One of America's most famous landmarks is Mount Rushmore, a testament to four of the nation's most renowned presidents. What made them great leaders? We live in a world suffering greatly from a crisis in leadership, so in this issue we examine what makes a true leader.
As the nation's first president, George Washington was a remarkable figure. As a young man of 20, he wrote his own book of prayers expressing his faith and devotion to God. He turned down the offer to become king of the new nation, wanting to see the nation carry through its experiment in forming a new kind of government and not repeat the mistakes of so many monarchies.
He viewed God and His Word as indispensible to carrying out his office, saying, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" (quoted by William Federer, America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations , 2000, p. 660).
A second figure on Mount Rushmore is Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, which reads: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
In his second inaugural address in 1805, he declared: "I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessities and comforts of life, who has covered our infancy with His Providence . . . and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications" (ibid. p. 327).
Abraham Lincoln, America's 16th president, also holds a place of honor on Mount Rushmore. Known as "Honest Abe," he once wrote: "I believe the Bible is the best gift God has given to man. All the good Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this Book" (ibid., p. 338).
Even though most of his presidency was consumed in a bitter civil war, he instituted the first annual national day of thanksgiving to God, which has been celebrated ever since as Thanksgiving Day. Sadly, Lincoln was assassinated not long after beginning his second term. His widow later recalled that at the very moment he was shot, he was telling her how much he "wanted to visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footprints of the Saviour" (ibid., p. 391).
The last of the four presidents on Mount Rushmore is the nation's 26th, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt. Like the others cited above, he held God's Word in high regard, saying, "A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education" (ibid., p. 540).
In his second inaugural address in 1905 he said, "No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us" (ibid.).
What can we learn from such men? A great deal. We live in a world suffering greatly from a crisis in leadership, so in this issue we examine what makes a true leader. When we consider the traits of great leaders such as these, we see that a common denominator is their humility and a heart of service to others arising from a deep respect for God and His Word. Sadly, much of the world has forgotten (or never known) that this lies at the heart of true leadership!