Good Leadership Makes A Difference!

By Dr. Herb Byrd III

Last month’s LEAD! article was inspired by a visit Resa and I made between Christmas and New Year’s Day to the Little White House in Key West, Fla.  I’d like to revisit (figuratively) the Little White House one more time to make another observation.

That observation is: Good Leadership Makes a (positive) Difference!

Our tour guide was good to point out times the house had been used by other presidents or dignitaries. One such time was captured by a photograph on display where on April 3, 2001, Secretary Colin Powell met for peace talks with Armenian President Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev. Former Secretary and General Powell is an outstanding leader himself. This story is a point he made about another who was not his contemporary.

According to the guide, Powell was asked why he held the meeting there, in the Little White House. Powell indicated it was out of respect for, and recognition of former President Harry Truman and his accomplishments.

Confused, the questioner asked for more information. Powell is said to have replied, “Were it not for President Harry Truman, I would now be an Army cook.”

While a C-Span presidential poll of 64 leading historians in 2009 ranked Truman 5th among all presidents to that point, Truman was unpopular with many in his day for some of the courageous changes he made. The Little White House still has the original desk where he penned Executive Order 9981 which mandated the desegregation of the U.S. Military. An article on the Executive Order* says, “Truman’s order received pushback from politicians, generals, and friends, who opposed an integrated military. Truman wrote in response to his detractors, “I am asking for equality of opportunity for all human beings, and as long as I stay here, I am going to continue that fight.”

Truman’s fight created opportunities for Powell that had not existed before July 26, 1948. To Powell, the Little White House was a logical place to work toward historic outcomes.

Powell recognized that though not appreciated at the time, Truman’s leadership made a positive difference!

Leadership makes a difference. What difference do you and I want to make as we L.E.A.D.! ???

*From: National Park Service. (updated August 21, 2023). Executive Order 9981, Desegregating the Military.,desegregation%20of%20the%20U.S.%20military. (accessed 1/31/2024).