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You’ve Got to Stand for Something

April 18, 2023

Be an Alexander Hamilton, not an Aaron Burr.

My friend John Coleman and his wife Jackie encourage their kids with this phrase. For those of you who know Alexander Hamilton’s story from the hit musical or just from a love of history, you’ll understand what this means. For the rest of you, let me explain.

Alexander Hamilton was one of our founding fathers who is best known for being the first Secretary of the Treasury and for co-authoring The Federalist papers, defending the then  proposed Constitution. Aaron Burr was a political peer of Hamilton’s who served as a senator and eventually as vice president. The two had a rivalry from the start. 

Burr accused Hamilton of being too loud about his opinions as a young revolutionary, and Hamilton accused Burr of not having strong values or principles. Burr seemed to change his political views to what would put him in the best position of power. In the presidential election of 1800, though Hamilton and Jefferson disagreed greatly politically, he gave his deciding vote to Jefferson over Burr because he believed Jefferson had principles and Burr had none.

To be clear, I don’t agree with everything that Hamilton believed. But, I admire his willingness to stand up for his convictions. 

How can we be the type of people who are willing to stand up for what’s right? This is what our world, culture, and places of business need most.

We need to stand up when other people are sitting down.

Sadly, our society right now encourages and rewards people for being quiet and just going along. We’re encouraged to validate other peoples’ beliefs and values, even if they are in opposition to our own. 

Have you ever thought about the meaning of the prefix “en”? En means to put into. What about the prefix “dis”? You guessed it: It means to pull out of. Encourage means to put courage into someone, and discourage means to take their courage away. Because society puts courage into the people sitting down, we are going to be tempted to keep sitting! 

Those of us with strong values need to be counter-cultural to this. If we just go along, we are simply being reactive, allowing things to happen to us. We need to be people who initiate and make things better.

Leadership is a word that is thrown around and used so often, but true leaders are those willing to take a stand.

The world desperately needs leaders with strong values who have courage. I hope you’ll commit to being the kind of leader who boldly stands up for what you believe in. 


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