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A Hero for The Ages

February 12, 2018

    Heroes and leader archetypes are something that I am constantly on the lookout for because if there’s one thing I know it’s this: Our world needs more heroes and leaders to help the U.S. and the West resuscitate a world drowning in a sea of corrosive philosophic ideas. Thankfully, Jerry Bruckheimer and others have given us an inspiring vision to enjoy and contemplate in the movie, King Arthur, (2005), starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley.

    This is one of my favorite movies in its celebration of an immensely inspiring hero/leader archetype. This is not the Arthur of myth, but rather a conscripted Roman soldier forced to fight in the Roman army at a time that Rome is falling apart, and the Dark Ages are nearly upon them. In this story, Arthur leads an elite group of knights who revere him-- and vice versa-- for his courage in battle and integrity to his values.

The question that Arthur must face--and answer--to save himself, his men, and others depending on him is: What IS right(?) when his world is falling apart, and his men are furious with the Church authority who has betrayed them and forced them to engage in a suicide rescue mission.

   As if the situation were not complex enough, he and his men must form an alliance with the native Britons, a people they have been fighting against for the past 15 years. And worse still, his mentor, the Christian philosopher, Pelagius, a man he studied under in Rome, has just been killed, leaving Arthur adrift from the inside out. Yet Arthur and his men face it all, with a courage and intellect that causes Guinevere, a fiery native Briton who initially challenges the choices Arthur has made, to fall passionately in love with him and he with her.

    Guinevere shows herself to be a heroine worthy of Arthur, and vice versa, in a moving scene near the end of the movie:

Guinevere: “I can see why you think you have nothing left here. You have your deeds . . .” 

Arthur: “Deeds by themselves are meaningless unless they serve a higher purpose! We have waged a war to protect a Rome that does not exist. Is that the deed I am to be judged by?”

Guinevere: “You stayed and fought when you could have run. You bloodied evil men. You did all that for no reason?”

Arthur: “Pelagius told me once that there is no worse death than the end of hope.”

Gunevere: “. . . What are you afraid of Arthur? You’re like this country, Britons with a Roman father. Rome is DEAD! This place, this land, your HOME-- is the last outpost of freedom, of everything you hold dear.” Reaching up to touch his cheek, says slowly, “These . . . are . . . your . . . people.”

     Hollywood churns out a lot of forgettable movies these days, but this time, thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer, a great script, and a talented set of actors, they really got it right. See this inspiring movie of an unforgettable leader and take these lessons home with you to live in your own life, as I have in mine. – Mike Gemmell

On Being a Leader

February 12, 2018

         True leadership is always rare. What might be helpful in finding and developing new leaders is to (1) define the characteristics of great leaders (2) provide historical and current examples, and then (3) direct interested parties toward individuals and organizations actively engaged in developing the leaders we need. 

     In my judgment, the one characteristic above all that great leaders have is the courage and integrity to stand by their fundamental beliefs in thick and thin, and I can think of no better real-life example of someone who did this than Winston Churchill. I recommend parties interested in leaders and leadership study this man thoroughly and a good place to start would be the movie recently released: "Darkest Hour," the story of Churchill's leadership of Britain in the darkest days of World War II. - Mike Gemmell

Decoration Day

February 12, 2018

     The power of art, and especially movie cinema, is its ability to “show” rather than simply “tell” about selected subject matter. If done skillfully, it can engage both our minds and our emotions and in so doing encourage needed reflection on the part of the viewer. And reflection is what is needed today concerning the cultural turmoil America is experiencing, especially in the area of race relations.

   One movie that does an outstanding job of this while providing a wonderful source of soul-enriching entertainment is Decoration Day (1990) starring James Garner, Ruby Dee, and Laurence Fishburne. It is one of the finest movies I have ever seen for a variety of reasons including a deeply moving story, characters who grow before the viewers eyes as they confront the events of the story and their lives, a courageous appraisal of what does and what does NOT constitute racism, and last-- but far from least-- a rich use of language.

    At the core of the story is the dynamic between James Garner (Albert Sidney) a white retired judge and his 50-year relationship with his black maid/friend Ruby Dee (Rowena). I won’t give the story away for those wishing to see the movie, but would like to share this rich exchange that shatters racial stereotypes by the characters who see and act as INDIVIDUALS first, with their specific races as a secondary consideration, if any.

    Garner’s character (Albert Sidney) has just gone through the motions of trying to do a small favor for a friend, but Ruby Dee (Rowena) will not let him off the hook because she knows there is a deeper issue at hand that Garner is trying to avoid facing. . .

Rowena: “Myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, isn’t this a proud day! Friend’s life is all in a mess and Albert Sidneys going fishing!”

Albert Sidney from his small row boat off shore: “I filed a petition; it’s all I can do.”

Rowena: “Well, you really got to the bottom of it, didn’t YA!!”

Albert Sidney: “Your voice carries, Rowena.”

Rowena: “I TRAINED it to carry. When you get your age your supposed to lend a hand now and then to pay back some of that air you been breathing . . . If I was as thick with Gee Pennywell as you were, I’d sure want to know why he’s turned on the world.”

Albert Sidney: “That’s his business.”

Rowena: “Well, you got that right. Highest medal the country gives (Medal of Honor) and he don’t want it! Sure nothing strange about that, now is there.”

Albert Sidney: “Never thought that you were so fond of Gee these days.”

Rowena: “I was never that fond of him, but that doesn’t mean that others that were like YOU ought not to make another try at it!! You stopped dressing like a judge. Now when you gonna stop acting like one!”

Albert Sidney: Says to himself as Rowena walks away: “Whew!!!!!! If she’d been a lawyer, Clarence Darrow would have had to hid’ out in the Men’s Room. Row for shore Albert . . . row for shore. . .”

See this movie. I’m more than confident that you’ll be glad you did. – Mike Gemmell

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