Commentary by Col. Jerry Wizda
39th Medical Group commander
4/26/2013 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AFNS) -- Short
in stature at 5 feet 4 inches, not particularly handsome, a bookworm
and not exactly the life of the party, James Madison does not fit some
perceptions of a leader.
In today's world, he probably would have been perceived as a nerd. But,
his brilliant mind and leadership skills now have historians
re-embracing Madison's presidency and his leadership.
President Madison is best known as "The Father of the Constitution." He
was a delegate, unequaled in his writing abilities, who kept written
documentation at every secret Constitutional Convention's meeting.
Later, his Virginia Plan became the basis for our Constitution. What
most people do not remember is President Madison's equally successful
presidency, when he led an infant nation against the greatest naval
power in the world and won. The War of 1812 remains "The Forgotten War."
Many do not realize it was through President Madison's leadership the
U.S. escaped becoming, once again, subjects of Great Britain.
So what personal attributes made this man an unlikely leader, and what
can you take from the story of President Madison and apply to today's
world to make you a leader?
First, always believe in yourself and never doubt your abilities. This
is probably the hardest perception to embrace. Each day when President
Madison went to the Constitutional Convention meetings, he stood up and
rallied for a democratic government with election of congressmen
directly by the people. He wrote the Federalist Papers with John Jay and
Alexander Hamilton; documents considered to be the best interpretation
of American government, even in present times. He truly embraced his
ideals, and this spurred him to speak and write what was in his heart.
His conviction to his ideals gave us the great nation we have today. At
work, strive to be the best you can be. Work from your heart. If you
give already 100 percent, strive to give 110 percent.
Secondly, stay true to yourself and stand by your convictions. After
President Madison asked Congress to declare war on Great Britain June 1,
1812, riots began because of the decision. Talk of succession in New
England ran rampant. But, President Madison stayed true to his belief in
freedom for America. And, despite opposition to the war, he stood his
ground. He said, "If we lose, we lose independence." People will
perceive you as a leader if you stick to your beliefs and do not go back
and forth on your ideals. Even those who do not agree with you will
respect you for your steadfast loyalty and convictions.
Lastly, know when to stay and know when to run. Even the best leaders
must give up the fight at some point for the sake of their people. On
August 24, 1814, President Madison and Congress fled Washington on
horseback as the British advanced on the city. While it may have been
perceived as cowardly to run, fleeing the city was the only choice
President Madison had.
If he had a chosen to stay and ordered Congress to stay, they would have
been captured or killed. Merely three days after fleeing, President
Madison returned to Washington, rallied the citizens, and connected with
the people like he never had before. President Madison rallied Congress
and met in a post office, the only building left standing. He began the
work of the government from scratch and turned the tide of war. Think
carefully about your decisions and of the consequences down the road. Is
the fight worth it?
Not all of us will become president, but each in our own way, can be a
successful leader. Every day we make decisions that affect our families,
the Air Force and its Airmen, and our country. Many of these decisions
are simple, and many can be life-altering. If we embrace the lessons of
our forefathers, we are sure to become successful Airmen and leaders in
our own right.