How many of us have not experienced the truth that sacrifice deepens our commitment, that shared challenge strengthens our attachment to each other?
Why is it that Marines feel a special bond — a commitment to each other — that transcends ethnicity, generations, genders, even nationality? Shared sacrifice builds Marines and their commitment to "Semper Fidelis" or "always faithful."
In addition to the Marines, shared sacrifice also strengthens relationships from marriage to organizational teams. Commitment through sacrifice also built our nation.
The Second Continental Congress appointed George Washington commander of all continental forces on June 15, 1775. He arrived in Cambridge, Mass., on July 2 and assumed command the next day. He set to work accumulating supplies and building up his meager army to fight what amounted to his fellow countrymen: his brother Englishmen comprising the manpower for the world’s greatest superpower of its time.
In time, he and his army sacrificing much, Washington would against all odds defeat this great superpower. America was spawned in sacrifice.
To a friend in New York, Washington wrote shortly after talking command, "In little time we shall work up these raw materials into good stuff." By "good stuff," he meant both men and material, both of which were necessary to be turned into "good stuff" if he had any hope of his fledgling army succeeding against the Red Coats. Through good leadership and shared sacrifice, he did just that.
I walked some of the earliest battlefields of the American Revolution two weeks ago, not far from where Washington first took command of the Continental Army and from which he wrote that raw materials (and men) could be turned into "good stuff." Washington understood the power of shared sacrifice turning raw material into "good stuff."
I visited the Revolutionary War battlefields while serving on the staff of the Department of Defense Executive Leadership Program. The ELDP, like Washington, uses the model of sacrifice to deepen commitment, of raw material being turned into "good stuff" through shared challenges. The two-week "core curriculum" portion of ELDP’s year-long training and deployment regimen is not easy. It is neither designed nor intended to be so.
I’ve written about the ELDP in the past regarding my experiences as a student. This last two weeks, rather than being a student, I was in Massachusetts serving as a team advisor. About 60 federal employees representing the defense, justice and state departments participated in this year’s challenging core training in Southbridge, Mass.
The primary learning objectives of ELDP’s core training are to help students understand themselves, communicate better, and learn how to build teams. ELDP accomplishes these objectives very well in a short period of time — like the Marines — through leadership experiences and instruction, shared sacrifice, and imposition of arduous challenges that deepen students’ commitment to each other and to their team.
Readers should take pride, as I do, in the commitment of the defense, justice and state departments, the military services, and other federal government agencies to build leadership among the ranks of its civilian leaders through their participation in the ELDP. It is this developed leadership that will help our government become more efficient, more effective and more capable. In an era of decreasing resources and increasing commitments, we can do — and should do — nothing less.
Upon returning from my ELDP duties, my first meal was a Chinese takeout supper. The emblematic fortune cookie was included in the paper sack that held the cardboard containers of fried rice and beef with broccoli. Along with the lucky numbers of 9, 27, 46, 30, 14 and 28, printed on the slip of paper inside the cookie was the following message: "TEAMS: Together Everyone Achieves More Success."
The author of that cookie’s message is right. And students of ELDP learn very quickly at their core curriculum training, reinforced by team and deployment experiences throughout the next year, how right that fortune cookie is. They learn, firsthand — by experiencing it — how teamwork can solve problems impossible to individuals.
Washington was quoted as saying, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
In other words, in a democracy like ours, government is a necessary evil that must be controlled. Good, sacrificial leadership, like that developed through the ELDP, will help control the force of government. It will help a smaller, servant U.S. government to be more effective with our increasingly diminishing resources. ELDP is one government program worth the price.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.