Are you a parasite or an oasis in a desert?

Many years before one of John F. Kennedy’s speechwriters put these famous words into his mouth in his inaugural speech, the great Lebanese poet, painter, and philosopher Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote The New Frontier.

Gibran said, “There are in the Middle East today two challenging ideas: old and new.”

“The old ideas will vanish because they are weak and exhausted.

“There is in this Middle East an awakening that defies slumber. This awakening will conquer because the sun is its leader and the dawn is its army.

“In the fields of the Middle East, which have been a large burial ground, stand the youth of spring calling the occupants of the sepulchres to rise and march toward the new frontiers.

“There are today, in the Middle East, two men: one of the past and one of the future. Which one are you?

“Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?

“If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.

“Or are you a devout and pious man who sees in the piety of the individual the foundation for a progressive nation, and who can see through a profound search in the depths of his own soul a ladder to the eternal soul that directs the world?

“Or are you a companion, taking no action except hand in hand, nor doing anything unless she gives her thoughts and opinions, and sharing with her your happiness and success?

“In the Middle East there are two processions: One procession is of old people walking with bent backs, supported with bent canes; they are out of breath though their path is downhill.

"The other is a procession of young men, running as if on winged feet, and jubilant as with musical strings in their throats, surmounting obstacles as if there were magnets drawing them up the mountainside and magic enchanting their hearts.

“Which are you and in which procession do you move?

“Ask yourself and meditate in the still of the night; find if you are a slave of yesterday or free for the morrow.

“But the children of tomorrow are the ones called by life...They are few in number, but the difference is as between a grain of wheat and a stack of hay. No one knows them but they know each other...They are the seed dropped by the hand of God in the field, breaking through its pod and waving its sapling leaves before the face of the sun.

The authentic leader needs to ask themselves this question, “What kind of leader am I? Do I belong to the past or do I belong the future?”
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