Leadership's Importance

 

Most people, regardless of their education, occupation, intelligence, political or religious beliefs recognize the importance of leadership. We know from observation and from reading that organizations generally do not rise above the quality of their leaders. R. Daniel Watkins' book, An Encyclopedia of Compelling Quotations (Peabody, MA: Hendricks Publishers, Inc., 2001), provides some brief but powerful statements about leadership. Napoleon Bonaparte said, "A leader is a dealer in hope." Arnold H. Glassgow wisely observed: "A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of credit." Walter Lippmann, the distinguished American journalist, wrote in a column dedicated to Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on." One of Russia's greatest intellectuals, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, offered this view of leadership. "A leader should not be a man who arbitrarily imported his own ideas but the essential focal point for a group of people who trusted one another and worked for a common aim" (pp. 416-417). Our Lord himself warned: "Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Mt. 15:13-14).

 

Every legitimate institution or organization on earth needs good leadership. That is true of schools, churches, labor unions, businesses, communities, states and nations. One of the reasons many modern schools have miserably failed to educate our young people is because of inadequate or irresponsible leadership in local schools, in state and national educational associations and in the classroom. Please understand that this is not a blanket condemnation of all schools, administrators, boards of education and teachers. There are still good schools, capable administrators, committed boards of education and dedicated teachers. But the tragedy is that there are too few of these. If you think I might be exaggerating the situation, it is because you are not keeping up with what is occurring in the nation's schools. Dozens of books expose the damage many public schools are doing to homes, to churches and to the nation. I have time to give you just a few examples.

 

Larry Elder, a talk show host in Los Angeles, has written a book with the title, Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies, and the Special Interests That Divide America (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002). Many school administrators and teachers are enemies of our nation. Some of them support movements that seek to destroy the freedoms we enjoy. A few brief excerpts from a Santa Monica High School student provide some insight into what some schools are doing. The high school student writes: "My school indirectly, but thoroughly, supports terrorism....After we began bombing Afghanistan instead of leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance, our principal goes on the PA system, and announced to the school his doubts about the morality of our air campaign... .Another response our school had to deal with the attacks was to invite a Muslim leader to the school to explain how the Islamic religion is a noble and righteous one....What finally prompted me to write this letter, though, was the barrage of downright insulting, practically treasonous comments made in our school paper." The school paper included a picture of the American flag, but it was covered by the Afghanistan flag (108-110).

 

Michael Savage's new book, The Enemy Within: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Schools, Faith and Military (Nashville: WND Books, 2003), gives example after example of how the schools in some places are deliberately undermining the moral values that most Americans support. For example, the National Education Association, the most powerful teachers' union in our country, opposes genuine abstinence-based sex education, teacher competency testing, teaching creation along with evolution, home schooling and many other worthwhile efforts and activities. Dr. Savage accuses the majority in the teaching profession of endorsing postmodernism. Dr. Savage explains: "By dismissing traditional morality, right and wrong, and truth and lies, as being quaint, or worse, intolerant, concepts, they're making a mockery of everything that has made this country great" (pp. 174-175). Did you know that the National Education Association has "embraced a bizarre, comprehensive, lifelong sex education curriculum beginning with kindergarten” (p. 175)? Do the leaders in the NBA not know that sex education generally increases sexual activities among young people? The NEA must share some of the blame for the enormous number of teenage pregnancies, the proliferation of all kinds of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and the heartaches many of our young people experience and likely will continue to experience as long as they live. Incidentally, at least 25,000,000 Americans, including millions of teens and preteens, are infected with genital herpes. Genital herpes is fatal to many babies born to infected mothers. The disease is not curable. Do our schools need and do they deserve good leaders?

 

Most of us who read and keep up with what is happening in the churches of America know how negligent many churches have been in searching out and appointing leaders of integrity. Thomas C. Reeves, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, has written an excellent book, The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Christianity (New York: The Free Press, 1996). Dr. Reeves' book is one of the severest indictments of modern religion I have ever read. He probably calls himself an evangelical, although I do not recall his using that term to describe himself. He is a member of the Episcopal Church, but that does not keep him from criticizing his own church.

