As Hurricane Harvey made its way across the Yucatan Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico, it appeared like a series of scattered storms that did not seem as dangerous is they became. Although the computer models were projecting an unusual set of circumstances, no one could have predicted the devastation caused by so much water and a flood of biblical proportions on the Texas Gulf coast.
We did expect that the local, state and federal emergency services along with helping non-governmental agencies would be at the ready to render assistance to the tens of thousands victims of the catastrophic event. These entities have done a great and sometimes heroic job in rescuing and saving the lives of so many people.
But a giant part of the leadership credit goes to the people themselves facing the devastation as time after time, they put their boats in the water to save their neighbors. Their deeds demonstrates a unity of purpose that defies racial, ethnic, economic or political differences.
If we look closely at the press reports, politicians, especially those at the very top, come by to visit as they try to stay relevant while not getting in the way. Their turn for effective leadership however, will come in the halls of Congress as they debate about the funds to help the victims.
At the same time, Latinos immigrants legalized under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are threatened with the elimination of the program that would result in the deportation of more than 800,000 young men and women who came to the United States as children of undocumented parents. Leadership in this time of crisis falls to them and their supporters as they struggle for a reprieve from an administration that appears to rely on a narrow constituency that wants all immigrants out.
Former President Vicente Fox Quesada of Mexico visited Denver last week, an event that brought back memories of his relationship with President George W. Bush as both began their respective administrations at about the same time. Fox’s visit also included the plea that America not abandon its responsibility to continue to lead the world.
In making his point, Fox described the notion of leadership as being of two types: one involving selfish leaders that seek to reap the benefits of their work only for themselves and their kind and leaders that whose deeds transform all of the community. He indicated that it would be not fair for the country to become a selfish leader that withdraws from its obligations as the only global superpower.
Leadership of the world fell to America as a result of World War II and its aftermath.
The benefits of that leadership include becoming the most powerful nation in the world that seeks to exercise that power for good.
Fox expressed the feeling that with leadership comes responsibility. These feelings were expressed in the face of a threat to its role by an America First agenda promoted by the Trump administration.
As the country comes into the hands of its new Millennial majority, there is a sense that a leadership change will follow. As the new political power, the Millennial community offers the potential of moving the country away from a division created between those that want to resurrect the past against those that embrace the progress we have made.
Hurricane Harvey shows us that leadership in a crisis begins with individuals united in a community of purpose. Leadership is also exercised as an obligation to each other.