This April in Dallas, five presidents–four former and one currently in office, gathered as George W. Bush dedicated a library to document his presidency. The Presidents gather on these extraordinary occasions, not only to share in the pride of a new member of their exclusive club getting a shiny new monument; but because they understand the concept of legacy. From the moment they leave office, the primary mission of the former commander in chief is to become his legacy guardian in chief.
As mere citizens, we aren’t afforded the opportunity to have a library built in our honor with curators devoted to crafting our legacy. Actually, we have a much more powerful tool available to spread our legacy, that is, the people we touch and the lives we are able to change.
God has given us many innate traits to build our legacy. An examination of the intersection of presidential and biblical history reveals three traits that are at the heart of what it means to be human and a leader.
“Personal and professional transparency is freeing it is the key for me to live a better life.” Dave Kerpen, New York Times Bestselling Author of Likeable Social Media.
The presidency and legacy of Richard Nixon will be forever stained by Watergate. While what was termed as a “third rate burglary” was not committed by the president, he was held responsible for the cover-up. Mr. Nixon’s lack of transparency denied him the opportunity to come clean and seek the forgiveness of the American people. Thus, by becoming the first president to resign the office, marring the brilliant work he accomplished in opening up China and laying the groundwork for the ending the war in Vietnam.
From his humble beginnings as a giant killing shepherd boy to the king of Israel, David was a “friend of God.” However, David’s strong relationship with the Father did not exempt him from sin and a lack of transparency. David’s torrid affair with Bathsheba lead to her pregnancy. To cover up his misdeeds David schemed to have Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed in battle. Thinking he got away from his crime, David made Bathsheba one of his wives. However, God sent the prophet Nathan to bring transparency back to David’s life. In a dramatic conversation chronicled in 2nd Samuel 12:1-24, Nathan tells David the story of a rich man with plenty of sheep taking the only sheep of a poor man. Burning with rage, David proclaims that any man who would do such a thing deserves to die. Nathan then says to David…”you are that man!”
To have a legacy of transparency in our lives requires more than just a personal commitment to honest dealings. It requires having “Nathans” in our lives; family, friends, and customers who will hold us accountable for our actions, allowing us to live free and full lives.
When you’re finished changing, you’re finished – Benjamin Franklin
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson was presented with an opportunity to fulfill a dream cloaked in a principled dilemma. The dream: Thomas Jefferson imagined that the land mass of the United States should expand from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The opportunity: Desperate for cash, France wanted to sell its Louisiana territory from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. The dilemma: Mr. Jefferson believed in a strict interpretation of the constitution and the constitution said nothing about the purchase of land. President Jefferson solved this paradox adapting his principles for the good of the country and accomplishing his dream of expanding the United States to the Pacific by purchasing the Louisiana territory.
The life of Joseph is a study of a dream and adaptability. As the favorite son of Jacob, Joseph infuriated his older brothers with his dream that one day they would bow down to him. Incensed, the brothers threw him into a pit, where he found himself sold into slavery in Egypt and unjustly jailed. In jail, he was recognized as an interpreter of dreams. The Pharaoh, struggling with the meaning of his dream, asked Joseph for an interpretation. The interpretation: Egypt will have seven years of record harvest followed by seven years of famine. Impressed with his explanation, the Pharaoh appointed Joseph to lead Egypt during the harvest and the famine. During the time of famine, Joseph’s brothers, who thought he was dead, came to the Pharaoh’s regent Joseph for help. Unrecognized by his brothers, Joseph provided food along with a series of challenges that ultimately led to a reunion with his beloved father and the fulfillment of the dream of the brothers bowing down to him.
Many think adaptability is about the ability to change. However, as Jefferson and Joseph have shown, adaptability is truly about the ability to pivot. In other words, maintain fidelity with our core principles with adaptability to our dreams.
The Buck Stops Here – Harry S. Truman
By his own account, Harry Truman was a simple man. But, simple does not mean that he was not complicated. The last president without a college degree was faced with a host of intricate issues including the atomic bomb drop, the rebuilding of Europe and the integration of the Armed Forces. President Truman governed with a simple motto that reflected his view of his role as a fair player for all: The Buck Stops Here!
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
This simple declaration in John 3:16: is God’s powerful promise to take care of the complexities of our lives when we simply give our lives to Him.
In this complex world, humans are drawn to simplicity. We crave it and need it to make sense out of things. Presidents are wise to bring issues to the American people in simple terms. God simply wants us to accept His love, protection, and peace.
The Bottom Line: Leave a Brilliant Legacy
Congratulations, Mr. President! The library is a brilliant testament to your legacy. Our brilliant legacy testaments are built when we live our lives in God’s will with Transparency, Adaptability, Simplicity, and the other traits given to us by the Father. For when the people of God gather…..legacies follow.