The dictionary defines duty as something you must do because it is morally right or legally required. However, a dictionary cannot provide us with the depth of the concept of duty. Only those who have truly done their duty can explain its full meaning.
The first voice that comes to mind is that of King Leonidas of Sparta. In 480 BC a Persian army of 150,000 soldiers invaded Greece. Leonidas and 300 Spartans held a narrow coastal pass which blocked the Persians from entering central Greece.
The Spartans held the pass for two days and were defeated only after a farmer showed the Persians a path through the mountains that led to the rear of the Greeks. Leonidas and the 300 Spartans lost their lives 2,500 years ago, but we still remember them because they did their duty.
The next voice that comes to mind is that of St. Augustine. Born in 354 AD in what is now Algeria, Augustine is considered one of the most important leaders of the early Church. Known for his writings, Augustine’s best works are The City of God and Confessions.
Augustine wrote, “In doing what we ought, we deserve no praise, because it is our duty.” That theme carried through his writings and was reflected in the life that he lived. Augustine is remembered because he did his duty to God and man.
The next voice is that of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson of the Royal Navy. The Napoleonic Wars convulsed Europe from 1795 until 1815. During those years, Napoleon ruled much of Europe and Britain ruled the seas. On October 21, 1805, a combined French and Spanish fleet sought to break the British blockade of the Continent. The engagement is known as the Battle of Trafalgar.
Nelson had 27 Ships of the Line, the battleships of sail. Napoleon’s fleet had 33. The outcome of the greatest war yet seen hung in the balance. As the colossal sailing ships closed to within cannon rage, Nelson, from his ship named HMS Victory, hoisted the flag signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty.”
Robert E. Lee was one of the most admired men of his time. The commander of the British army, Field-Marshal Viscount Wolseley, wrote, “General Lee was one of the few men who ever seriously impressed and awed me with their natural, their inherent greatness. Forty years have come and gone since our meeting, yet the majesty of his manly bearing, the genial winning grace, the sweetness of his smile and the impressive dignity of his old-fashioned address come back to me amongst my most cherished recollections.”
Robert E. Lee wrote, “Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less.” So he lived.
The last voice to be heard is that of General Douglas MacArthur, the man who took the Japanese surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. General MacArthur, in a talk to cadets at West Point said, “Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.”
I am writing about duty today because next Tuesday is Election Day. It is the time when ordinary men and women, like you and me, get to choose our representatives in the General Assembly.
If we wish for Virginia to remain a great State, we must elect leaders who exhibit good judgment and are guided by enduring principles. That is our duty – yours and mine – next Tuesday.
My question to you now is, will you do your duty?
Ken Adams is the Chairman of the Waynesboro Virginia Republican Committee.