Leading in Remembrance


Welcome back to the world of work after your Memorial Day celebration. From time to time being the “First Gentleman” offers some extraordinary experiences. One of those is attending the Governor’s “Families of the Fallen” gathering on the weekend before Memorial Day. This year about 50 families came to the residence for breakfast on Thursday to remember their lost loved ones and to find solace in their shared experience.

Perhaps there has never been a war that was without controversy. But it is certainly true in the age of the modern media, and with full exposure of the decisions made by governmental leaders, that wars will be questioned. The terrible miscalculations and the immoral misrepresentations have certainly made this so in the war in Iraq. Some of the family members who gathered here last week might think that these lines are cruel, or worse that they undermine the supreme value of the sacrifice their young men laid down. But I mean to exalt, not diminish their sacrifice.

We all live lives filled with moral uncertainty. We pursue goals that seem valuable, but it is never clear we are entirely on track, and we are always making sacrifices and judgment calls: family versus work, speed versus thoroughness, justice versus mercy, skepticism versus faith. What is awesome about the fallen heroes is that they signed up to serve, knowing the great risks involved, and then gave up everything, quite literally everything. And there was never a guarantee of certainty.

The most fervent desire of the families I spoke with last week was that their sons not be forgotten. So perhaps today when you pursue with total commitment something that you’re not entirely sure of, or for which you think others will criticize you, remember those who gave everything. They believed in principles and in country. Each one of us — especially those of us who are working to make a whole new Michigan — may feel small, a petty part, and even unsure of the value of the things we do. At such times, we ought to remember the fallen and the families that grieve for them, and do with total commitment that which we believe needs to be done.

Do that and you will . . .

Lead with your best self,