As a former POW in Vietnam, I know what it’s like to lose your freedom.
In this picture above, my comrades and I, all former prisoners-of-war in Vietnam, are celebrating freedom on a “Hanoi Taxi” from being released at Hanoi in 1972.
For more than five years, my comrades and I were locked in dark, dusty cells, with no contact with the outside world.
In fact, I never saw a sunrise or sunset for several years and only saw the stars or moon when I stole a glimpse above a blindfold during our night moves from one camp to another.
Naturally, freedom was something that I longed for and reflected on often and our heritage of freedom was a source of inspiration and optimism. We always believed that someday we would be free again.
Since freedom is such a fundamental blessing, it’s worth our reflection as we move toward Independence Day.
Remembering the Leaders of Freedom
Imagine the emotions and circumstances for the American leaders in 1776 who were voting to declare independence from the British Crown. That decision must’ve taken great courage and conviction since they knew they would have to face the strongest Army and Navy in the world.
So it is with true leaders, they see the vision, count the cost of not achieving it, and then pay the price to make it happen.
These representatives to the continental congress were not wild-eyed, impulsive and idealistic youth. They were well-educated farmers, businessmen, doctors, attorneys, and bankers; not the kind of folks you normally think of as the type to launch a rebellion.
But they did and it was such a success, that the world has never been the same.
Neither were their lives the same after signing the Declaration of Independence.
What we so easily overlook is the sacrifice they paid for this new freedom. Many of them lost their homes and all their wealth. Some lost their lives. So it is with true leaders, they see the vision, count the cost of not achieving it, and then pay the price to make it happen.
The Ongoing Price of Freedom
Then as now, freedom requires sacrifice. Though freedom sounds free and easy, it’s not. It isn’t easy or natural to be responsible and to work together to solve tough problems—whether in national politics, in the workplace, or in the home.
One of our greatest challenges to our freedom today is the problem of an uneducated/untrained workforce which correlates with school dropout rates and our prison population, the highest per capita of any country in the world. Ignorant and unqualified workers are not marketable in a knowledge world; and as that segment grows, it threatens our freedom.
Then as now, freedom requires sacrifice.
So as we celebrate our independence, let’s reflect on our interdependence.
- If our neighbors aren’t capable of being productive, self-sustaining citizens, what does that portend for our future?
- More importantly as leaders in our homes, work, and communities, what can each of us do to help solve this problem?
- More specifically where do you stand?
- What do you think about this threat to our freedom?
- What will be your contribution to addressing this problem?
As you kick back to enjoy the July 4th holiday, join me in thankful reflection on our freedom; but also be proactive and remember your responsibilities as a citizen (and remind younger generations, too).
Will we have the vision, the courage, and the commitment that they did?
Please share your support and comments on this important topic.
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Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
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His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.
Image Sources: revereslist.com, washingtonpost.com