13
Oct
Leadership Lessons from Garfield: Humility
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“I never meet a ragged boy in the street without feeling that I may owe him a salute, for I know not what possibilities may be buttoned up under his coat.”
— Millard, Candice. Destiny of the Republic (p. 18). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

President James A. Garfield was able to say this because he, himself, came from very, very humble beginnings, growing up on the Ohio frontier, and lost his father due to a fire when James was just a little boy. As just one illustration:

Even by the standards of the hardscrabble rural region in which he lived, Garfield was raised in desperate circumstances. His mother, left with debts she could not hope to pay after her husband’s death, was forced to sell much of their land. What was left, she farmed herself with the help of her oldest son, James’s eleven-year-old brother, Thomas. Between them, working as hard as they could, they managed to avoid giving the younger children to more prosperous families to raise, as their relatives had advised them to do. So little did they have to spare, however, that James did not have a pair of shoes until he was four years old.f

— Millard, Candice. Destiny of the Republic (pp. 19-20). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

President Garfield’s humility, as we will see, served him well time and time again. Indeed it is doubtful that he would have become President had he not been so humble. His ambitions were for his country and not himself, and because of this, others elevated him when many of his peers lost out in the quest for the Presidency for being so personally ambitious.