William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, was born in 1590 in a small farming town in England. Tragically, his father died when he was only one year old. His mother, Alice, then raised him until he was four, when she remarried and sent him to live with his grandfather. But his grandfather died when William was only six. Further tragedy hit when his mother died only one year later. So he was then sent to live with two uncles.
At 18, William fled England’s religious persecution with other Separatists, arriving in Amsterdam in 1608. In 1609, he moved with his Puritan church to Holland, where he resided for the next 11 years. He was a silk weaver by trade.
In 1620, at 30 years old, William and his wife, Dorothy, sold their house and joined the Mayflower expedition and sailed for America. Tragically, after enduring the difficult crossing of the Atlantic, and while the ship was anchored at Cape Cod and the men were exploring on land, Dorothy fell overboard and drowned.
As he had done repeatedly throughout his life, William endured through the loss of his wife, only to have to face with the other pilgrims one of the harshest years of their lives, during which only half of them survived. Bradford himself got sick and wasn’t expected to live, but recovered.
In 1621, Bradford was elected second governor of Plymouth, and, because of his superior leadership and ability to endure, he was re-elected nearly every year thereafter. His duties included managing the colony’s finances, communicating with investors and neighbors, overseeing the courts, formulating policy and law, etc. Many of his letters, poems and writings survive to this day.
One thing that has made America great is its long lineage of valiant leaders in every generation. These are the type of men and women about whom our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, described, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
One more extraordinary example of that type of leadership can be found in my friend and the new Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos. After being recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June and endorsed by President Obama in July, my wife, Gena, and I (among many others around the world) were thrilled to hear he was appointed on Oct. 22, 2010.
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