23 March 2012
For leadership, look to Washington, D.C.
People who seek a guiding spirit for our nation, someone to lead us past petty troubles toward a higher, greater good, often come away disappointed as they stand, if only figuratively, in the shadow of the Capitol or the White House.
But yes, the spirit of leadership does thrive after all in Washington, D.C. Any doubters need only turn to the Washington Post website, to a recent article by columnist John Kelly, which speaks of cherry blossoms and their eternal hold on a now-retired botanist.
We are not talking here about cherry blossoms or botany, however. We are drawn to the very bottom of Kelly's column, where he reveals himself a true commander in this capital city. He writes: "My second annual Squirrel Week kicks off April 8. Send squirrel-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Squirrel Query” in the subject line."
Wildlife rehabilitators are known to readily initiate such now-entrenched celebrations as Squirrel Appreciation Day, in the autumn, and Squirrel Appreciation Week, in January - and older tradition has, of course, brought us Groundhog Day in February. But it takes initiative, guts and pluck for a "wildlife civilian" such as Kelly to put himself out there on the maple limb with the bushytails and proclaim a designated Squirrel Week - the second annual one, no less - in a high-profile metropolis that has been known, throughout our nation's evolution, for far more global, history-making events.
This, I maintain, is leadership. The Washington Post already raised the curtain on this special week back in January with its online gallery of readers' squirrel photos. Kelly, who is clearly a fan of squirrels, also clearly works in a Scuridae-friendly environment - something I hope the nearby U.S. Department of Labor will take note of when handing out workplace merit badges.
Ah, but why is this leadership?
Because it takes courage, commitment and honesty to advocate for the little guy. To advocate for the helpless. To share the stories and photos of the oft-disenfranchised. We often hear these very pleas delivered in testimony on Capitol Hill, a nut's-throw (or two) from the Washington Post newsroom. Squirrels are simply a smaller, unseen nation of 99 percenters.
Thanks to journalists who are not afraid to take the lead, people such as Kelly - and the Washington Post, which supports his efforts - this small nation stands much less of a chance of being forgotten.