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How George Washington inspired Abraham Lincoln to become President


Great leaders – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

George Washington desired that every July 4th be a grand celebration, a time when we come together and celebrate our freedom. Men and women made great sacrifices for our country that we have ceremoniously observed for the past 239 years.

Washington did not only inspire our honoring the day, his words also inspired another great president, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln loved to read, he was known to walk miles if he could borrow a book. He especially cherished the stories about the forefathers, their struggle for freedom and the government they created to form our great union.


What George Washington said that inspired Abraham Lincoln to be President

Lincoln’s deep rooted passion to preserve the union was influenced by the farewell words of George Washington. Washington reminded us that our patriotism to our country would promote happiness.  He said “the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it.”

Washington understood the probability that discord and disagreement could happen and result in the breakup of the union. He advised vigilance against “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”


United States Constitution

Lincoln profoundly understood what George Washington meant and he wanted to do everything he could to ensure the preservation of the United States. When Lincoln believed the country was moving in the wrong direction, it was this passion that led him back into politics after a five year hiatus. The grumblings between the southern pro-slavery constituents and northern abolitionists was not going to be easily resolved and Lincoln wanted to be a part of the solution. His decision would put him in a perfect position to make a difference, being elected the President of the United States in 1860, on the verge of a great Civil War.

As our Commander-in-Chief, Abraham Lincoln fought the Union’s greatest threat when the south seceded from the Union. The Civil War battle was fought with determination, each side with undeniable faith that their opinion was right hoping the result would end in their favor. In the end, the Union won but not without losing over 600,000 lives during the most brutal battle on our own land.

Lincoln brought the Union back together counseling the nation with his famous words:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”


Freedom is not free – Let’s honor July 4th

In honor of this great holiday, here are a few thoughts and acts of patriotism we can do to show our respect for our great nation.

Let us remember those who fought in the Civil War to preserve our country. Freedom is not free, and may we never forget the soldier’s courage and leadership for fighting so desperately for what they believed.

Let us honor all of those brave soldiers of the Revolutionary War who fought for our freedom.

Let us remember the great words of our great leaders and be inspired to stay united.

Let us remember our Constitution that:
We believe that all men are created equal
Government requires the consent of the governed
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our rights

dc-fireworksLet us stay united in our pursuit to be a great nation and to find peaceful resolutions.

Let us put away all judgments and replace them with an undeniable appreciation and respect for the people of our great nation.

Let us understand we have differences of opinion and yet appreciate that we can live in a country where having differences of opinion is not against the law.

Let us do what George Washington asked us to do: Celebrate!

God Bless America! Happy 4th of July!

My Day with Eleanor Roosevelt’s Grandaughter

April Lara and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

April Lara and Anne Eleanor Roosevelt

“My grandmother would have loved this school.”

That is how Anna Eleanor Roosevelt started her key note speech at the annual fundraiser for the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School (YWLCS) that I had the privilege of attending this past Wednesday.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s granddaughter, Anne is thoughtful, kind, inspirational and has the same energizer tendencies as her grandmother.  Anna was one of twenty-five grandchildren who as she put it “not only had to share my grandmother with my siblings and cousins, I had to share her with the whole world.”

Anna knew how important education was to her grandmother so in keeping the Roosevelt legacy alive, she wanted to inspire and support the girls at YWLCS. After all, Eleanor also went to an all-girls high school which is where she first learned and practiced leadership skills. Eleanor believed in the future because she believed in young people and anytime she had the chance to listen and find ways to help young people, she did.

A little about YWLCS:
The YWLCS started in 1999 when twenty-three dynamic women business and civic leaders wanted to create better opportunities for girls to be successful, especially given the low graduation rates and lack of career success that was predominant in the inner city schools. It is the only all-girls public school in the city of Chicago.

The reason Eleanor Roosevelt would have loved this school, Anna told me, is because all girls can be included. Any young girl has the opportunity to attend no matter what her background, how much money her parents make, what neighborhood she lives in or how good her grades were in grammar school. Eleanor believed “It is better for everyone when it is better for everyone.”

YWLCS is well-run school with effective leadership and caring teachers, who hold a high expectation and support girls in all aspects of their development. This is a school where it is not unusual for a student to come in a grade or two behind. Some come from neighborhoods where hearing gun violence is part of their every day life.

A few accomplishments include:

• Two seniors were awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship. One student will be attending Barnard another will be attending Stanford. This scholarship covers full tuition and expenses for not only undergraduate work, but for master and doctorate level degrees, too.

• 100% of the 2015 graduating class have been accepted into a college.

• The event included a showcase by the students highlighting the school groups, clubs and lessons learned. Students presented intelligently, articulating the issues facing their future yet looking forward with great optimism, empowered to take the lead.

