Don#039;t leave leadership at the door

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 29, 2002

When I was a boy, my parents would take me and my brother and sister to a place near Chattanooga, Tenn. called Rock City. Although they left the impression that they were &uot;doing this for the children&uot;, it seemed to me that they enjoyed Rock City as much as we did.

It has been more than 40 years since I was last at Rock City, but I still recall the memories of those wonderful family trips.

There were many parts of Rock City that I liked but I particularly remember an old country store that had an unusual engraving across the front overhang of the building. It read, &uot;if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.&uot;

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This is an unusual lead in to what I want to share with you in my column this week. My general topic is &uot;leadership&uot;, and I think you will see how this little story ties into this subject.

I had the opportunity this weekend of spending some time at Troy State University in Troy where Dr. Shirley Woodie hosted the opening session for a leadership series which I have been privileged to have some small role in for the past couple of years.

TSU Chancellor Jack Hawkins and I addressed the invitees who were from some 40 high schools in south central and southeast Alabama. These students were chosen for their records of service in their respective schools. So most, if not all, of them came to the leadership conference with a high degree of skills and a personal interest in public service.

Dr. Hawkins did his usual fine job of addressing these students on the subject of leadership and the vision of the fine institution he leads. I have worked with Dr. Hawkins for many years now in my role as state senator representing Pike County, the home of the TSU mothership, and I have been impressed with his outstanding leadership skills that are so visible as he carries out his role as chancellor of a multi-faceted university system.

Dr. Hawkins is one of those people who is always thinking &uot;outside of the box&uot;, which was the text of my brief remarks to the students gathered for the orientation session. As I told the students, I feel we have a leadership gap in the great State of Alabama. We need more elected officials in higher office who make bold decisions in the interest of our citizens and do so without regard to how it will adversely impact their own political careers.

One of the great statements that makes this point, in my opinion, was contained in an address by Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, on February 12, 1909, in Chicago, Ill. He stated &uot;A great nation is not led by a man who simply repeats the talk of the street corners or the opinions of the newspapers. A nation is led by a man who hears more than those things; or who, rather hearing those things, understands them better, unites them, puts them into a common meaning; speaks, not the rumors of the street, but a new principle for a new age; a man in whose ears the voices of the nation do not sound like the accidental and discordant notes that come from the voice of a mob, but concurrent and concordant like the united voices of a chorus, whose many meanings, spoken by melodious tongues, unite in his understanding in a single meaning and reveal to him a single vision, so that he can speak what no man else knows, the common meaning of the common voice. Such is the man who leads a great, free, democratic nation.&uot;

The attitude represented by the Rock City sign, &uot;if we don’t have it, you don’t need it&uot;, says to me that we should be satisfied with where we are and we should accept the status quo. This leaves no room for vision, it leaves no room for true leadership, and it does not depict the person described by Woodrow Wilson in his great address almost 100 years ago.

I am proud to have some small part in joining with Troy State University to promote the leadership skills of our young people who are truly the leaders of tomorrow.

Until next week, remember &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government. Please call on me if you feel I can be of service in any way.