Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Love was the central message of retired Brig Gen. Stephen Michael’s remarks at the Fort Leavenworth National Day of Prayer service May 6 at Frontier Chapel.
“Leadership is love. When leaders love, lives are invested in, subordinates are empowered, there are less second-class citizens, (less) sexual harassment and assault, teams are built, hubris is kept at bay,” Michael said. “When leaders love, this nation has nothing to worry about. Its treasure, its sons and daughters, are in great hands.”
Quoting verses of scripture, Michael said ultimately all are asked to love above all things.
“That’s what the (Combined Arms Center) needs, that’s what the Army needs and that’s is what our nation needs,” Michael said. “But, the unchanging nature, that remains our quintessential challenge — man’s fallen nature, hubris, pride, greed … quest for power — there is always the potential for great peril.”
The tension between promise and peril has been part of the human story for centuries, Michael said.
He spoke about how the “sins of the fathers” — including slavery, the treatment of Black soldiers following their return home from World War II and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s — still haunt today’s society because of the power it is given, but that it can be changed with a force for good through the power of prayer.
“Prayer moves mountains. It steels the soul. … It leads to and imputes courage and character, but it also focuses on doing and on being a force for good,” Michael said. “It crystalizes that we are the instruments of God, and that it isn’t going to happen, it will not be done unless you, unless I, do it.
“So, as we look at the challenges we are facing, and we pray for this Army and this nation, the change we seek is us,” he said. “As we look back, so much has changed and is changing. There is a huge gulf between where we were and where we are now …but there is still so much more that needs to be done. Remember, the sins of the father has no power over us unless we let it. What we need to do is expose it to the light and turn away.”
Michael said it’s not about changing history.
“It is about acknowledging our history and stating that this is no longer who we are. That’s how we relegate the darkness to the past and allow all the greatness of our shared history to propel us into the future. This nation remains the best on the planet, a shining city on a hill, the best that mankind has ever seen,” Michael said.
After quoting the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, Michael said, “The Declaration of Independence is the thing upon which our Constitution stands, and together they remain the very thing that separates this country of ours from every other country on the planet. That idea is where America’s greatness and promise lies.
“This journey we are on, and the discussions we are having, it is not about diminishing America. It is about elevating it and enabling it to live up to and realize its full potential, and that is the task and work of every generation continually perfecting the union,” he said. “To understand why (this country) is not perfect, all we have to do is look in the mirror. It is made up of people like me and you, human, frail, all suffering from like passion, but whom are all capable of great things.
“You are, I am, we are the change we seek, so pray, lead with love and be the change you seek.”
Before his retirement from active duty, Michael served as the deputy commander of CAC-Training. As a civilian, he currently serves as the senior adviser for organizational culture to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Michael’s speech was preceded by prayers for the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic and the military, as well as a scripture reading and special musical.
For the full ceremony, visit the Fort Leavenworth Religious Support Office Facebook page.