The Price of Failed Leadership

“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft…I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot,” Maj. Heather Penney recalled about her flight on September 11, 2001. 

On that day, Penney, then a lieutenant, had her orders. She had to intercept and stop United Airlines Flight 93 from making it to Washington DC. But neither she nor her commander, who was ready to go in another fighter, had any weapons to fire at the hijacked jet. The jets only had dummy bullets, still loaded after a training mission. So the plan was, if necessary, to fly straight into the passenger jet. If she had to do that, she would die. 

It turned out that the heroes that day were the brave passengers on Flight 93 who took the plane down themselves. But Maj. Heather Penney was prepared to fulfill her oath to protect and defend the Constitution with her life if necessary.

I was thinking about Maj. Heather Penney today as I watched the Trump impeachment trial. She was prepared to put her life on the line for the sake of her oath. Today revealed that Trump wouldn’t know what the integrity of an oath even means. Talk about contrast. 

Leadership begins within each of us. If we are people of integrity privately, we lead with integrity publically. If we are trustworthy and honest with ourselves, we are trustworthy and honest with others. Our actions are a byproduct of our personal authenticity. This principle is at the heart of our most powerful sacred stories in scripture. Over and over, our sacred texts tell us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:26-27).”

Who we are shapes what we do, for good and ill. I pray that becomes the great lesson of this terrible moment in our history and a great inspiration for the world we shape from here. We are better than these last four years. Thanks be to God for that. 

We are in this together,


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