A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

February 1999/March 1999

President's Message

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 VVA.

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 for.

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.

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