In June 1944, around 150,000 brave men were asked to storm the beaches of Normandy. At risk to themselves, they accepted the challenge on behalf of their nation and the world. They were heroes. They were leaders.
Imagine if we had leaders today with as much courage as each of those soldiers had in just one of their fingers.
This gun debate, the fiscal cliff, and frankly all important and difficult issues demand leaders willing to be uncomfortable. Willing to lean into an oncoming storm rather than be blown along with it. The men at Normandy risked their lives for what was right. Our politicians could at least risk their campaign donations.
It is easy to avoid tough decisions, to sidestep challenges, to shirk your responsibility. So easy. If you're an NRA legislator, just avoid going on the Sunday shows and hope the holidays make everyone forget about it. If you're a pledge-signing Republican, hope enough of your colleagues to vote for compromise. If you're a no-way-never-change entitlements Democrat, hope that enough Republicans take the bullet for you.
The definition of leadership I like best is from leadership expert Jim Kouzes:
"Name any great leader, performer, scientist, athlete, activist, citizen. Chances are that the crucible of that person's crowning achievement was some distressing crisis, wrenching change, tragic misfortune or risky venture. Only challenge produces the opportunity for greatness."
In the scariest of times, leaders don't flow with public opinion; they shape it. Witness President Johnson when he signed the Civil Rights Act. Lincoln, when he twisted arms to get the 13th Amendment passed to abolish slavery. FDR when he got unprecedented economic measures in the wake of the depression. Martin Luther King standing up for voting rights. Every great leader was willing to be the magnet for attacks, to suffer in order to change us for the better.
So, you members of Congress, think about your legacy. Think about what you want your grandkids and their grandkids to know about you. Think about the men who stormed a beach long ago.
Think about the faces of those little children buried today.
This gun crisis calls for leadership, especially from those of you who want to close your eyes and lay low. I'd like to commend those for whom this is a hard call, like Governor Snyder and senators like Manchin, Reid, Warner, Rubio, Casey, Johnson, Donnelley, Heinrich and Susan Collins.
Only challenge produces the opportunity for greatness, you leaders out there. We will follow you wherever you lead. If you lean in, steel yourself, and strive for greatness -- not your own greatness: strive to restore the greatness and heal the wounds of a grieving nation.
Originally aired on "The War Room with Jennifer Granholm." "The War Room" airs Monday-Thursday on Current TV. Follow Jennifer Granholm on Facebook and Twitter, and "The War Room" on Facebook and Twitter.