In 1962, General Douglas MacArthur gave a speech to the US Military Academy Corps of Cadets titled “Duty, Honor, Country.” It is arguably one of the greatest speeches given by a public figure in the history of the United States. I first read the speech when I was in college studying for my degree and preparing for my first career as an Army Officer.
The speech was pretty much required reading for every West Point and ROTC cadet at that time. MacArthur gave the speech in response to receiving the Sylvanus Thayer Award from West Point for outstanding service to the nation. As an alumnus of West Point and a veteran of World War I, World War II, and the Korean Conflict, MacArthur could have given a speech about the horrors of war or the strategies necessary for winning the wars of the future. Instead, he talked about the ethics of the American soldier and how these “three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.” To me, he was telling future Army leaders about three keys to leadership. You must:
- Train and be prepared to win
- Win using high moral character, and
- Be willing to serve a cause that is greater than yourself.
At the time, the United States had never lost a war. MacArthur was telling the students that the U.S. didn’t win because of luck or as a result of fear. It was because the American soldier was properly trained, knew what we were fighting for and why, plus we fought under a code of ethics that reflected our character and morals as a nation.
MacArthur’s speech applies not only to the military but to leaders from all walks of life. Tony Robbins is a leading life coach, author, and business strategist. I recently read an article in Entrepreneur magazine about Tony’s secret to abundance. Tony tells a personal story about having a mindset of abundance even when he was on the verge of being broke. It was early in his career and he was still learning the methods that would lead to his ultimate success. He was eating in a restaurant and wasn’t sure of where his next meal was going to come from. When he was finishing his meal, he looked up and saw a young boy come in with his mother. He was so impressed with the boy’s manners and how he treated his mom that after paying for his own meal, he gave that young man all of the money that he had so that he could treat his mom to that meal. Instead of grudgingly giving the money to the boy, he gave it cheerfully knowing that he was sowing a positive seed into that young man. He was fighting to help that young boy understand that he was doing the right thing. Tony went home on Cloud Nine. Instead of worrying about his own situation, he trusted that by doing the right thing, everything would work out. Ultimately, it did. The next day he received a check (a lot more than $20) from a friend whom he had loaned money to a long time ago. The best part is that not only did the friend pay him back but with interest. Tony was demonstrating that by providing positive feedback to that young boy, he was fighting to make his community a better place.
One of my highest priorities is family. I want the best for my children. Providing material possessions are great but that would only be temporary. As a parent, I fight to raise each child to be a productive citizen and to succeed in life. In order to do that, the best thing that I can give my children is a good foundation in character. It is not always easy to do that. As the saying goes, life happens. You have to pay the bills and sometimes you may be faced with difficult choices in the process. Sometimes it is expedient to take the easy way out to take care of an immediate need (like food). Remember that your children will listen to what you say but are watching what you do. Take the time to show them the right way to solve a problem that they will remember for the rest of their lives and you will demonstrate moral character. After all, the Bible says that a good name is better than silver and gold.
So, what are you fighting for?