Leaders: The Price and Responsibilities of Freedom

Lee Ellis Ride Home

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.

American POWs

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.

We The People

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). 

We are the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Adams, and Franklins of our time. 

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
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Sources: revereslist.com, washingtonpost.com

4 responses to “Leaders: The Price and Responsibilities of Freedom

  1. I agree with you. I admire yours and your friends contribution to the fight for freedom.
    However, it is just that the longing for freedom is not bound by nations, race or geography. I think we are many people seeking freedom. Modern leadership theories give some hope for the future. Written on a night when politics showed of in front of such simple things as constitution. To support my statements I will attempt to translate a poem from a certain bishop Brask in the 13 th century.
    Freedomis the best to be found
    Searching all the world around . . .
    That is what we want.


  2. Lee:

    While I agree with much of what you say here, there are few big differences between then and now. Back then Great Britain with it’s onerous taxation, political treatment of the “colonies”, and lack of political integration of what became the US – became a single, easily identifiable demon in the emerging American psyche.

    Unlike then, the crisis you outline is not easily, nor singularly identifiable to the “common man.” Yes – I agree education and skills growth are important to us all. Why because they underpin national and individual sense of self-worth, strength, independence, and the ability to compete.

    My sense is that the trend you identify symbolizes something bigger; growing segments of our population and their loss of hope or belief in our common future. Why learn, why change, when the future looks bleak; the job disappear and all rewards seem to go to fewer and fewer?

    Loss of hope and faith in our national future is debilitating to us all.

    As we ponder the questions you pose for us, each of us should focus on ensuring that our answers, our actions, our interactions and our spirit conveys hope, faith and pride in our future as a nation and a society.

    That through our individual actions we do justice to the Grand Experiment started by those self-sacrificing patriots so many years ago.

    (Of course the Canadians — who didn’t “rebel”, might, in light of Canada’s international position on so many metrics – offer a great counterargument? Happy Canada Day! 😉 )


  3. Pingback: Celebrating Freedom | kateschannel·

  4. Pingback: The Price of Freedom: Americans at War « I Love History…and Research·

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