I grew up in a world of great leaders. Unfortunately, most of them were murdered.
My favorite President was John Kennedy. As a student in high school, I remember hearing him speak and feeling uplifted, inspired, and optimistic about the future of the United States and the world. My mom and dad were so moved by President Kennedy, they left their jobs, took cuts in pay, and volunteered for President F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps. Although our family struggled financially, our days in the Peace Corps were the happiest days for the family. We felt we were working for a noble cause and a brighter future for the world.
President Kennedy’s assassination was followed by the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and John Lennon. Although the investigations reported the killer was a “lone gunmen” without affiliations to larger organizations, I have a problem swallowing the story. Each leader was more than a leader. Each man threatened the “status quo” of established organizations. Each leader was technically a “terrorist.”
President Kennedy was a terrorist to anyone who was a racial bigot.
When John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, African Americans throughout much of the South were denied the right to vote, barred from public facilities, subjected to insults and violence, and could not expect justice from the courts. In the North, black Americans also faced discrimination in housing, employment, education, and many other areas. But the civil rights movement had made important progress, and change was on the way. Under President Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement made tremendous progress.
After his murder in 1963, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. This piece of legislation outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, in the workplace, and by facilities that served the general public, public accommodations such as restrooms and drinking fountains.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a terrorist to racial bigots. When he spoke of little white girls and little black boys, I believed he signed his death warrant. When he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the greatest orations in history, he sealed his fate. The following is an excerpt of his speech—little more than a group of words—which I am certain terrorized bigots all over the world:
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
The idea of little black boys and girls joining hands with little white boys and girls was a thought that many believed had gone too far. We know what those people are called.
The people who killed Kennedy and King are the same people who killed Lincoln.
Robert Kennedy was a terrorist to Fidel Castro, the Mafia, and the Teamsters Union. If you watch film footage of him publically taking on Jimmy Hoffa, one of the toughest union leaders in modern history, it was obvious to many that Bobby Kennedy was a dead man.
John Lennon was a terrorist to organized religion. He signed his death warrant when he sang Imagine:
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
It took tremendous courage to speak those words, the words of a terrorist against organized religion.
On December 6, 2013, the last great leader passed away. How Nelson Mandela avoided being murdered is beyond miraculous. No one had to call him a terrorist. He called himself a terrorist to anyone who believed in apartheid. How he brought black and white South Africans together, without being murdered, is a testament to his leadership.
Many in the United States believed he was a terrorist, even after he was released from prison and became the President of South Africa. It was only recently that his name was finally taken off the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list.
In the summer of 2013, I was in Johannesburg, South Africa speaking to a group of 5,000, a group that consisted of both black and whites. Since Nelson Mandela was in his final days, I took the time to publically thank him from the stage. I thanked him for being a new type of leader, and a role model for us all. While most of us will probably never reach his stature, or take on such a formidable foe—the foe of apartheid—we can all strive to be more like him.
In my opinion, Nelson Mandela is the last of the great leaders. Rather than despair over the lack of great leaders, I believe his passing is a message to us all. The passing of a leader means that we all need to step up and dare to become greater leaders ourselves.
As some of you know, I take on the educational system, a system largely void of financial education. When you step back and look at the financial crisis the world is facing, much of that crisis is due to leaders who have limited, if any, financial education, and who do not have the courage to stand up to the banking cartel that runs the world. The last Presidential candidate to take on the banking cartel was Congressman Ron Paul, author of End the Fed. Although he did not get elected, he inspired millions to carry on the fight.
In closing, my question is: “Do you have a cause worth risking your life for?”
The moment you step forward and pick up the banner for a cause that moves your spirit, you begin growing as a leader.