In Honor Of Leadership

Meriwether Lewis, Grinders Stand TN
Av went to a University of Virginia Alumni reception tonight with the University President, at The Club.  She gave an update on a strategic plan the University is implementing.  One of the components is a new leadership program for second-year students, named for Meriwether Lewis, who was from Ivy, Virginia, a short distance from Charlottesville.  A little bit about the program is here, when it was approved.
When Mr. Jefferson (if you attend UVa, you just undergo this indoctrination that Thomas Jefferson is henceforth ‘Mr. Jefferson’ and Av says is still spoken of as though he were teaching there) wanted to send Lewis on the excursion to chart out the new territories, Lewis did not have the requisite base of knowledge, so Mr. Jefferson sent him to Philadelphia to study astronomy, zoology, botany, medicine, and many other fields.  After that, he was able to lead the expedition and lost only one person, and that was to appendicitis, something they couldn’t have dealt with then anyway.
The University President pointed out that even with all the learning Lewis did, in exploring out west, he encountered many situations that were completely unexpected.  For example, no one new about grizzly bears, and that they had ‘anger management issues’ much worse than black bears in the east.  They also encountered tribes of Natives that no one knew existed.  There was geology that was previously unknown.  The list goes on.

The idea behind naming the leadership program after him is that a leader must be able to adapt beyond his learning when faced with new and unknown situations.  This program will develop those skills.

Av knew that I would be really interested in this, as I’ve always been so taken with Meriwether Lewis.  The monument above was from our visit to Grinder’s Stand, Tennessee on the Natchez Trace, where he died (under mysterious circumstances).

From Smithsonian Magazine:
His friends assumed it was suicide. Before he left St. Louis, Lewis had given several associates the power to distribute his possessions in the event of his death; while traveling, he composed a will. Lewis had reportedly attempted to take his own life several times a few weeks earlier and was known to suffer from what Jefferson called “sensible depressions of mind.” Clark had also observed his companion’s melancholy states. “I fear the weight of his mind has overcome him,” he wrote after receiving word of Lewis’s fate.

…Surprisingly, he may also have felt like something of a failure. Though the Corps of Discovery had traversed thousands of miles of wilderness with few casualties, Lewis and Clark did not find the Northwest Passage to the Pacific, the mission’s primary goal; the system of trading posts that they’d established began to fall apart before the explorers returned home. And now Lewis, the consummate adventurer, suddenly found himself stuck in a desk job.

“At the end of his life he was a horrible drunk, terribly depressed, who could never even finish his [expedition] journals,” says Paul Douglas Newman, a professor of history who teaches “Lewis and Clark and The Early American Republic” at the University of Pittsburgh. An American icon, Lewis was also a human being, and the expedition “was the pinnacle of Lewis’s life,” Newman says. “He came back and he just could not readjust. On the mission it was ‘how do we stay alive and collect information?’ Then suddenly you’re heroes. There’s a certain amount of stress to reentering the world. It was like coming back from the moon.”

His family asked the Park Service to have his body exhumed to better determine what happened, and they ruled that they would not.

Bless Meriwether Lewis, a true pioneer and leader, and thank you to UVa for naming this new program in his honor.

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