Rangers, Lead the Way

image of ranger holding American flag

From a political perspective, we have a lot to do over the next two years.  For starters, we must identify better candidates for president, from both political parties.  Based on the previous presidential election, I believe the country has turned a historic corner and no longer wants a career politician to lead the country.  In my opinion, the possibility of another non-politician winning in 2020 is high. Whether this is a good thing is debatable, but it creates all kinds of interesting possibilities. As our country faces critical challenges related to global trade, right-sizing government, immigration, the environment, and polarization in just about every aspect of society, the need for superior leadership hasn’t been this great since World War II.

Who exactly is going to lead the way today?

In the early hours on the most important day of the 20th century, June 6th, 1944, the American forces were in serious trouble on Omaha Beach. The highest-ranking officer, and one of the oldest combatants that day, was Brigadier General Norman Cota. At a critical time, about an hour after the invasion of Normandy started, General Cota changed history. Sensing the moment, he said to the troops pinned down on the beach, “Gentlemen, we are being killed on the beaches. Let us go inland and be killed.” Cota then asked the men around him what outfit they were in. When told they were Rangers, an elite army unit, Cota said these immortal words, “Well, God damn it then, Rangers, lead the way!”  General Cota and the courageous Rangers were the first troops to break through on bloody Omaha Beach that day.

Do we have political leaders who can seize the day and lead us where we need to go?

Who exactly is going to lead the way today?

From an economic perspective, our economy is finally accelerating after a decade of below average growth, but can it be sustained, and for how long?  Again, it comes down to a question of leadership.  As the current administration continues to rollback regulations, the opportunity for the business community to lead our country forward is extraordinary.  Before this can happen, the corporate sector needs to rebuild trust and demonstrate that it can operate consistently based on sound core values which effectively serves the greater good.  Unfortunately, there are no shortages of stories chronicling corporate malfeasance.  Even stories that seem well-intentioned on the surface, make one pause after closer examination.

For example, every year approximately 9 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans around the world.  About .02% of that is from plastic straws.  The other 99.98% is from all other forms of plastic.  While I applaud any initiatives that result in a cleaner environment, I found it a bit peculiar that Starbucks announced plans to eliminate plastic straws from all its locations over the next two years.  If company management is sincere about improving our environment, is that the best idea they could come up with?

I have also wondered why customer service representatives at most large institutions have been instructed to begin conversations by saying – “this call is being recorded for quality control purposes.”  Do they really think we don’t know that recording conversations is done to protect companies from lawsuits and has nothing what so ever to do with improving the quality of service to the customer?

Actions like these do not make me confident that business will be able to fill the leadership void that exists today.  Many corporate leaders are certainly talented enough, but are they just not interested, or too greedy to care?  How can we recruit the best qualified business leaders to serve the country in a political capacity?  This isn’t a rhetorical question, we really need to figure this out before 2020.  I fear that political correctness and entrenched cultures of distrust may very well prevent the business community from rising to the occasion.  Only time will tell.

From an educational perspective, problems exist here too.  I’ve recently added two books to my reading list. Both address the growing concerns related to our colleges and universities. These books are “The University We Need” by Warren Treadgold and “Academically Adrift” by Richard Arum and Joseph Roska.  The issues discussed in these books include: the growing financial costs, studies showing students aren’t studying enough to learn much, and the crippling effect of identity politics.  They both should be interesting reads and beg the question – Are our colleges and universities producing the next generation of leaders that will be up to the task?

I am fearful that if the business community doesn’t get serious about identifying the leader we need then the next president is going to be another celebrity, or we might re-elect the one we have now.  Surely, we are better than that?

Despite all these challenges, the overall economy is growing at its fastest rate in over ten years.  U.S. GDP in the most recent quarter grew 4%, nearly twice the rate of growth achieved over the previous 10 years.  If this impressive rate of growth can be sustained, it will bring all kinds of benefits to our country and the rest of the world.  Lower taxes and less government regulation are two undeniable driving forces behind the recent acceleration in the domestic economy.  Over the long run, however, sustaining this growth rate will require coordinated efforts between business, government, and education.  The only way this can happen is if the right leaders step up.

Who exactly is going to lead the way today?

I just can’t get that question out of my mind.


Michael Kayes, CFA