Reflections on Historical Leadders
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Reflections on Historical Leaders


Dr. Rick Pointer
Professor of History
Westmont College


September 2016

Last month the United States celebrated two hundred and forty years of independence. Declaring independence from Great Britain in 1776 was a bold and courageous act, but it was of course only one step in the longer, more painful process of achieving political sovereignty. A War of Independence had to be fought to secure the home rule that some colonists-turned-American citizens believed was necessary for them to flourish. Ever since American ideals and the American pattern of employing violent revolt to gain political freedom has inspired revolutionary movements around the globe... [read more]

July 2016

Summer affords an opportunity for many of us to travel. Sometimes that includes venturing outside the borders of the United States to explore new lands, peoples, and cultures. That usually proves to be an enriching experience, if also a bit disorienting at first. We may initially find things to be a little too different for us to feel comfortable or “at home.” But pretty soon we begin to get a handle on how things work there and before long we are ready to make definitive judgments about the character of this new place to our family and friends. Our naïve evaluations are typically of no great help or harm to others; they usually reflect the length of our stay and the breadth of our experience... [read more]

June 2016

Leaders in America today come from a variety of arenas – politics, business, science, technology, entertainment, media, academia. Occasionally, someone excels in more than one sphere, say when a sports superstar becomes a successful politician or an inventor is also an effective entrepreneur. We admire their capacity for doing many things well, knowing that the skill sets required for outstanding service may vary considerably from one domain to another. This explains why we remain rightly astounded by eighteenth-century predecessors like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson whose lists of substantial accomplishments ranged across government, science, business, education, philosophy, philanthropy, architecture, technology, and more... [read more]

May 2016

One of the gifts of being a college professor is having your students teach you new things. And this year has been no exception. Each fall our senior history majors take a capstone seminar in which they produce a substantial research paper. Students explore topics across many places and times, opening up new worlds for themselves and their faculty. By December, after much arduous labor, they complete their projects, present their findings to their peers and teachers, and celebrate having cleared one of the higher hurdles of their academic life. And then in the spring, one of them, thanks to the generosity of former Westmont history professor, Paul Wilt and his wife Doris, is awarded a substantial prize for having written the finest paper... [read more]

March 2016

Guest Author: Alister Chapman

Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Herbert Hoover must have felt that way. Less than eight months after his inauguration as President of the United States, the Wall Street Crash pushed the country into the worst economic crisis in its history. Hoover’s inability to lead a convincing recovery has ensured that the thirty-first president ranks among the most disappointing. Most people, however, know little about Hoover’s extraordinary career before he moved into the White House. On the basis of that record, he should be considered one of the most impressive and admirable American leaders of the twentieth century... [read more]

February 2016

Each February our nation celebrates Black History Month. Since its official inception in 1976, this annual observance has helped to bring much greater attention to the African American historical experience. Though critics have questioned whether such a focus divorces black history too much from American history in general, there is no doubt that the month has played a part in schoolchildren and adults today knowing far more than earlier generations about the collective African American experience and the particular achievements of Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen, Malcolm X, Jesse Owens, Benjamin Banneker, W.E.B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, Ida B. Wells and dozens of others ... [read more]

January 2016

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. again this week, it is hard not to ask the what if question – what if Dr. King had survived the tumult of the late 1960s and lent his prophetic leadership to the nation and the world for many more decades? Even now, almost a half century after his assassination, he would only be 87, an age more and more Americans are not only reaching but at which they continue to make real contributions to their communities, churches, and polities. What issues, problems, and crises might King have helped us address and perhaps even resolve more effectively? How might the nation and the church be different today had we had the benefit of his presence rather than merely his memory? ... [read more]

December 2015

Civil wars always wreak utter havoc. Current conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic are just two in a long line of horrific affairs that have divided communities, devastated economies, destroyed infrastructures, and displaced millions. If that weren’t enough, such catastrophes then leave the survivors with massively complex reconstruction projects. Our own civil war was no different. During the past four years, hundreds of commemorations at battlefields, memorial sites, and town squares have marked the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of events connected to that bloodiest of all American wars... [read more]

November 2015

Few episodes in American history are more iconic than the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and their gathering the following fall to share the bounty of their first harvest. As we once again celebrate Thanksgiving this November, it is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on the experience of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, their Indian neighbors. Most of what we associate with the origins of that holiday is more fancy than fact, the product of the romantic imaginations of our nineteenth-century ancestors... [read more]

October 2015

Too often these days it can seem as though moral and ethical leadership have little place within the public square, the corporate boardroom, the academic classroom, or even the church sanctuary. Voices for doing the right thing or efforts to stand up for some just principle get overwhelmed by forces seemingly beyond anyone’s control. It is easy to get discouraged about the fortunes of moral character in contemporary society.... [read more]

September 2015

Today marks the beginning of our online posts for the Mosher Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership. Throughout the coming months, Dr. Rick Pointer, professor of history and Fletcher Jones Foundation professor in the social sciences at Westmont, will offer a brief reflection on great leaders in American history. I hope these posts will stimulate an ongoing conversation throughout the year connecting the Lead Where You Stand conferences. This past year, we presented a lecture series on Moral and Ethical Leadership in the American Presidency... [read more]