June 6th is one of those dates when so much history was made that it causes us to pause. The anniversary of D-Day is really the anniversary of the beginning of the American Century. American-led forces were tasked with the most difficult beaches to take in Normandy and then spearheaded the breakout into France and eventually into Germany. General Eisenhower had managed for two years to keep a coalition of allies united and focused on the goal of winning the war. He put out dozens of inter-Nicene fights, and he faced constant personal and professional attacks from politicians from half a dozen countries and the not infrequent back stabbing from his own allied staff. It was an historic display of real leadership – political as well as military. He managed it through his strength of character: determination, humility that put cause before ego, tireless work and a willingness to listen and change his mind. He famously wrote a letter in the event the invasion failed taking all the blame.
Eisenhower’s character remained in evidence even after he was elected President. On the anniversary of D-Day, President Eisenhower would retreat to Camp David and refuse media interviews because he said he wanted the credit for the victory to be focused on the men who fought and died on the beaches.
June 6this also the anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. He also had a strength of character that allowed him to be an historic leader. He had the same quality of humility as Eisenhower as well. A humility that allowed him to listen to opponents and to change his views that created a remarkable ability to make a difference. His courage was another attribute that he shared with Eisenhower and other historic leaders. He chose to deliver a speech in South Africa against Apartheid, and to face a crowd with people prepared to riot and announced the death of Martin Luther King Jr. He single handedly prevented a riot, showing the power of real leadership to make a difference.
Both men spent their entire adult lives serving the country – in the military and in politics. Both men proved their leadership by uniting people for a common purpose.
They are a remarkable contrast to the current President who shamefully displayed his lack of leadership on the front lawn of the White House yesterday. A man who dodged the draft to avoid service to the Country, using a fake reason to divide Americans and hiding behind the flag. He didn’t even know the words to “God Bless America”! A man who can never admit a mistake, let alone take responsibility for his actions, Trump is in may ways the anti-leader – a man who holds power by dividing people.
How would Ike and Bobby handled the day (other than never generate a fake controversy in the first place)? My guess is that they would have had a meeting with the players, listened to the concerns they had, solicit solutions for a way forward. Leaders unite people and solve problems.