By Mark Bowser
In his leadership book, Resilient Leaders, Major General Robert F. Dees tells a fascinating story about the perspective of Admiral Chester Nimitz during World War II. On the evening of December 7, 1941, Admiral Nimitz found himself at a concert. Trying to give himself a few minutes away from the reality of what had happened earlier that morning at Pearl Harbor, he let the music soak into his soul. But, how do you put the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor out of your mind?
Shortly, he found that desire to be waning and then completely fading as a phone call came his direction. And, no ordinary phone call at that. President Roosevelt himself was calling. The President informed the Admiral that he had been selected to be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Now, the aftermath and the rebuilding of Pearl Harbor and the American fleet had been put squarely on the Admiral’s shoulders. Would those shoulders be broad enough for the task ahead?
When Admiral Nimitz arrived at Pearl on Christmas Eve, he not surprisingly found the atmosphere on the base to be quite gloomy. And why shouldn’t it be? The attack had devastated the American Navy and it’s personnel. The next day, the Admiral was given a tour of the cause of the despair including the sunken vessels which had become the final resting place for 3,800 American heroes.
At the end of the tour, the Admiral was asked what he thought of the destruction. The Admiral’s response was shocking. It wasn’t one of despair. It was one of optimism, hope, and future victory. Admiral Nimitz looked at the young helmsman who had asked the question and he said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make … God was really taking care of America. One, the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning when most crewmen were on shore on leave. Otherwise we might have lost 38,000 sailors. Two, the Japanese never attacked the dry docks we will use to repair our ships allowing them to be repaired quickly, and three, the Japanese did not attack our fuel supply.”
No matter how dark the situation may appear, there is always light that can vanquish the darkness like a light-switch being flipped on in a room. Admiral Chester Nimitz was a leader who saw light and not darkness. We can do the same thing. This is Mark Bowser. Thanks for reading today.
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