Fleeting Legacy of Leadership
Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings. For he came from prison to be king, even though he was born poor in his kingdom. I saw all the living who move about under the sun follow a second youth who succeeds him. There is no limit to all the people who were before them, yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 4:13-16 (HCSB)
Which king does this passage focus on? Is it Solomon? I don’t think so, unless he is seen as the second youth. Was David, Solomon’s father, the king that rose from prison. An argument could be raised to that affect because of King Saul’s relentless pursuit of David. Whomever is pictured, this passage ponders how history will regard them after they are long gone.
There is little difference between kings of ancient realms and heads of state today. In our country, every four or eight years the mantle of leadership gets passed on to the next president. As soon as the former steps down we immediately begin to compare their term in office with the accomplishments and disappointments of other past presidents, and in short order with the new president as he (and someday, she) grasps the reins and directs the course of our country.
Initially, a rosy glow follows each past president for a period after they leave office, and it burns once again upon their passing for a spell. However, in time, the legacy of all our presidents winds up in volumes of books crowded amongst the previous volumes written about all the other past presidents, comparing the accomplishments and failures of each president. All written through the bias of time and the fickleness of ever-changing popular opinion.
It is interesting though, as important as their time in office, we relish as much curiosity upon their backgrounds, and how their upbringing and early struggles shaped their leadership legacy. We tend to connect best to the rare leader who arrives onto the national scene from common roots similar to our own. In recent history it has been harder and harder to find that kind of presidential candidate, but there have been several notables since World War II: Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Each of these rose from ordinary beginnings in poor or ordinary family situations. Clinton and Obama were raised in broken homes, which marked their personalities. People relate to common humble beginnings and the climbing of the ladder of leadership through a lifetime marked by hard work and uncanny grit to fulfill their destiny.
However, time takes its toll. Interest in their humble beginnings fades. History redacts our memories and only highlights remain as footnotes in the history books. In time, like the kings of ancient days, little more than another presidential bust or portrait remains identifying the growing line of former presidents, but most people will fail to even recall many of their names.
Whether from rich, ordinary or poor family backgrounds – God calls men and women to rise up as leaders for his greater purposes, and he holds each accountable for their time under the sun. Nothing has changed in all the millennium of kingdoms, nations and governments instituted by mankind. Monarchs, oligarchies, and presidents, whether elected or appointed, lead under God’s approval and the favor of the people they serve. From time to time as Thomas Jefferson pointed out in our nation’s Declaration of Independence, we remind ourselves that governments receives its authority to govern from those they govern. It is a cherished right whereby the value is derived by each of us relinquishing a portion of our freedom to protect our rights to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We may memorialize past presidents and write about them in history books, but only the current president can make a difference in the lives of the people. The only constant we can depend upon is God’s influence upon each leader after the voice of the people reveal his will. May we trust in God as the next president finds his or her place to guide our country.
Words of Wisdom #228-12EC