Fourscore and Several Priorities Later…
Live to Work…Not Work to Live
“Work can provide [a] purpose and is increasingly it is where men and women seek it. It is where we hope to gain much of our satisfaction from life. Work has become a place where we seek meaning and identity” (Kouzes 158).
After reading that paragraph for the third time and seeing the sad statistic stating “…50 percent of the U.S. managers surveyed said that their careers gave them the most satisfaction in life…” (Kouzes 158) I could only shake my head in disbelief. Expecting to see this fact attached to a study declaring that the rate of divorce is directly proportional to the higher one climbs in the business world – I read on.
Lincoln’s Draft of the Gettysburg Address
“…family was almost as important as work…” (Kouzes 158). WHEW! That must almost provide some security to 50 percent of the families of these misguided business persons. Does making work a higher priority than your family make you a leader? To be fair to James Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s article “Enlist Others: Attracting People to Common Purposes” I must make it clear that half of Americans said they received more satisfaction from their career than family, not that their work was a higher priority, but, nonetheless, the results of this survey are, or should be, alarming.
To be successful in any endeavor, work, sport, family – taking joy in that effort goes a long way to ensure success, but when work comes first all-around personal success, including happiness, is usually short-lived.
“Four score and seven years ago…” Those words, spoken by President Abraham Lincoln are among the most famous words in American history and the 278 words that comprise “The Gettysburg Address” are regarded as a model of written and verbal communication for their brevity, directness, and clarity.
Lincoln was not scheduled to be the main speaker that day, November 19, 1863, but his short address outshone and outlasted that of the Honorable Edward Everett. Everett’s seldom-read flowery 13,607 word (two-hour) speech preceded Lincoln’s and began:
“Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature.”
Those souls still awake two-hours later were then treated to Lincoln’s heartfelt message.
Lincoln’s speech, along with its literary merits, stands as a model of leadership. He gives credit, taking none himself, to the “…brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract” (Lincoln 153). Would-be leaders take note – when speaking to those you lead say what you have to say (succinctly) and then stop talking. The intended message often gets lost in the mass (or perhaps, mess) of words. Slick words turn most of us off. We have been “paradigmed, moved outside our boxes, realigned, and reorganized, until our customer-focused, principle-centered, performance-based, envelope-pushing bodies can’t take any more.” Lincoln said more in his 270-plus words than many people we know have said in their leader-pretending lives.
Leadership is more living a philosophy than merely speaking one. Lincoln obviously brought credibility along with his speech; integrity precedes words. Lincoln said “…the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…” (Lincoln 153). He never knew the impact those words would have even 144 years later. They prove that simple, though heartfelt, words can move people. What we say can have far-reaching effect, good or bad, long past the moment they are spoken and heard.
The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Kouzes, James M. and Barry Z. Posner. “Enlist Others: Attracting People to Common Purposes.” Leadership Development Studies. Ed. Monika S. Byrd. Mississippi: Phi Theta Kappa, 2006. 158.
Lincoln, Abraham. “The Gettysburg Address.” Leadership Development Studies. Ed. Monika S. Byrd. Mississippi: Phi Theta Kappa, 2006. 153.
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