Renegade Leader

Senator John McCain - Picture: wikicommons/flickr

Senator John McCain - Picture: wikicommons/flickr

In so many ways, I am typical to the scene around me.  If you look at me, I dress the same, eat the same, and workout the same as the collective of people in my geographic area. As human beings we tend to try and fit in, to match our surroundings,  we are consciously and unconsciously influenced by our experiences that are most often with people more like us.  I find myself running in circles of volleyball moms, moms of teenagers, people of above average financial means living in one of the most expensive areas of the country to live. But, I am self reflective, and find myself drawn to independent spirits who aren’t afraid to buck the status quo. My creative mind has always been there with ideas and theories that weren’t always mainstream, but, up until now, I just haven’t had the courage to act on them. What this has taught me is that when our thoughts and our actions don’t line up, it creates discontent in our hearts. Over some time, I have learned to identify the feeling of discontent and wrestle with it in a way that somehow shows me new opportunity and teaches me to fight off cynicism with action. I’ve learned that to become something different than one who just accepts and runs with the pack, we have to challenge our beliefs, and critically think and ask why about 100 times a day.  What do I really think? Is it worth breaking the mold? Who do I trust for advice? What will the feedback be, what motivates that feedback and how much will I let it influence my thoughts and choices?  Each of us gets to answer those questions based on our own unique experience, there is not one right answer, but there is a feeling of contentment that comes when we get the answer right for ourselves. As humans, we want a tribe, we want to be part of a collective, but we also each have a burning desire to stand out, to let the world know what we are about. That takes courage and a decision to find where our “happy medium” is that creates the most life satisfaction and impact in our own life and for the world. It's not a balance that is easy to strike. 

 

I had the great honor last weekend to attend the Memorial Service for US Senator John MCain at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. To say that standing with a crowd of thousands, tears streaming, with that incredible backdrop, and sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a moment in my life that I will never forget is an understatement.  I had the opportunity to be there because of the legacy of leadership and hard work that came before and beside me.  I was raised in a quietly patriotic family where the example was set not as much by the words spoken but by the actions taken. From the time I was seven until I was 20 my dad served in the California State Assembly and as California Secretary of State.  He taught my sister and I, through his example, how to lead with virtue and humility and he attracted the friendship of other leaders with similar values throughout his career.  One of the greatest among these was Senator McCain.  My sister went on to work on both his 2000 and 2008 Presidential Campaigns, as well as serve in his Press office on Capitol Hill, and over those years and through countless hours of intense work, she built a strong bond with one of the greatest leaders of this century. When he passed away on August 25, as a country, we mourned the loss of a great American hero, but my parents and sister mourned the loss of a friend with whom they shared pivotal moments of American history that are part of the fabric of our country and had great impacts on my family. When she texted Wednesday night asking me if I wanted to join her at his memorial service in Washington D.C.,  there was no hesitation in my answer. 

Reflecting on what I took in there has been a challenge, there is so much depth and connection and so many spot on words spoken so eloquently by leaders on the world stage and those who shared their days with Senator McCain.  What was communicated in the tributes given by Senator McCain’s daughter Meghan, his close friend Senator Joe Lieberman, Secretary Kissinger, President Bush & President Obama was a moving oratory of the roles played in a lifetime, that no matter the action necessary to fulfill the role, it was evident through their words that Senator McCain played each role true to his character. Their words spoke to the effect his leadership played on a world stage and in the life of a family.  I began to think what an honor it is for a single life to have significant impact on both a micro and macro level.  To leave the world better off because you were there, as well as the individuals that you share life with stronger in their own position takes takes consistency of values forged under pressure over a lifetime.  Some may say that its easier because he was a Senator, or was born into a position of privilege, having had generations of leaders in his family come before him but no matter our position in life, everyday, we are all creating a legacy.  What we do matters to the next generation, just as the generations that came before John McCain influenced the decisions and habits that created a great American hero. The people who helped shape him, influenced a man that who spent over 5 years being tortured as prisoner of war, and then in that same lifetime work to restore normalized relations with that same country. They helped shape the mentality of a warrior who understood forgiveness and the importance of dodging a cynical outlook on life as key factors in a life well lived. His life helped us see that the life choices we make are bigger than us…they have far reaching impacts on the character of the generation that comes after us.  We choose whether to carry this fact as a burden or an honor.  The greats, the ones who leave their imprint on our history, accept the challenge and stand their ground with honor.  They shake up the status quo with their radical way of thinking  and they show us how to live with courage, conviction and confidence…thank you for the example Senator McCain. You left your mark on the world, on my family, and even with all of the power you held on the world stage, most importantly on your own family and for that, we are forever grateful.