I want to talk to you today on Presidents Day. Some of my great heroes in life are historic presidents in the United States of America, so I want to talk to you today about three people that have an influence on my life by how they led, what they did, how they accomplished things.
The first person I want to talk to you about is Thomas Jefferson. He’s one of my favorite, true heroes. I love so many things about him. He was a farmer. I love plants, I love to plant things, I love to garden. He was one of the great gardeners. In fact, I have a book about him being a pioneer gardener in the history of our country.
But he was also an amazingly brilliant young man. He wrote as a young man the Declaration of Independence, which is still to this day one of the most amazing political documents ever written. And as he became an old man, after he was out of political power and was back in Monticello, did amazing things building and planting his estate. In fact, when he was in his 80s, he planted a massive grove of popular trees, and someone said, “Why are you planting these when you’re not going to be alive?” He said, “I plant these trees for those that follow, not for myself.” And he had, with John Adams, an amazing correspondence. Two of the founding fathers, when they were in their middle age, they became political rivals and couldn’t stand each other. Then in their old age they began a correspondence back and forth until they both died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence.
Adams wrote him one letter really reflecting on what they had accomplished. In his response to it, Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He was a man who was always looking to the future until the day he died.
The second president that I want to talk to you about—in fact, I’m just finishing a book about him right now—is Theodore Roosevelt. One of my favorite quotes by him, it says, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” He was a larger-than-life character in his time. If he was alive today in the era of television and social media, my lord, what a star he would have been. He was larger than life. People loved him. He gave gigantic, long speeches, but he was a man who changed things and he also a man who challenged conventional thinking. He was a forerunner of personal development—the fact that belief and attitude were so critical in determining your success. He was an adventurer. He was an explorer. He was a larger-than-life personality for his entire life.
The final president I want to talk to you about is Ronald Reagan, who I remember being incredibly influential in the young portion of my career. One of my favorite quotes by him says, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple ones.”
One of the things I loved about him was he was a communicator. He could make you understand what he was talking to you about. He could take complex topics and communicate them in a simple way. He was able to get things done through the power of persuasion, and he always made people understand what it was that made America special.
See, we’re a blessed nation, and we’re blessed by having leaders that have led us in the past and hopefully will lead us in the future. But I believe everything in me says that the cornerstone of America, whether they’re president or not, is leadership. And you need to work, whether it’s in your community, your church, your children’s school, wherever it is—to be a leader, to be somebody that makes a difference with their presence.
So on Presidents Day, that’s my challenge to you. You go out and be the president of your life and be a leader.
I’ll see you at the top, because the bottom sure is crowded!
Related: How to Be a Humble Leader