• When I asked a student about the Ferguson and Baltimore protests and what she thought, her impromptu answer hit the mark: Fighting violence with violence is wrong and there is a need for someone to step up and lead.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt shared with the audience what she learned about leadership from her grandmother:

Listening: Eleanor was a great listener. She was keenly interested in what everyone had to say. Anna said that she knew her grandmother was listening – really listening – so she paid a lot more attention to what she was going to say. An interesting thought: If we knew people were really listening to us, how might we change what we say or talk about.

Being open minded: People have the right to their opinions and how we deal with the conflict when we do not agree is important to our leadership ability. Many times we let our egos get in the way which stunts our growth in so many ways. Eleanor said “There is not human being from whom we cannot learn something if we are interested enough to dig deep.”

Not being afraid to make or admit mistakes:  It is ok to say we were wrong. Mistakes are meant to be made. We learn and grow from mistakes. A thought to ponder: Are we playing a big enough game if we are not making any mistakes?

Influencing and persuading:   Eleanor always promoted peace, fairness and progress. She was a masterful politician. Much of this came from her ability to listen and be open minded. She knew if you want to be interesting, be interested first.

Anna talked about how her grandmother supported her using the following recipe:
• Listening
• Supporting
• Guiding
• Letting go

Eleanor and granddaughter Anna Eleanor RooseveltThis same recipe is being used by the YWLCS. When twenty-three ladies decided to build a school, they showed the world that coming together and providing vision and care, anything is possible. In an Eleanor Roosevelt way, they believed in the beauty of their dreams.

Why not take action and believe in the beauty of our dreams. We can change the world.

What are your dreams? Or, in Eleanor’s words: What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?”

If you would like to learn more about YWLCS or to donate

Eleanor Roosevelt with a few of her grandchildren.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I was eight years old when Martin Luther King Jr. died.  I remember being off school the day of his funeral.  I knew he was an important figure and a well known man.  I remember there was a lot of controversy and fear around him, too.  As I grew older I had a greater appreciation for his role building awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

Recently I spent a lot of time reading and researching Martin Luther King Jr. for my upcoming book:  Just Lead:  Embracing the 5 Universal Attributes of Great Leaders.   We hear his name, we associate it with the Civil Rights Movement yet I wanted to know more.  It took 100 years for changes to made, I wanted to know exactly how he did it.

Martin Luther King Jr.  branded the soul of the movement and spoke to our moral conscious.  He helped the world think of the civil rights issue not as a “black” problem but as a problem for mankind.  He had an incredible capacity for forgiveness and empathy.  His speeches always talked about getting along and living like brothers and sisters no matter what race, religion, or belief system.

He was a master story teller. His sound bites are etched in our memory:  I have a dream, Free at last,  I have been to the mountain top, We shall overcome.  He painted a picture of hope and what life would look  when we “got to the promised land.”  People remembered what he said – and they pictured it in their mind.

He was jailed over 20 times, stabbed in chest, his house bombed, and he was a continuous target of violence but he never backed down from his non-violent approach.  At one time he owned a gun but soon got rid of it.  He believed owning a gun was inappropriate for a crusader of non-violence.

We celebrate today because we cannot forget what he did to bring awareness to the injustices happening in our country

We celebrate today because Martin Luther King Jr.  still reminds us we are all part of the American Dream.

We celebrate today to honor a man who courageously fought for humanity.

Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by bringing out your best today.  Forgive each other, love each other and keep his hope alive.

Enjoy watching his famous I have a Dream speech.


What will you do today to honor Martin Luther King Jr.?

An Open Letter to Bridget Anne Kelly: Help us with Our Leadership Deficit

Bridget Anne Kelly

Bridget Anne Kelly

Dear Bridget,

You have been described as professional, friendly and nice; a supportive, caring mother of four children who has a just value system.  So I have to ask myself:  Where did a young, beautiful, smart mother who had so much going for her lose her moral accountability? 

You were on a fast track, in a position that could have potentially led to a nice position in the White House.

When and why did you lose your moral compass?

Did anyone who made these decisions think about the outcome of the action?  What if it was your children on the school bus for hours?  What if you were the one that called 911 because you thought your child was missing?  What if you were the one whose mother went into cardiac arrest and you were waiting and waiting for help to show up?  How would it feel if you were in these people’s shoes?

This is what the empathy deficit is about.

We have so many questions to help us understand and make any sense out of what happened.  Did you believe this is what the Governor wanted?  Is this the path you felt you must take when you enter politics?  Did you just let the power get to your head?

As the “Bridgegate” story unfolded, I could not help but wonder how all of this came to head.  I cannot imagine the pit in your stomach and the disappointment you must feel right now.

There is hope.  You are given the gift of a new opportunity and a fresh start. There is so much we can learn from you.

Help us understand where moral accountability breaks down so that we can influence our children to make better choices.

Teach children about obstacles that get the way to being a great follower.  Help us with our ability to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right things.

Make a difference by role modeling how to take accountability and turn a bad situation into a positive experience for our future leaders.


Life is like a game of cards, it is time to trump the ace. 


April Lara