Snoopy, the wisest of canines, mused, "It's tough being lead beagle!" And, so it is.
Leadership may be the most desired position in the world, and the most decorated, but it's also the most difficult.
To the faint of heart, leadership is a role to be avoided. Unqualified candidates fill history's litterbins. But to those who get the nod, leadership is a mandate. It's a call that can't be ignored. And those who willingly and sacrificially grab the baton are a unique breed.
Case in point: a handful of American zealots. Two hundred and thirty eight years ago, this enterprising group, known as the Continental Congress, offered a perfect blend of leadership skills, patriotic endorphins, and an enormous wish: to right a great wrong.
King George III had all but put the colonists out of business. But these American corkers refused to be the king's royal punching bag. They responded by sending a list of ten specific demands to the monarch. They wanted some serious changes, and they wanted them now.
The hard-nosed George scoffed at the colonist's protests.
First, he trashed their list. Then he hired 18,000 Hessian thugs to invade our shores to teach the revolutionary upstarts a lesson. Intimidation by force was the king's leadership MO; servitude was George's idea of freedom. After all, we were "…inferior subjects of the Crown."
But the servants stood strong. The butler fought back.
Leadership has always served best when in the minority. An outnumbered leader never losses focus; every word is intentional, and every activity is purposeful. Protocol gives way to urgency. Political correctness takes a leave of absence.
Under duress, the colonial leadership determined that a second letter be sent to the British monarch, but this time there would be no negotiations. The ten demands were reduced to only one: The Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, 1776, the document was unanimously approved, and four days later, in Philadelphia, the Declaration was read in public for the very first time. Local church bells rang for the rest of the day.
Soon, copies of the Declaration were circulated throughout the colonies. It was published in every newspaper and read in every town square. Spontaneous celebrations erupted. Liberation parties were the order of the day. Main streets were transformed into parade grounds. Makeshift American flags popped up everywhere.
One group of enthusiastic New Yorkers even toppled a lead statue of King George and shipped it to a munitions factory to be melted down and made into thousands of bullets.
America was the original mouse that roared!
People will respond if/when leadership casts a promising vision. Our nation's parents had waited a long time to hear that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" were indeed their rights, "endowed by their Creator."
But leadership isn't all church bells and cheering crowds. Leadership has its price tag, too. Sacrifice is a staple of the job, as evidenced by the final line of America's most precious document, which reads, "For the support of this Declaration … we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Then fifty-six gutsy Americans inked their names and sent it to the king.
For the next seven long and costly revolutionary years all fifty-six signers were marked-targets. Each was named on King George's Most Wanted List. They were hunted as traitors to the Crown. The bounty on them was high. They were chased from one hideout to another. Some lost their homes and fortunes. Some lost their lives.
But not one lost his sacred honor.
There's nothing cheap about leadership. The Declaration of Independence—and those who gave everything to defend it—is solid proof. And today, you and I are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices made on our behalf.
Happy birthday, America.