 

Dr. Reeves asks, "Do churches, well, really matter anymore" (p. ix of the Preface)? Dr. Reeves quotes Dr. Thomas C. Oden of Drew University in Madison, NJ, a Methodist University, of saying that there is no concept of heresy. "The very thought of asking about heresy has itself become the new arch-heresy" (p. 17). A student at Harvard Theological Seminary declared: "Pluralism is God at Harvard. The basic presumption is that Western religion is not good, and Christianity is the worst. The new slur, like being 'homophobic' is being 'Christo-centric'" (p. 17). Dr. Reeves says Bishop Jane Dixon of the Episcopal Church wore a button at one convention that read: "SEXUALITY, NOT SPIRITUALITY" (p. 21). There is much, much more in Dr. Reeves' book, but I do not have time to read it to you today.

 

Everyone in America knows the checkered history of leaders in labor unions. The most powerful and one of the most corrupt labor unions—and it is a labor union, not a professional organization—is the National Education Association. The NEA no longer puts the welfare of children on the front burner, regardless of their pretensions to the contrary. Its major concern is to get more pay for its teachers who generally do less work than any previous generation of teachers. I am in favor of paying teachers a living wage. But I am also in favor of hiring teachers who actually teach and who respect our competitive free enterprise system. The NEA supports radical causes that are tearing our nation apart. Anyone who questions these observations should do some research on his or her own.

 

You may remember the woman president George W. Bush nominated for Secretary of Labor. Her name is Linda Chavez, a brilliant Hispanic woman. Her nomination was very controversial. She eventually withdrew her name from consideration—a really tragic situation. Linda Chavez and Daniel Gray, a professional writer, have written a new book with the title, Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics (New York: Crown Forum, 2004). The book is really an eye-opener, unless you have been keeping up with unions, as I have for more than fifty years. Brenda Stokley, an official in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, made clear how she intended to lead her union. "The first thing we have to do is to remind ourselves that we are fighting for socialism" (p. 6). Linda Chavez says that many "union officials chose to enrich themselves with the money forcibly taken out of workers' paychecks." "Corruption within the ranks of labor leaders has become endemic, as many union bosses pay themselves lavish salaries and also 'invest' member dues in what amount to private slush funds" (p. 12). Tragically, many of the leaders in the American labor movement are at the far left of the political spectrum. "The president of the AFL-CIO proudly preaches his socialist worldview" (p. 15).

 

But labor leaders are not the only ones in the world of business who are corrupt. We must not ignore Enron, World Com, Arthur Anderson and a host of other corporations and companies. What kind of example do the leaders in these companies set for our children and for our young people? Millions of America's young people grow into adulthood believing they can cheat, lie and steal and not have to suffer the consequences. The leaders in these now-bankrupt businesses should be imprisoned for the rest of their natural lives—not only for their immoral examples—but for cheating people, especially old people, out of their life's savings. They are as criminal as if they had taken a gun and held their employees and investors captive.

 

An example may help us to know how crooked some business people are. A wealthy acquaintance of mine had his assets tied up in various investments. He had an opportunity to buy some property at a bargain price. He asked the president of his bank for a loan of $50,000 to buy the property. The banker told him he would approach the bank's board about the loan. When the man went back to the bank to secure the loan, the president of the bank had already bought the property. If that were an isolated case, it would be tragic enough. But such underhanded dealings occur everyday. No wonder many Americans have lost faith in our economic system.

 

Our communities must use great wisdom in choosing the men and women who will serve our people. A few years ago a sheriff was tried and found guilty of sodomizing male prisoners. He would ask prisoners to go with him on a work detail and then would sexually assault the men. But here is the real kicker. Some of the people in that county said they would vote again for that sheriff when he was released from prison. Is it possible that we get the kind of leadership we deserve? How can moral people vote for local, state or federal officials when we know they are liars, perjurers, thieves and adulterers?

 

Some of our state governors and representatives are corrupt to the core. I know a case where a state insurance commissioner allowed an insurance company to do business in his state because the company was willing to pay a bribe. I have known governors to take money for state liquor licenses and other licenses. Governor Edwin Edwards of Louisiana was imprisoned for selling out to gamblers in his state. Tyler Bridges book, Bad Bet on the Bayou (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2001), reveals: "Edwards was found guilty on seventeen of twenty-six counts....On January 8, 2001, United States District Judge Frank Polozola sentenced Edwin Edwards to a ten-year prison sentence for his role in the riverboat gambling case" (pp. 368, 370).

