It seems to me that in times of crisis, leaders somehow step forward — sometimes emerging from relative obscurity — to take charge and provide command, authority, direction, inspiration, and whatever is necessary to take care of the situation.
Those of us who have lived through WWII recall how our nation was stunned by the attack on Pearl Harbor — a place few people had heard of — and how we were suddenly plunged into war both in the Pacific and in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president at the time, having been elected for an unprecedented third term, and in addition to exercising firm command leadership, also provided inspiration for the country. Our nation was mobilized to an extent never seen before.
Of interest, however, is how other leaders emerged.
One such was Dwight D Eisenhower. “Ike” as he became known, had a rather undistinguished career in the army prior to WWII. In March 1941, he was promoted to from lieutenant colonel to colonel. But in February 1943, as a result of his demonstrated capabilities, Ike was named supreme allied commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) responsible with planning and carrying out the Allied assault on the coast of Normandy in June 1944 — and was subsequently promoted to the five star rank of general of the Army. How about them apples!
From lieutenant colonel to supreme allied commander in a couple of years.
Not all leaders were high-ranking individuals. Audie Murphy was a slightly built unassuming American soldier who enlisted in the army in 1941. He became one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of World War II, receiving every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army including the Medal of Honor, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. Just a quiet young man from Texas who emerged as embodiment of a foot soldier.
Well, today we are engaged in a world-wide war against a different type of threat, but one in which the battle once again shows leaders appearing — and once again at all levels from the very highest to the “foot soldiers.” Most, but not all, national officials have put aside their political agendas and biases in an effort to stem what has been described as a “tsunami” of cases of the coronavirus. In addition, numerous private industry executives have put aside personal and commercial considerations in efforts to support the common goals of deterring the spread of this insidious virus, treating those who already have it, and protecting those whose responsibilities may put them at risk.
Yep, we are not only seeing folks such as the president and governors whose executive positions put them in the forefront of this war, but others who we rarely, if ever hear about much less see stepping forward in important roles. Will Rogers, that great American humorist, once said, “The man with the best job in the country is the vice president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How’s the president?’ ” Not these days! Nope! The vice president is a critical member of the team assembled by the president — as is the lieutenant governor of our state anti-virus team. Then, too, faces of both national and state level health officials — folks we probably have never heard of — are familiar as they give both advice and directives as well as answering questions from the media. Whoda thunk it?
Then, too, there are the “foot soldiers” — those on the “front line” so to speak. These are the doctors, nurses, and other medical folks who are meeting this scourge head-on doing whatever they can to save lives while they may well be putting themselves at risk. And we mustn’t forget the everyday folks who are making sacrifices to help stop the spread of this deadly virus.
You know, the more I think about it, the more parallelism I can see between our current situation and the way things were back in WWII. The entire country was united against the threat back then and for the first time since, the country is showing a unified front against a common deadly enemy. The enemy may be different, but, as happened back in WWII, success can only be achieved by everyone working together.
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at