Sir John A. Macdonald’s 200th birthday is coming up in 2015 where he will be proudly remembered as Canada’s first Prime Minister. He is the great man who brought Canada together as a nation by signing up the first provinces to a new confederation. He also is known for pushing for the railroads to be built to easily bind us all together across the Nation. He was also well known as a notorious alcoholic.
All of our founding fathers were notorious substance users. This should not be as a surprise since great leaders from the beginning of recorded history have all been known to indulge in one substance or another. In the past, this was never frowned upon by the public and was considered the norm; however, social media was not invented until recently.
Imagine if social media did exist in Sir John A. Macdonald’s time. Would he had ended up being attacked for his personal life like Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford? Would he be heckled and hounded to resign as Prime Minister? Would Canada ever had been formed and if not, would we Canadians be calling ourselves Americans now?
The fact is, our world leaders and idols, have often been great substance users. We have always and still do look up to people who are addicts, but we often admire them enough not to expose their personal demons. Speaking of demons, our longest serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King ran the country by asking political advice through seances.
Great revolutionaries, like Malcolm X was a drug dealer as youth which is typical growing up in poverty. He also spent time in prison. But Malcolm X was remembered for his achievements during the civil rights movement for Black Americans, not his cocaine habit. Recently an admired Oscar-winning actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, died of an accidental drug overdose, but he was remembered for being a great actor. Musicians such Whitney Houston and Kirk Cobain died as a result of their drug use, but their spirits are legendary. Andy Warhol threw mixed drug parties in New York for all the hot artists of his day and inspired a whole new direction in contemporary art.
If I were to compile a list of those great achievers throughout history that are admired and have enjoyed some other kind of substance use, I would have to open a library.
The fact that Rob Ford is taking all that is thrown at him without cowering and backing down shows strength. The fact that he has gained a large following not only in Toronto, but world-wide, shows leadership. Instead of attacking Rob Ford, Canadian politicians should learn from him, because unlike other leaders, Ford’s focus is on his city and not on himself.
As Albert Einstein said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”
So raise a glass and say “Cheers!” to great strong leaders who have no fear.