"The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'"
"The Constitution does not just protect those whose views we share; it also protects those with whose views we disagree."
"You may read from time to time the voice of small radical groups. But this voice will not change the fact that mainstream Indonesia will continue to be moderate, tolerant and democratic."
- Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
"We cannot turn the clock back nor can we undo the harm caused, but we have the power to determine the future and to ensure that what happened never happens again."
- Paul Kagame
- Michelle Obama
"“Preventive vaccines have ended or helped control the most deadly infectious diseases known to man. Finding a vaccine to stop the spread of the HIV virus must be a global priority."
- Seth Berkley
All of these people are leaders. They have done incredible things for the world--things like helping to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, restoring peace to Rwanda, and being a voice for those less fortunate or able.
Great leadership takes great courage, hope, strength, responsibility, and integrity. There are hundreds and thousands of people who do great things for this world. Leaders come from all walks of life and all circumstances. They do things like run governments, lead huge movements, develop astounding technology, and own enormous businesses. But leaders also do things like tutor children who struggle in math after school hours, volunteer at local soup kitchens and nursing homes, write to their representatives about their concerns, and make thanksgiving and christmas dinners for handicapped friends.
Leaders are great and may be rich or famous or unbelievably intelligent, but they are also wealthy without money, famous without world renown, and intelligent without the best that education can offer.
Mother Teresa said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." Maybe individually we can't make a huge difference in the issues we are passionate about. Maybe individually we can't stop the wars that carry on throughout the world--or the wars that our own country are waging. Maybe individually we can't feed the millions of people who starve every day or quench the thirst of the millions of people who have no clean water to drink. But if, individually, we can't do this great things that seem vast and complex beyond our comparisons, then we can at least spread the word to others about the issues we are passionate about, promote peace to others about the wars of the world and of our country, and feed or quench the thirst of at least one person who is hungry and thirsty.
There are so many ways that people can become great leaders, and it always starts small.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia to a Reverend and his wife. He worked hard to educate himself and relied on his friends and family to help him achieve success. He relied on supporters during his activism. He took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves to him instead of letting them pass by.
Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, NY to her mother and father, who were middle class, average Americans in the late 1890s. She strongly supported women's rights, pacifism, and equality for all. She made a difference in the lives of thousands despite the fact that she began relying completely upon herself with no monetary help from her parents and struggled to raise a child (Tamar) throughout it all.
The "Unknown Rebel" who, at Tiananmen Square in June of 1989 during Tiananmen Protests in China, stood before a line of 17 tanks to block their path is an iconic figure who represents courage and heroism to millions. Little to nothing is known about this man, or whether he is still alive, but he is surely an unknown leader who symbolizes the Everyman and gave hope to watchers.
These people could just have easily led lives where they chose not to do the courageous things that they did. They could have made decisions to lead quiet lives, hidden from the eyes of the public. But instead they stood up for what they believed in. They spoke up and found people to rely on and support them. It's certainly not easy to do the things that MLK, Jr., Dorothy Day, or the "Unknown Rebel" did. It's not easy to do things that Jesus of Nazareth, The Dalai Lama, Christine Lagarde, Nelson Mandela, or Gordon Brown did and still do.
However, taking small steps and again, as Mother Teresa said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love," and that is how great leaders are made. They begin by doing small things with great love.