Opinion: Hardship paves way for leadership

Times of distress and crisis allow the world to see where true leadership really lies.

May 7, 2020


Leaders / Louis Font / louisfont.com / SS BY-SA

A true leader will reach out their hand to help others and together, guide them to success.

Throughout history, leadership is always needed. From monarchies to elected officials to unassuming individuals thrust into positions of leadership, society needs leaders who have the charisma to take charge. 

Though it might be hard to define leadership, times of crisis allow for stark contrasts between true leaders and leaders that fall short. The people who rise to the moment and lead with empathy, respect, and courage are true leaders. Throughout history as well as in today’s world, this is seen, making it easy to identify true leaders from not.

Currently, the coronavirus pandemic is a global period of distress. The stress placed on first responders and families around the globe is unparalleled to anything the world has ever seen before. Families have lost jobs, the economy has collapsed, and individuals fear sickness or even death. With a cure still out of reach, strong leadership has become even more vital.

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In communities, individuals are sewing countless masks to donate to hospitals and first responders. Others are donating food, money, and supplies to families who have lost their source of income.

For instance, in San Carlos’s backyard is One Life Counseling Center, a group that is donating food and other essentials to those who cannot afford it right now. Though initially a non profit counseling center working to benefit their community, they have broadened their scope during the crisis to provide not only mental health support but clothing and food to those most vulnerable in the community.

Many people who come through their weekly drive-through are living in their cars or have no source of income with a family to feed. While following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks and gloves, volunteers distribute boxes filled with food supplies, diapers, sanitary products as well as toys to families with children. By continuing to benefit the community, they have eased the strain COVID-19 has placed on individuals and provided an avenue for those wishing to volunteer.

The youth in our community also continue to step up; for instance, San Carlos’ Youth Advisory Council is trying to work with the city and local businesses and communities to start projects. Even with city restrictions, they do what they can, currently hosting a diaper drive to donate to One Life.  

By raising money and volunteering, people in our community have stepped up to help others in our community. In times of distress, it has been shown over and over that they often lend helping hands. 

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Currently, governors are leading the response to COVID-19, requiring shutdowns and quarantines. Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented the first mandatory stay-at-home order in the US and has seemingly flattened the curve compared to many other states. Other states have followed suit, and now many other governors around the US, including Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and others, have teamed up to collaborate on a blueprint to reopen the economy safely. 

Individual states are also attempting to raise their residents’ moral as well as provide help. For instance, Californians are encouraged to join #CaliforniansForAll to see opportunities to help others around them. People can sign up for emails from California Volunteers to help out.

“Californians are united, and there are no limits to our incredible creativity to help and support each other in this moment,” said California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday in an interview. “California businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations all play a vital role in the #CaliforniansForAll effort, and the residents of this state are stepping up when they are needed most.”  

Nationally and by state, residents have continuously stepped up in the past and present. In the 1930s, the Great Depression hit the US hard. Over 15 million people, a quarter of the nation’s workforce, were left unemployed, and thousands became homeless. In 1933, the deepest part of the Great Depression, Franklin Delaware Roosevelt became president and installed, for the first time in years, hope in the American people. 

In FDR’s first inaugural address, he recognized how important the truth was, proceeding to say how hard the times were and how much people were suffering. Though he spoke truthfully and described the negative situation, he still managed to provide one thing: hope. FDR’s sense of hope, along with truth, communication, and reliance on the American people, kept the country going in its toughest of times. 

Following his inaugural address, FDR took immediate action, setting his plan of reform, called the New Deal, in motion. The New Deal’s goals were relief, recovery, and reform; he created various programs to stimulate the economy, including public works, followed by financial reforms and new regulations. 

After the Great Depression came World War II, and FDR was elected again. He was elected for four terms with an average approval rating of 64%. Although he died at the beginning of his 4th term, he left his mark as one of our nation’s greatest leaders. Upon his death, he had the highest approval rating of all recorded presidents. As president, he led us during depression and war times yet managed to instill hope in times of hopelessness demonstrating his leadership capabilities. 

On a national scale, one does not have to be president or in the office to make a difference. For instance, former President George W. Bush, just released an inspirational video about unity through crisis. Though he has been out of the office for over a decade, he still attempts to provide leadership and bring up the population’s spirits with his uplifting message.

George W. Bush Presidential Center on Twitter

A Message from President George W. Bush @TheCalltoUnite https://t.co/FIn9wuOPTF

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There’s a history of helping those who are struggling even on a global scale. In 2014-2016 the West Africa Ebola epidemic occurred, killing over 11,000 people and spreading quickly to the at-risk population. The social and economic impact of this disease had never been seen before, and unprepared nations were quickly swept into crisis.

Around the world, leaders sent aid. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) by April of 2016, over $459 million from donations around the world had been received. Some of the largest donors included the United States of America, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Ebola Multi-Partner Trust Fund, and Japan.

Besides donations of money, other countries sent help in the form of protective equipment, emergency supplies, and doctors. In 2014, the Chinese government sent tens of thousands of dollars worth of emergency aid equipment, including protective suits, disinfectants, and rescue-monitoring equipment to countries that were hit hard by Ebola. Other countries, including Cuba, sent doctors to help the response in West Africa.

Though world leaders and world organizations oftentimes allocate funds and help to aid a country, individuals often chip in. In the 1980s, the Ethiopian famine hit, it was the worst famine to strike a country in a century, claiming 1.2 million lives and leaving millions starving. 

In 1985, artists from around the world put on Live Aid, a charity event where the profits were donated to Ethiopia. Almost 2 billion people around the world watched this event, in total raising $127 million in famine relief for African nations.

Now, a few weeks ago, a similar event occurred again on YouTube. Global Citizen, an anti-poverty organization, paired up with the WHO to put on the star-studded “One World: Together at Home” concert to raise money and support for health care workers. 

Jimmy Fallon, Oprah Winfrey, and Lady Gaga, along with many other celebrities, made an appearance on the Livestream, offering their music along with words of hope to the 20.7 million people who watched the event. Throughout the 8 hour show, nearly $128 million was raised for the coronavirus response efforts.

The impact of individuals, whether world leaders, celebrities, or ordinary people on a global scale, can provide aid and hope. Though rare, times of crisis amplify and create leaders in the world and often inspire those to make a difference.

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Hardship paves way for leadership

Despite the power or position one may have, one’s title does not necessarily make them a leader. Those without any current power can provide leadership and hope to millions. Even leaders of small countries or organizations bring hope to the world. 

Recently, the small county of New Zealand has made headlines around the world for its leadership. New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, leads with empathy and offers reassurance to her people, proving her leadership and effectiveness in times of crisis.

Leaders who lead with respect, empathy, and integrity are the ones who will prevail and take control while others fall behind. On a local, national, and global scale, ordinary people, as well as certain leaders, are rising up to help those in need, proving themselves in times of crisis. As history repeats itself, leadership will help us emerge from hardship yet again.

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About the Writer
Photo of Cori Nicholson
Cori Nicholson, Staff Writer
Cori Nicholson is a sophomore at Carlmont High School and is a student in Media Arts English. She volunteers with Leo's Club and enjoys being involved in the community.

Twitter: @CoriNicholson12
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