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  • Reverend James Squire

Questions for the Heart

Updated: Feb 14, 2021

I sometimes ask four questions when being very impressed by someone. The first two questions drive my children crazy. They don’t think that people are interested in them, but I have spent a lifetime in the education business. Where did you go to college? I don’t care where you went to college as some people do. I want to know about your experience there so that I could recommend it or not to others. What was your major? I want to know what people are interested in and whether their major impacted their life. I also want to know two other questions. Where did you get your courage? What are the skills that have made you a great leader? I would hope that I could judge their character and empathy before asking any of these questions.

Regarding leadership, my neighbor on the Chesapeake was responsible for taking DuPont into China and making that company a great success there. Most people know how difficult it is to do business in China with their repressive government. He lived there for five years. I asked him the leadership question. He replied, “I told those who worked at the company that they should keep in mind the dirty 30. That means that if on any given day, you are winning 70% of your challenges and losing 30%, that is a good day.” In essence, keep your expectations realistic in leadership and in life.

I wondered where Georgia election official, Gabriel Sterling, got his courage to confront President Trump bluntly about his accusations of fraud in the Georgia election telling lies and conspiracy theories. What Trump is doing is undermining our democracy. Sterling is one of the few Republicans who have had the courage to do that. Sterling stands out! If you want to see what courage looks like, see the video of his speech at the end of this post.

I got my answer in an article in the Los Angeles Times (December 14, 2020) by Del Quentin Wilber and Jennie Jarvie. The article confirmed what I had come to believe which is why teaching young people ethics is so important. Sterling is a life-long Republican who voted for Trump. As a result of his courage, he has received death threats and told to sleep with his eyes open. People have encouraged him to commit suicide. He is on a website that lists Trump’s enemies with his face shown in gun crosshairs. Now he is looking into an election in January for a Senate run off and facing the same kind of potential backlash, but he keeps moving forward.


Pay attention to what made him speak out. Sterling got a call from an upset manager at Dominion which produced the voting machines. One of the company’s technicians got a message accusing him of wrong doing. Next to the man’s name was a photograph of a noose. Sterling reflects my long-held belief that courage develops when someone is young. All of his life he has taken on bullies. He always has felt responsible for other people. He couldn’t abide that the election worker from Dominion had to go through what he and others had to do as he was a technician not an election official who was the face of the election. The guy was just doing his job.

What would it be like to be Sterling’s father whose son was going through all of these threats? His dad was not surprised by his son’s taking on Trump. He said, “Ever since you were a little boy you have been focused on what is right and wrong."

Courage is shaped when a boy or girl sees someone bullying another and stands up for the person bullied. Courage is shaped every time a boy or girl does the hard right and not the easy wrong. They are not born this way. Courage reveals itself and can be accessed in the face of any wrong doing. Courageous people can do no other. I have been blessed to know many young people who are like Sterling.

One of my students who died after he graduated from college of a heart issue was such a person. Ricky Whalen was a standout person and athlete at the Episcopal Academy and at Brown University where he won the Unsung Hero Award on his lacrosse team. After his death the award was re-named The Richard Q. Whalen Unsung Hero Award. Ricky had a great impact on others. A thousand people attended his memorial service in our school chapel. Buses filled with lacrosse teams arrived from various parts of the East Coast. Sometime after the service his brothers, Dennis and Reid, had a tattoo put on their inner arms with the initials RQW. I saw a close friend of Ricky later in life. He had an initial tattooed on his inner arm. It is an “R”. I asked him, “Why?” He looked at me and said, “I want to see his initial every day so that I remember what goodness and integrity look like in a person.” That close friend with the tattoo on his arm is James Biden, nephew of the President Elect.

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