“It is the storm that tries the strength of the vessel” W. Moodie, D.D.
‘No one takes any significant step of growth, or achieves a measurable change in personality except for the sharp stab of a crisis or the dull throb of frustration” Cecil Osborne.
“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” Psalm 119:71.
‘It’ – the common thread above, and below – is adversity.
‘It’ is what Lt. Col. Chamberlain faced that fateful day July 2, 1863 in the battle for Little Round Top, just outside Gettysburg.
‘It’ is what made the image of Second Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache so powerful, viral even, “encapsulating his overwhelming feelings of accomplishment and gratitude” as, with tears streaming down his face, Idrache graduated from West Point in recent days leading up to Memorial Day.
“You don’t just say I’m going to be a pilot and make it happen,” said Idrache, from Haiti. In his native land, Idrache explained, there is “no aviation, there’re no helicopters, no flight schools. There’re none of that.”
Nevertheless Idrache had a dream. And ‘it’ – the adversity in realizing his dream – explained his tears.
“At this moment, I was overwhelmed with emotions. Three things came to mind and led to those tears,” Idrache explained in a comment on Instagram. “The first is where I started … The second is where I am … The third is my future.”
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain wrote, “We know not the future, and cannot plan for it much. But we can determine and know what manner of men we will be whenever and wherever the hour strikes.”
Chamberlain was commander of the 20th Regiment of Infantry, Maine Volunteers.
With no bullets left, his troops depleted from 478 to a mere 200, they fixed bayonets and charged down the hill routing the men of the 15th Alabama led by Colonel Oates, taking twice their number in rebel prisoners, thus stymieing the Confederate push.
Oates, who saw his own brother die in the battle, would later write, “There never were harder fighters than the Twentieth Maine men and their gallant colonel” (The Leadership Moment, by Michael Useem).
Every year Useem takes his students from the Warton School’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, of which Useem is the director, to this historic site of the battle for Little Round Top to reflect on the lessons of leadership.
‘It’ – adversity – enables and emboldens. ‘It’ produces character. And character, wrote William Bennis, “is as vital in a leader as drive and competence. It is not enough for a leader to do things right; he must do the right thing” (On Becoming A Leader).
If we’re to grow, ‘it’ is the only way.