We’ve each met great men in our lifetimes. The first I ever met was my grandfather, Clair Fields Taylor. The first in his family to go to college, Taylor found his niche in the newspaper advertising business. Hired by Hearst Newspapers in the 1930s, Taylor soon developed an industry-wide reputation for honesty, integrity and professionalism – he became a favorite of sorts of William Randolph Hearst himself. He rose through the Hearst companies to executive positions in San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit. He came to be known as the “Judge” in the Detroit advertising community – an ethical arbiter of sorts -- if there was a question about whether an advertisement, TV, radio or print was or wasn’t ethical, the Judge was consulted. After more than forty years with Hearst, my grandfather retired to little fanfare – content to head home, to take care of my grandmother and to contribute in other ways.
I remember him well. My grandfather’s hands were large – in fact, they were huge. You couldn’t shake his hand, without feeling awed by the strength of his grip. This, indeed, was a great man.
As prominent as his career came to be, he was far more interested in his grandchildren. As important as he was to Hearst’s success, he was far more interested in being a success at home. As many times as he met with the leaders of industry, he was far more interested in meeting my teacher or my coach. As often as he traveled to meetings throughout the country, he was far more interested in driving my grandmother to the grocery store and her doctor’s appointments. This, indeed, was a great man.
Before he died, my grandfather taught me much. I learned from him, that . . .
Truly great men don’t need to be told that they’re great. In fact, it’s often the case that great men are told they aren’t.
Truly great men make decisions – consider, deliberate, decide and, then, act. Their decisions are often difficult – after all, you don’t need great men to make easy decisions.
Truly great men are willing to let the wisdom that only time provides judge the merit of their actions.
Truly great men are rarely interested in the visceral views of the many and far more interested in the sage views of the few.
Truly great men do not become ensconced in the pomp and circumstance of their position, but will gladly surrender to their faith, integrity and passion to do what’s right.
Truly great men recognize that leadership is less about getting others to follow and far more about empowering others to lead.
Truly great men humbly accept when the job is done, assured in the way they have done the job.
On Tuesday, a truly great man will humbly accept that his job is done, assured in the way he has done his job. For a grateful nation and for my family which you kept safe, President Bush, I say thank you and Godspeed. Suffice it to say, we all now know another truly great man.