When asked what he would do now, the reply came: “The thing that I could probably do, uniquely, is work to train the next generation of leaders to bring about change.” These are the words of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. After leaving the White House, he spoke with David Letterman in a most candid and telling interview aired on Netflix. I watched this interview with intent, knowing deep inside me, this is by far the most compelling of goals I have developed over the past 20 years as a school administrator and the past thirty-eight and a half years as a teacher. Is there any reason why all students cannot develop leadership skills? I don’t know a single reason. Regardless of age, race, social-economic status, gender or intelligence, I believe all of us are called to ‘lead’. I also believe leadership can be learned starting around age four, and must continue to be learned until we have spent our lives serving the goals of our countries and world.
When I think of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey) and the power of the Leader In Me Program, I am struck how simple and important teaching leadership skills to students really is. Students equipped with the skills they need to lead, truly can make the difference in their families, communities, provinces, states, country and now in the world. I want to continue to be part of this leading and learning process. I want to see these skills in my own grandchildren. I want my grandchildren to ‘find their voice’ and have opinions about what is going on in their lives and in the world. I also want them to heed the words of Jesus: Do not be afraid.
Given the current political climate, I am deeply concerned about the lack of effective leadership, especially in those countries where the first response seems to be that of a spoilt child wanting to take his toys and go home. My only hope rests with educators in schools who know their mission: we celebrate each other and grow as a community of lifelong learners, leaders and followers of Jesus.