February 1999/March 1999
On Leadership And Civility
I am a firm believer that to enliven discussion and bring resolution to
any debate, there is a need for someone to step up and lead.
Vietnam Veterans of America, in fact, was built on a solid foundation
of leadership, something that has been a hallmark of the organization during
more than twenty years of outspoken advocacy for Vietnam-era veterans and
their families. The best indication of how well individuals will
perform in the future is to examine their pasts. By that measure,
this organization-which is made up of individuals-has a challenging future.
Leadership and the willingness to make difficult decisions and take
unpopular positions have become our greatest assets. VVA, you might
say, is leadership defined. But definitions establish boundaries.
And just what are the boundaries of Leadership?
Leadership means standing on principles, principles that have become
part of our organizational culture. It is not enough to take a position
against something; that's simply not the right thing to do. We have
to take a position in favor of something, and that takes courage.
Courage is taking control of life and recognizing that conducting our
lives with civility and courtesy is crucial in determining the success
or failure of our leadership. If we are unwilling to conduct our
business in a respectful manner, we show that we are unwilling to fulfill
our responsibilities to lead. Incivility has become a foul presence
in our live. We must make an effort to excise this malignancy from
Only then will we be able to focus our energies on the real problems
we face. Only wen we set aside petty differences and pool our energies
to work for the common good will we be able to close this century and begin
the new one with a renewed sense of dedication to the things that VVA stands
Our generation of veterans has been confronted with enormous obstacles-first
in Vietnam and then after we came home. In Vietnam, we learned that
we needed to work in harmony with our buddies in order to succeed in some
tough missions. When we came home, we faced a government system that
failed miserably to keep its promise to the nation's veterans. we
used the ability to work in harmony that we learned in Vietnam to prevail
on Capitol Hill and win some of the big legislative battles of our time.
We also learned another important lesson in Vietnam: identify the enemy.
We need to do that today as we continue to fight for the rights of Vietnam-era
veterans and their families. If we don't challenge ourselves to focus
on the real problems confronting us, we will not succeed.
The obligations of leadership demand that we inspire and direct a course
of action that assures our membership that our decisions are the product
of thorough debate and that we treat all views with respect. Your
elected leaders work for you. We are obligated to work in an atmosphere
in which debate and discussion are not merely tolerated but encouraged.
In short, I am talking about responsible leadership. That's what
VVA is all about.
E-mail us at email@example.com