 

During my lifetime, there have been dozens and dozens of federal officials who have committed crimes. Senator Harrison Williams went to prison for selling his office to the gambling interests in Atlantic City, New Jersey. President Richard Nixon was forced from the highest office in the land for his illegal behavior. The list could be expanded nauseatingly. But I want to dwell on three well-known politicians—John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and William Jefferson Clinton.

 

A few minutes ago I mentioned a book by Dr. Thomas C. Reeves, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. That book dealt with the deterioration of liberal religion. The first book I read by Dr. Reeves has the title, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy (Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1992). Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post wrote concerning Dr. Reeves' book: "The best biography I read this year... a revisionist view of John F. Kennedy from which his reputation is unlikely ever fully to recover" (back cover of the book). Dr. Reeves says concerning Kennedy: "He was exceedingly vain, incredibly foul mouthed, petty, penurious, insensitive, spiteful, eager for salacious gossip, and extremely manipulative.  He slipped secret government documents to journalists in return for favors, got drunk, favored abortion, and denigrated liberals" (p. 6). For years, Kennedy carried on an affair with Judith Exner. He shared her with Sam Giancana, a powerful organized crime figure. The president was sexually involved with several well-known actresses and scores of other young women (p. 7). John Kennedy learned his sexual adventures from one of the most successful at being a lecher—his own father. Ronald Kessler's book, Sins of the Father: Joseph Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded (New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1996), chronicles the life and times of President Kennedy's father. There was nothing too immoral for Joseph Kennedy. His legacy is one of crime, violence, graft, bribery and many other evils.

 

Some people in the media have only good things to say about Jimmy Carter, especially since he left the presidency. Steven Hayward's book, The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry (Washington, D. C.: Regnery Publishing, 2004), does a thorough job of debunking the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Senator Patrick Moynihan, one of America's most respected senators, says that Carter was "unable to distinguish between our friends and our enemies, [and] he has adopted our enemies' view of the world" (p. 110). Had Jimmy Carter remained in power, we would still be facing communism in the Soviet Union.

 

You cannot be ignorant of the immoral and illegal activities of Bill Clinton. He lied to the American people, perjured himself and engaged in reprehensible sexual behavior with an intern. What a horrible example for the children and young people of our nation and of the world! I have one other book I need to mention before our time expires. You may remember seeing David Schippers on television. He was the chief investigative counsel for the Clinton impeachment. He had been a Democrat for many years. So he could not be accused of being partisan in his investigation of Bill Clinton. His book has the title, Sellout: The Inside Story of the Clinton Impeachment (Washington, D. C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2000). Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois did his best to convict Clinton of grossly illegal behavior. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska told Congressman Hyde: "Henry, I don't care if you prove he raped a woman and then stood up and shot her dead—you are not going to get sixty-seven votes" (p. 23). The last chapter in Schipper's book has the heading, "The Voice of the People." He includes a number of letters he received after testifying before congress. I shall read just one letter. It came from a third grader in the city of Chicago. The child exemplifies greater wisdom than the United States Senate. Please listen. "It is important to believe the President because he is an important person. If you cannot believe the President who can you believe? If you have no one to believe in then how do you run your life? I do not believe the President tells the truth any more right now." The boy's father adds the following postscript: "I made my son write you a letter or an essay as punishment for lying. Part of his defense of his lying was that the President lied. He is still having difficulty understanding why the President can lie and not be punished" (p. 320). Frankly, I am having the same difficulty the third grader experienced.

 

I have run out of time, but I have one passage from the Bible I must read before our time expires. The great prophet Jeremiah lived just before and during the time of the Babylonian exile. He knew the leaders in Israel were to a great extent responsible for the exile. Jeremiah wrote concerning the leaders among God's people: "I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem a horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none returns from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah" (Jer. 23:14).

 

Tragically, the Israelites could not choose their leaders in a democratic election. But we can and we must use our best thinking to choose men and women who will help this great nation to be better than it currently is.

 

Winford Claiborne

The International Gospel Hour

P.O. Box 118

Fayetteville, TN 37334