David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Hiram was surprised to receive his appointment to the Military Academy at West Point. Upon arrival, he was amazed at the sight. This military fortress dating back to the Revolutionary War, about 50 miles from New York City, sat high on the hill overlooking the Hudson River. Compared to what he had seen on the banks of the Ohio River, young Hiram found the vistas amazing. With his aptitude for math, Hiram managed to graduate twenty-first in his class of 39. Upon graduation, he was promoted to brevet second lieutenant.

Five years later, on August 22, Hiram married his sweetheart, Julia. The wedding took place in Julia’s family home in Saint Louis. Within five years and with the rank of Captain, Hiram found himself shipped off to conflicts and posts far away from home. At one such place, profoundly lonely and battling depression, he began drinking to drown his loneliness. Faced with a certain court-martial and not wanting to return home a disgraced man, Hiram chose to resign from the military. Ashamed and penniless, with borrowed money, he started the long trip home.

We all know Hiram very well. It took five days for his family to choose his name. His grandfather preferred Hiram, like the Old Testament king. His mother and father preferred a more romantic name from the classics. Theodore and Albert were also considered, but in the end, the name chosen was Hiram Ulysses Grant. Upon entering West Point, Hiram learned that his name in the appointment was listed as Ulysses S. Grant. With the academy unwilling or unable to change its records, Hiram took on the name of Ulysses S. Grant.

A man forced to resign from the military in disgrace, went on to become only the third Lieutenant General of the United States, commanded the Union Army, secured the surrender of the Confederate Army from General Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Court House, and later become the President of the United States. Following the assassination of President Lincoln, Grant resisted the racist actions of President Johnson and later worked to establish the Department of Justice and named Amos T. Akerman Attorney General, who worked tirelessly to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan.

The election of 1876 brought our Republic to the brink once again. The election was disputed due to election irregularities, with states sending in different Electoral College results from within the same state. With the election between Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio and Samuel J. Tilden of New York up in the air, Grant once again came through and was able to get both parties to support an Electoral Commission and have the commission decide the election.

Where would be as a nation had Grant not been given the opportunity of redemption? Who would have led the battles of Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga? Who would President Lincoln have chosen to lead the Union Army, lay the siege of Petersburg, and pursue a surrender from General Lee? Who would have been there to support the rights of Native Americans? Who would have been there to resist the racist actions of President Johnson and fight to implement the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to our Constitution?

Who do you know that deserves the opportunity for redemption? Great leaders look for opportunities to help people find redemption and, in so doing, change the future for the better. If you would like to hear more about President Grant and his amazing life, please join Marisa Norcross and me for Episode 229 of The Next Page podcast.

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