Patton, the Pope, and Skylar

In the powerful opening scene to the movie, “Patton,” the famous general stands before his troops and boldly states, “Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser.” It’s hard not to stand a little straighter when you hear a line like that. We do like to think about ourselves as the greatest country in the world. Certainly in economic terms the United States has accomplished more than any other civilization known to man.

It’s lonely at the top… Movies are rarely made today that boast about America. Has our country changed or is it just the world’s perception of us that has changed? Has our competitive nature weakened? Perhaps there are competitions in which America should strive to win, while winning in other areas might be less important.

So, which global competitions should America commit to winning? And which can we accept losing? I wonder how Pope Francis would answer these questions… The newly appointed Pontiff has raised a few eyebrows by not following papal customs. His highly publicized washing of prisoners’ feet has reverberated throughout the world. Perhaps there is an important message here for all of America…

Servant leadership is incredibly powerful and can change relationships at all levels, from households to communities, to international relationships. It is also extremely difficult to do on a consistent basis, as it requires putting the interests of others before our own.

What would the world look like if America committed to win the battle of being the greatest servant leader in the world, if our rallying cry became this… Americans love to serve, and will not tolerate selfishness.

Over time, the difference would be a lot more radical than the Pope kissing the feet of social outcasts. Effective and pervasive servant leadership would over time, virtually eliminate any threat of class warfare locally or terrorism globally. An idealistic overstatement? Perhaps. But is it very hard to hate someone that is sincerely and consistently serving you.

So, how should America respond to Pope Francis’ call to service? Let’s start with these five things.

  1. First, we should establish term limits in Congress. Give them all six years then send them back to the private sector. I believe this would go a long way to eliminating crony capitalism and the special interest influence that has so tainted the political process.
  2. Second, Fortune 500 CEOs should all agree to live a more modest lifestyle and refrain from excessive compensation. This has to be self-imposed for it to be effective and meaningful as a means to diffuse class warfare resentment. We all have our own ideas about what is reasonable compensation and what is excessive. Surely these influential business leaders can agree upon an appropriate range. As a guide, the $17.6 million in total compensation earned by Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke seems more reasonable than the $378 million paid to Apple CEO Tim Cook (based on 2011 data). At least it’s a start…
  3. Third, churches of all denominations are encouraged to unite within communities to identify and help all people who are economically challenged in a grass roots, 100% bottom-up, privately-operated program. The resources are there now, remember, we are the richest nation in the history of the world.
  4. Fourth, our federal government must live within its means. Period. No raising the debt level, no kicking the can down the road time after time. We get our fiscal house in order. Now.
  5. Fifth, all Americans do the best they can to get in the best possible physical shape they can.

Let’s recap the results of these five initiatives. Smaller, more effective government, less resentment toward the rich, more support for the poor, reduced risk of becoming the next Greece, lower overall health care spending, which along with other entitlements is threatening to bankrupt our country. This isn’t rocket science, and it is all doable.

Which brings us to Skylar… With all due respect to Britteny Griner, the best women’s college basketball player is Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins. One of the things that makes her such a special competitor is that she hates to lose more than she loves to win. America must change or we are going to lose. And I hate the thought of that. We are going to lose the opportunity to lead, to serve, and to be all that God created us to be. And I hate the thought of that, too.