Legacy And Leadership
Moving closer to excellence on the wisdom of our predecessors.
I have been thinking a lot about the word Legacy lately. How do we sum up a person’s contributions when they are no longer here? In the wake of their absence, what does leadership look like?
According to Merriam-Webster, as a noun, Legacy has three definitions. But it is the second definition I am obsessed with: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past.”
In the first nine months of this year, we lost professional basketball player Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, politician and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings, actor Chadwick Boseman, professional baseball player Lou Brock, television presenter Regis Philbin, politician Gwen Moore and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
And, as if cruelly planned, in a 24-hour period, we lost two pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement— Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis.
I look at the many lives taken from us, I look at my 6½-year-old son, and I feel the weight of every decision I make very differently.
So now what? What has been transmitted to us by our predecessors and equally important, what have we received? If it wasn’t official before, it is truly official now…the torch has been passed. It’s heavy, awkwardly shaped and displaying all of the scars and imperfections of generations before us. You have no more time to debate whether or not you are ready. It is in your hands. So now what?
We inherit a world in disarray. We have a climate to get under control; politics that need reshaping; economic needs to be more equitable; race, gender and sexuality we need to come to grips with, and a country to rebuild. To put it mildly, we have a lot of work to do!
I do not profess to have the answers. It is all I can do to remember the teachings from my elders and the titans who precede me. They all told me “every problem is an opportunity” and “you can make good money by doing good business.” It is time for us to not only carry the torch but also prepare the next runners to carry it in our absence.
Don’t worry about its weight or how you look carrying it, what’s important is that it progresses. The rest we can figure out along the way. So, run as fast as you can until you grow wings, and then fly as far as you can. When it’s your turn to pass the torch, it is my sincere hope, that as a species and as a society, we have moved that much closer to excellence.
In his final hours on this planet, Congressman Lewis wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that I encourage everyone to read. I leave you with his final words:
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”