So now comes the real test of leadership.
We have had months of nasty, bitter, mudslinging, character-bashing campaigning between the Hatfields and McCoy’s. And now it is the morning after. It is time for healing, reconciliation, innovation and hope. More than anything else, Americans – and for that matter the rest of the world – are yearning for a revitalized leadership that inspires everyone – and diminishes no one.
On January 9, 1961, President-Elect John Kennedy used the phrase “city upon a hill” in a speech to the General Court of Massachusetts:
…I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. “We must always consider”, he said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us”. Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill — constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arbella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less fantastic than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required…
The same phrase is more often associated with President Ronald Reagan, who said in his farewell speech on January 11, 1989:
…I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still….
Two leaders, from different political hues, sharing the same dream for one great nation. This is our leadership moment – a moment when every one of us can become inspiring leaders committed to building a better world.
This is the morning after – and we only get one of these. How we choose to use it is our most important leadership decision.