|What It Takes To Defeat Terrorism
RELEASED: Oct. 10, 2001
Article published in the Oct. 10, 2001 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal
By John Roush, Centre president
They asked some good questions about what I describe as a person's "leadership fingerprint" that is, the combination of characteristics that make each leader unique and that every leader must learn to capitalize on to be successful. They were curious to know if President George W. Bush and his senior advisors "have what it takes" to provide effective leadership in this time of national crisis. Their questions were to the point their observations sincere.
While I am neither Republican nor Democrat, I advised them that I believe our President does, in fact, have what it takes to provide thoughtful, courageous, and informed leadership for the nation. He had already demonstrated a new commanding presence, surprising many of his critics, as he has taken on the challenge of eliminating global terrorism. Not possessed of a dazzling rhetorical style, he is evolving a plainspoken, to-the-point approach that seems suited to his particular leadership fingerprint. He has also shown commendable balance in appearing with Islamic leaders at mosques and in other settings, distinguishing them and their religion from the extremists who commit acts of terror against innocent civilians.
I then suggested to the students that an even more important question might be whether we, as citizens of this nation, "have what it takes." Do we have what will be required to be successful in a campaign against a threat unlike any other conflict America has faced? (Even in World War II we did not sustain an attack of this magnitude on our mainland, and we knew precisely who our enemies were and where to find them.) Do we have the patience and determination to settle in for the long haul in a situation where a definitive, clear-cut victory may prove elusive? Do we have the toughness to make sacrifices in our level of comfort, convenience, and our accustomed way of doing things? Do we have the strength to resist the temptation to judge people by the color of their skin, the manner of their dress, their religious choice, their nation of origin? Do we have the ability to be steadfast in the face of setbacks that well may involve further American casualties?
I believe the answer to these questions is yes: We can achieve this kind of balance and resolve, a "rational patriotism" that will enable us to live up to our ideals of fairness and religious and ethnic tolerance, while acting with the dedication and courage necessary to defeat terrorism.
I also believe that one of the highest functions of educational leadership is to provide young people with a context of relevant knowledge across a range of disciplines history, religion, government, international studies, anthropology, for example. In this instance, such study will provide context on the historical events that have given rise to terrorism, the nature and variety of the Islamic faith, possibilities for international coalitions, the political structure and cultural practices of nations that harbor terrorists, and many other areas. This kind of breadth will give our students what it takes to grasp fully the momentous events of their time, and it will set the unprecedented achievements of this nation dedication to religious freedom, widespread economic opportunity, massive aid to many of our former adversaries after World War II, to name only a few in sharp relief.
If we educate in this matter we will guide the coming generation away from both reflexive, America-bashing cynicism and blind nationalism. We will help them develop a depth of understanding and a dedication to the empowering principles of freedom that will enable us to win the campaign against terrorism in a way consistent with the values that have made America great.
In a few short years, a new generation, including those I spoke to in Connecticut, will take their place in the world profoundly affected by the decisions made today and in the days and weeks ahead by our leaders. The planet will be a different place for them, and for us. In each generation, we turn to our leaders to guide and inspire us to give us what it takes to meet a series of ever-changing challenges. We must model for these young people, and give them the knowledge to develop for themselves, a rational patriotism that embodies the ideals of America and demonstrates why they are worthy of the sacrifices necessary to preserve them.
- end -
600 W. Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422