For Williams news junkies, a good source is the College’s listing of media references. The list is not comprehensive (not sure how one would create a comprehensive list), but is does have many interesting tidbits. Alas, no links are provided. But that is why we have this blog!

An example, provided from the list, is a book review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of “Transforming Leadership” by James MacGregor Burns ’39 and professor of political science emertus. The review, written by the paper’s executive editor David Scribman, is adequate, if a bit shallow. It notes that:

for most of us leadership is uncomfortably close to pornography; we don’t know how to define it, but we know it when we see it. But James MacGregor Burns isn’t like most of us. In a lifetime of scholarship, he has sought to identify leadership, analyze leadership, understand leadership. Now a man admired for his biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and remembered for his trilogy on American history has leaped into the leadership fracas. He knows it when he sees it, of course, but in his latest volume, he is seeking to define it, too.

Burns, of course, has been trying to define leadership all his life. In this context, a failure to mention Burn’s 1982 magnum opus on the topic, Leadership, suggests that the writer may not be overly familar with what Burns thoughts on the topic. Scribman concludes by noting that

This slender volume, stuffed with anecdote and analysis, is more than a study of leadership. It is also a call to arms — for a radically different sort of conflict from the ones engaged in by the great figures of history. Burns has in mind a great conflict involving great values. He envisions a worldwide fight against poverty and hunger.

“In millennia past, the most potent act of the rulers of nations has been the recruitment and deployment into battle of great armies of their people,” Burns writes.

“Can we, in coming decades, mobilize throughout the world a new, militant, but peaceful army — tens of thousands of leaders who would in turn recruit fresh leaders at the grass roots, in villages and neighborhoods, from among the poor themselves, to fight and win a worldwide war against desperation?”

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read the book myslef, but these sentiments are certainly consistent with what Burns has been saying and writing for more than 50 years. Of course, Burkean that I am, my preference would be to aim for much smaller, but more concrete, steps. How about: “Can we, next year, mobilize 10 Williams graduating seniors to go out into a dangerous part of the world (Burma, Iraq, Liberia) and try to help the people there make their lives better?” Burns, for all his well-deserved stature as an intellectual giant of the Left, might accomplish more thinking small than in writing (another) book as call-to-arms.

Think globally, act locally.

That’s what the bumper stickers tell me, at least.

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