In his weighty book, American Caesar, William Manchester recounts the story of perhaps America’s most consequential military leader, Douglas MacArthur. Favorably compared to strategists such as Wellington and Napoleon, MacArthur was a brilliant if complicated leader. He aroused deep reaction among both his admirers and detractors, but few denied his courage or abilities.
In service and a career that spanned two world wars, during which time he rose to the rank of “General of the Army,” he also was a devoted husband and father who evidently saw his larger than life role in life positioned under authority of heaven and guided by God’s almighty hand.
Even in the midst of planning and leading all American and Allied forces in recapturing and liberating the South Pacific, and under the weight of responsibility to his troops, to his country, and indeed to the world, he doted on his young son Arthur, and invested himself in his welfare and growth.
Manchester records a prayer the General wrote late one evening for Arthur. It is a model of fatherly devotion and dependence:
“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee – and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm, here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the weakness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”