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Lessons in Civility

August 23, 2019
By Scott Eisner
Presidential Leadership Scholar Scott Eisner reflects on his experience in the program.
On June 27, 58 members of the 2019 class of Presidential Leadership Scholars graduated in a ceremony at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

With the culmination of the 2019 class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, we now turn of the page to the next chapter of our lives. Lives that were inspired by presidents who gave this country their all in an effort to shape the path for those who will come after them. For me, PLS was a seminal reflection point to never forget our roots, as different as they might be. It reminded me that we are all one in the same – a set of DNA markers that define us as who we are to ourselves and how others perceive us.

But perception is not always reality. Throughout human history, we have taken these simple markers and layered value, meaning, and, at times, prejudice upon them.

Throughout the PLS program, our class studied at the feet of our nation’s leaders who sought to make the next generation better.

Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson taught us that we are all evolving, we are all valuable, and we are all fallible. Within our failures, we can find life lessons:

  • President Johnson taught us to know what others need so that you are prepared to make the necessary concessions “without giving away the ranch.”
  • President George H.W. Bush taught us that personal and lasting relationships matter, and personal connections count.
  • President Bill Clinton taught us about the narrative of life and how to turn those narratives into convictions.
  • President George W. Bush taught us that faith, regardless of its form or origin, was something that binds us all together.

 All four presidents taught us to stand behind our decisions, no matter how hard they might be to make.

But these are just lessons. What sets great leaders apart is their ability to inspire those around them to be better and to act better. The PLS program brought together a group of inspired individuals from different walks of life, all yearning to find a commonality among their collective vision of the world and what can truly make it a better place: the understanding that all viewpoints are valid and none should be shunned. In our class there were veterans, survivors of gun violence, and survivors of sexual violence, politicians, private sector leaders, tech entrepreneurs, doctors, civic rights leaders and artists. Although we were all different, we were taught to learn as one.

We no longer need to be reminded of the amazing qualities of our fellow citizens and what this country has to offer. But we do need to be reminded that each of us have a voice and that there are always lessons to be learned from our fellow Americans, no matter what their position is in life.

So, the next time you see someone on the street, who looks different from you or a little rough around the edges, stop for a second, ask them their name, and see how they can inspire you.

*This article was originally posted on www.presidentialleadershipscholars.org. For more information about the PLS program, visit our Twitter and Instagram handle, @PLSprogram. 

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