Newsline , Society

We Leave Footprints

Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2023
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
This is a beach, wave and footprints at sunset time

If you are a person of faith, one who thinks the soul lives on, beyond the demise of carbon and water, you have a worldview. Yours is mine. We also have a kind of “immortality by teaching.” We leave footprints, and others follow them. 

As we watch modern leaders stumble, make poor decisions, and hear fiery arguments more than friendly, kids need a compass. We are their compass.

We all have people in our lives who influenced us, some for better, some worse, but we all followed footsteps – even we curmudgeonly, independent types.

What we forget is that, even as we wander and wonder, err and stumble, fall and get back up, correct and carry on, others watch – and learn, especially kids.

Teachers – and we are all teachers – have an outsized impact on the young if the world gets rough, if uncertainty crests and fear comes. We are on those seas now.

One blessing in my life has been good teachers, from a single mother who raised four kids with resilience and enthusiasm, expectation and accountability, to other teachers in rural Maine, who did not give up on a single child, not one.

Later, my life intersected some better-known names. I worked for Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, later daily with Colin Powell.

Their consistency, belief in the possible, dogged refusal to lose compass was infective. They knew they were not only leading, but teaching.

Not every decision made was right, but they consistently tried to make the right decision, consulting their moral compass and what was best for America.

By doing so, they left footprints. The paths they took are discernible. We can learn from them. Reagan stepped from the private sector to lead, George HW Bush served in private and public sectors, Powell in military and civilian roles.

All three wore the uniform of this country with distinction. They all signed up, felt our country was worth dying for, did not look back. They took risks, willingly.

Reagan and GHW Bush did so in WWII, was America’s youngest naval aviator. Colin Powell – a black man in a white world – rose to Reagan’s National Security Advisor, GHW Bush’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his son’s Secretary of State.

All loved God, their families, and this country – without reservation, limitation, or resentment, and considered service of the nation’s ideals the highest calling.

Perhaps most, and true also of my mother and many teachers, these three understood the power of teaching, the idea that how you act influences others.

They knew they were educating with their decisions. Thus, while my mother and schoolteachers delivered bushels of life lessons, those three leaders also taught.

Reagan modeled love of liberty, people, and education with unblinking consistency, even derided for his views, faith, and idea that evil must be fought.

Reagan reminded us, 40 years ago, that America has “always had a love affair with learning” because we are “a melting pot.” And “education has been a mainspring of our democracy and freedom,” “providing…knowledge and opportunity to all citizens, no matter how humble their background…”

He pulled no punches, saying government can never replace parents, grandparents, or average citizens when it comes to education.

“Our traditions…have been under siege” by “growth of a huge education bureaucracy” and “parents…reduced to outsiders…even God, source of all knowledge…expelled from the classrooms.” And that was in 1983.

While he wanted change, he knew the best teacher is example. “Can we not begin…by setting an example for children…?” he asked.

GHW Bush was on that same wave, wanted to become “the education president.” His life was a testament to education, service, and honor, his wife’s to literacy. 

In 1991, GHW Bush wrote: “For all of us…adults who think our school days are over, we’ve got to become a nation of students, recognizing learning is a lifelong process,” and keep teaching.

Colin Powell taught America every day, dropped notes to kids, encouraged those who worked for him to bring kids to work, mentor, give time, teach by example.

In a way, Powell said it best. He said what we know: We leave footsteps with what we do and how we do it, what we prioritize, and how we treat others.

Among Powell’s gems: “Always do your best because someone is watching,” “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things develop the habit in little matters,” “There is no end to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit,” and “do not step on enthusiasm” – especially a child’s enthusiasm. He added, “Optimism is a force multiplier.”

In short, we all leave footsteps, whether we know it or not. Someone will follow, so make them good. The universe may reclaim our carbon and water, but it cannot reclaim what we give away, leave in care of others, including lessons about caring.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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6 months ago

Thanks, Mr. Charles, for reminding us that each of us has an effect on those around us. The Christmas movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, shows that if George Bailey hadn’t been born, a series of positive events would not have occurred. We can make a difference in the lives of others. Faith in God surely helps us in that journey. Have a blessed Thanksgiving to you all

Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
6 months ago

It is so easy to become jaded in this upside down world we find ourselves in.
However, thank you for your perspective and helping to remind me that when mentoring or teaching we can have a profound effect on those around us.
A few short years ago, I took command of a Civil Air Patrol squadron working with cadets.
What a privilege it was to speak into the lives of these young people.
Sure you might have a few “losses” along the way but the victories will be with me until my last breath.
One of my cadets is now in his senior year at the USAF academy, another is an airline pilot for American Airlines at 22 years of age. Yet another is serving in the Army and is mentoring his junior soldiers. The one who stands out the most is a young man who had Tourette’s Syndrome, was bullied in public school, flourished in the program and became a strong leader, a gifted public speaker, earned a private pilot license and graduated college with a degree in criminal justice. There are so many others as well.
Thank you again RBC for reminding me about these life lessons.
Blessings to you and yours this Thanksgiving.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
6 months ago

The Australian expression – ” up a gum tree ” – That’s s where we’d all be if people did not care for others. ( Up a gum tree – translation , meaning to be in some sort of trouble , to have difficulty with something ) So, this here article is very encouraging , the 1983 quote of President Ronald Reagan about education then ,helps to put some things in perspective – ” Our traditions… have been under siege ” by ” growth of a huge education bureaucracy ” and “parents … reduced to outsiders … even God, source of all knowledge … expelled from the classrooms .” My Mother was active with an organization Catholic Daughters , in 1950’s and 1960’s – in two ways – by helping people with disabilities to exercise periodically , helping them to just keep their balance standing up , not a doctor or a nurse , but those she helped sure appreciated what she did. And she was active with the Scout program too. My Dad had some brief experience selling copies of the Declaration of Independence , near Independence Hall , after high school in the early 1930’s. He said that he always felt very good about doing that, and believed he was helping with people appreciate American history better . In late 1930’s he was with a railroad as a brakeman , then 1940’s did defense contract work , diesel electric generators, received medical discharge from Army 1942 – injury during basic training. Did electric supply related business in 1950’s to 1970’s.Both Mom and Dad believed in the importance of education. It was all about the idea of caring .So, the less chance of the Country being ” up a gum tree ” when there is more caring for others. It is the right , honorable way to be a good citizen and will help make life better , part of the spirit of the value of Life, Liberty ,the pursuit of Happiness.

6 months ago

Thank you for another well written reminder of the lessons these great leaders gave us. I remember their greatness but sometimes I do not remember what they did to stay the course and not take the easy road. Your article was on time for Thanksgiving.

6 months ago

Yes, I am definitely a person of Faith! . . . I have had extremely painful kidney stones in the past and I had recently been diagnosed with another stone the size of a golf ball. So 2 months ago when home, the extreme pain started again when out of nowhere, God nudged me to drink Apple Cider Vinegar. I had some in the house and drank a small cupful and almost IMMEDIATELY the pain disappeared and I was amazed! I googled the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar and was surprised to learn that drinking it can also shrink an enlarged prostate which I have and which when I was diagnosed by a doctor was told that 90% of men get it but it was no big deal and that I could live with it! He then prescribed me the prescription drug Flomax but he NEVER WARNED ME THAT I WOULD HAVE TO EVENTUALLY DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! So, 15 months ago, I began hallucinating and was lucky that a police car came along when I blacked out. When I woke up I was in a hospital bed and was told that my prostate had grown so large that it had squeezed my kidneys together so that I couldn’t urinate and caused kidney failure. The doctor was surprised that I didn’t die because being 75 and out of shape that I didn’t have clogged arteries which saved my life! I don’t exercise and the only reason my arteries weren’t clogged was because 6 years ago I bought a PEMF medical device from Germany called Bemer which is a electronic device with 10 different strength options that when connected to a belt that had a special configuration of magnets. When the electricity hit the magnets it stimulated my blood flow so that I didn’t have any clogged arteries! And because I have good circulation I also don’t have high blood pressure or high blood sugar nor do I have high cholesterol either! The Bemer SAVED MY LIFE! . . . I feel that it was my belief in Jesus had directed me to finding the Bemer in preparation for having to deal with my kidney failure due to my enlarged prostate. I AM TRULY THANKFUL EVERYDAY FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN!

Charles Johnsen
Charles Johnsen
6 months ago

Only the soul? I trust the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ that the resurrection of the dead will include me.

Roger Football
Roger Football
6 months ago

Why would anybody want to be a teacher now?

Teach in a left leaning state and before long you will be deemed a racist and bigot. Teach in a right leaning state and you will be deemed a sexual predator. All this for relatively low pay compared to the private sector.

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