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Amid the tremendous challenges facing the United States at the moment, it’s useful to recall the origination of the now-familiar holiday. Abraham Lincoln established it in the dark hours of the Civil War.
The Great War of 1914-18—it became the First World War only in tragic retrospect—was the seminal event of the 20th century. Its after-effects reverberate in our day.
One might argue that the 20th century actually began with the war in 1914, culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The Great War and its immediate aftermath (including the flu pandemic) consumed 37 million casualties.
As shocking as the absolute number is, consider what it would mean in today’s terms. In 1920 the population of the earth was approaching two billion; by contrast, today that number has passed seven billion. By a conservative accounting, that would translate into more than a hundred million casualties in our time.
At the outset of a new century, it may be useful to reflect upon leadership lessons that the Great War provides.
Just as the war affected aspects of life far beyond the battlefield, its leadership lessons have resonance far beyond wartime.