A Tale of Two Lives
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer
Last week I asked if you were willing to strive for significance. Some may wonder what I mean by that question so to define it better, here are two contrasting examples of significance.
Looking back to my visit to Washington, D.C. as a most recent backdrop, there are countless men and women that would come to mind that demonstrate significance. However, I would like to pass on the obvious and reflect on the more obscure.
On the evening of April 14th, 1865 at approximately 10:15 pm, Lewis Powell knocked on the door of Secretary of State William Seward’s home. A young black servant, William Bell, answered the door but refused to allow Powell into the house. Powell then forced his way in and climbed the stairs to assassinate the Secretary. For the sake of brevity, suffice it to say that Powell’s gun fails and after beating and stabbing four people almost to death, he left the house covered in blood. But what of Bell? The young servant chased Powell through the streets, Powell on horseback and the servant on foot. As you can easily imagine, Powell got away. So how do we know who Powell was? The young servant didn’t give up even though his cries of murder were ignored by police as he ran down the street, presumably because of the color of his skin. Bell went the second and third mile until days later when he was able to identify Powell in a lineup as the assailant. He went beyond his “job” to do what was right, regardless of personal cost.
A few blocks away, as Lewis Powell began his attack, over on 10th Street John Wilkes Booth slipped into Ford’s Theater past the ushers and up a flight of steps. He passed down a narrow passage, through a doorway, and into President Lincoln’s box. It is 10:15 pm, Booth, undetected in the shadows, waits for the very moment when the audience would be erupting in laughter and pulls the trigger on his Derringer pistol, firing one bullet into the back of President Lincoln’s head. Booth then jumps from the balcony, landing on the theatre stage, and shouts “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (Ever thus to tyrants) and with a broken leg escapes the theater. But wait, where is President Lincoln’s bodyguard? John Frederick Parker was supposed to be sitting in the passageway outside of the President’s box. Instead, Parker was across the street at the Star Saloon. Parker a Metropolitan Police Officer, who was even late to begin his shift that night, couldn’t be bothered to sit in a chair in the hallway and guard the President of the United States.
How about you? Will you live your life like John Frederick Parker, for your own pleasure and existence or will you live your life for others like William Bell and truly live a life of significance?