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Long Reads


What American Moral Leadership Should Look Like

At a time when so many American politicians have become a disgrace to their offices, it is easy to forget what real public service entails. The top leaders of past generations were guided not by ambition or self-preservation, but by duty to their country and those less fortunate than themselves.

NEW YORK – The United States today does not look much like former President Ronald Reagan’s description of a “shining city upon a hill.” Strategic thinking, moral clarity, accountability, integrity, and courage seem foreign concepts to President Donald Trump and many other current US leaders. So, it is a good time to reflect on the example of Americans who have actually lived up to the county’s ideals.

Consider a father-son duo who reshaped America’s military. Their story begins during World War II, in the Solomon Islands. Victor, a young Marine Corps officer, is wounded and bleeding through his uniform; he is aided by Jack, an equally young Navy officer who administers first aid. A grateful Victor promises that if he survives, he will bring Jack a good bottle of whiskey.

Years later, Victor Krulak has become a Marine Corps general, renowned for being instrumental in the creation of the Higgins boat – which helped turn the tide of WWII for the Allies in Europe – and for introducing the helicopter to modern warfare. He walks into the White House and shares a bottle of Three Feathers whiskey with Jack – that is, President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy intends to make Krulak a four-star general and Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Krulak’s wife is encouraged to buy an additional set of stars in preparation. But first, Kennedy must go to Dallas for a campaign stop. He never returns.

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