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Donald T. Phillips: The Founding Fathers on Leadership,Warner Books 1998

Donald T. Phillips: The Founding Fathers on Leadership,Warner Books 1998


One of the most inspiring books I have read. I read the book casually in 1999 and was impressed by some of the observations on Washington. Coming back to the book now and reading through it carefully, I am struck by the strenghts of the diverse individual characters that lead the American indepence struggle. Washington, Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin particularly stand out, as well as the writer Thomas Paine.   

The book is written as a condence, thrilling account of the America's fight for indepence with the key events being displayed through the key individual involved. From the actions of these huge historial events key leadership lessons are drawn perpectibly.

It took Thomas Jefferson  at 33 years of age two weeks to draft the Declaration of Indepence. The document starts with the words which Martin Luther King Jr. would  repeat in his I have Dream -speech almost 200 years later: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." Phillips writes:

Jefferson "did not base his document on any previous work and, in deed, did not even consult other books or pamphlets." ... "The delegates revised Jefferson's draft primarily by deleting certain words and phrares. However,all realized the document was sound - well-structured, eloquent, piercing - and the representatives, by and large, knew they could not improve it much. Each change, however, was like a knife in Jefferson's body. He could almost not bear it, but was comforted largely by Benjamin Franklin's encouragement and delightful sense of humor. The only thing Jefferson never got over was the deletion of the sentence concerning word 'slavery'." (pp. 67-8)

I am particularly struck by the greatness of George Washington who lead the weakly structured American army eventully to victory in the fight against the British armed forces, the strongest of its time. "At the age of sixteen, he copied down 110 'rules of civility' based on a set composed by French Jesuits. Among the rules were tenets as 'Every action done in company ought to be done with sign of respect to those that are present.'" (p. 46)

Phillips' account of Washington is extremely moving, and one of tremendous source of inspiration. Indeed, I rush to order more books on Washington, in addition to Phillips' other books.

Kirjoitti Esa Saarinen, 23.02.2007

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