Monday, January 3, 2011

The Need for Courage

In response to a corrupt plan to protect the Virginia speaker of the house for making personal loans with public money, Patrick Henry (then a brand new legislator) harked:   “What, sir? It is proposed then to reclaim the spendthrift from his dissipation and extravagance by filling his pockets with money?”  Henry has a great deal to teach us.

In particular, at the time, Henry's questioning was an affront to the elites of Virginia.  The speaker had made loans from the public treasury to his political allies in the House.  When losses mounted, they decided to create a public loan office to bail out the speaker.  Most would simply have looked the other way, but Henry would have none of it.

His effort failed, but Henry's bold questioning of the top political and social leader of his state not only gained Henry great allies, but it established his reputation as a courageous leader who put the public good first.  Later, Henry would would be the first to challenge the Stamp Act (i.e., taxation without representation), which eventually led to the American Revolution.

This is the leadership we need today.

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