I just picked up David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning-biography of John Adams, our 2nd president and one of the key leaders in birth of the United States of America. As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s founding, even in the middle of chaos, confusion, and heart-ache, it’s helpful to learn about what inspired leaders like Adams:
Ambitious to excel–to make himself known–he had nonetheless recognized at an early stage that happiness came not from fame and fortune, “and all such things,” but from “an habitual contempt of them,” as he wrote. He prized the Roman ideal of honor, and in this, as in much else, he and Abigail [his wife] were in perfect accord. Fame without honor, in her view, would be “like a faint meteor gliding through the sky, shedding only transient light” (19).
Adams was motivated by the “Roman ideal of honor.” He had a standard by which to measure himself. He had a goal he aspired to. His moral imagination was fueled by a deep exposure to the classics. His sense of duty was also informed by his faith:
As his family and friends knew, Adams was both a devout Christian and an independent thinker, and he saw no conflict in that. He was hard-headed and a man of “sensibility,” a close observer of human folly as displayed in everyday life and fired by an inexhaustible love of books and scholarly reflection. He read Cicero, Tacitus, and others of his Roman heroes in Latin, and Plato and Thucydides in the original Greek, which he considered the supreme language. But in his need to fathom the “labyrinth” of human nature, as he said, he was drawn to Shakespeare and Swift, and likely to carry Cervantes or a volume of English poetry with him on his journeys. “You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket,” he would tell his son Johnny (19).
John Adams was classically educated. More specifically, he received a classical Christian education at the fledgling college of Harvard. Because of this training–this moral, intellectual, and spiritual formation–he was equipped for the many later leadership roles he took on in the crisis of the American War for Independence and the emergence of the United States of America.
Adams was not alone. The Founding Fathers of our country were motivated and inspired by ideals of government and leadership that they inherited from their classical Christian education. Though they were imperfect, and perhaps tragically flawed in many respects, if we want leaders like George Washington, John Adams, and Patrick Henry, perhaps we should give our children an education similar to theirs.
That’s precisely what we’re doing at Kepler Education, and in the wider classical Christian education resurgence. We’re training tomorrow’s leaders today. We’re giving them the tools to serve God and serve their neighbor in every area of life. We’re equipping them with the tools of leadership to make a difference. And though the culture is crumbling around us, we know that the next John and Abigail Adams are somewhere out there, learning their Greek, and reading their Shakespeare.
Learn more at Kepler Education, and help us train tomorrow’s leaders!