ve also concluded that humanity’s greatness remains untapped, untested or both.
Living in a comfortable, default mode, most of us are familiar with answering to authorities. We follow well-worn paths of commonality and act as responders rather than creators. Unaware of the greatness living within ourselves, we often fail to mine, develop and share our better qualities with others.
James Buchanan was familiar with leadership, but he was also tested by its mettle. The 15th President of the United States, Buchanan once aspired to become comparable in stature to America’s first President, George Washington.
Progressing from Minister to Russia to Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Buchanan was on his way to diplomatic stardom. But he was ultimately presented with a momentous challenge, rising to President just prior to his country’s fateful entry into the Civil War.
Confronted with mounting divisions between America’s northern and southern factions, he tried without success to strike common ground. Believing that secession of the states was illegal, he also believed in the illegality of war.
History reports that Buchanan’s inability to relate to the factions in his country left him perpetually branded as one of the worst U.S. Presidents in history.
Despite his inability to lead others during the 19th century and help them see the proverbial light, Buchanan’s quote speaks today of a man deeply committed to his convictions.
A lawyer by trade, James Buchanan believed strongly in the law and referred to it as his only master.
What sets Buchanan apart for future history was his attempt to elicit higher ideals from both staff and citizenry. He clearly hoped that America’s social conscience would arise, averting blinding bloodshed, economic destruction and deep emotional sorrow.
Though Buchanan failed to elicit the better bounty within mankind at the time, the greatness Buchanan believed in concerning his fellow man still awaits its virtuous manifestation.
I’m easily reminded of the historic Jesus who taught us that the ultimate “kingdom” was to be found “within” us. Others come to mind, like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., who promoted human advancement through inner peace and self-governance rather than boorish behaviors and violence waged against our fellow man.
At some future date, estimations of President Buchanan may be viewed through a higher and more illuminated lens. Buchanan believed in the inherent greatness of his own people, even when they were unable to see it in themselves.
As our human race evolves and becomes sufficiently tempered by brute behaviors and the ill effects of war, historic records may be revised. We may uphold James Buchanan as an early, if misunderstood, political visionary and harbinger of leadership for a more noble order of humanity.
Like James Buchanan, your present day convictions about humanity’s inherent greatness may deny you popular accolades. Not everyone may respond to the greater behaviors and consciousness you promote, exemplify and elicit.
But your ultimate legacy may burn brighter in years to come.
Beliefs we carry in the inherently better qualities of man will ultimately find their way to the surface. What we see, believe in, and hope for internally communicates emotionally and energetically to those around us, helping to convert the public psyche and also heal its battered subconscious.
As we exude our own greatness, others are offered glimpses of their greater selves and freed to respond in like fashion.
If you’re inspired by quality leadership, give some thought to the idea presented by President Buchanan.
Consider how you, too, might aid others in discovering their own greatness – through elicitation rather than domination.
Maura Sweeney is an International Speaker on Influence, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence
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