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Establishing Responsible Leadership

A lesson from Jack and Jill Metaphor

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

There is a classic nursery rhyme called Jack and Jill. You probably recall that “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.”

This rhythmic nursery rhyme we learned as children can be used as a metaphor to explain conditions that influence events in society. Let us assume, for example, that Jack represents leadership in society. Leadership can be of almost any variety, government, education, racial or economic stratification, etc. Jill, then could represent a body of people lead by Jack. The couple ascending the hill could then represent the desire of this group of people to achieve success and prominence in their shared community life.

Since water is the source of all life, we can relate it to basic human qualities such as honesty, truthfulness, respect for self and others, and shared responsibility. So climbing a hill to fetch water suggests challenges that one faces attempting to achieve a meaningful productive life.

My personal mantra is, ”Humanity’s utopian society can only be achieved when the basic human qualities of honesty, truthfulness, respect for self and others are guiding parameters.”

Climbing a hill to fetch water may be viewed, in this metaphor, as the desire to achieve the best possible human existence. For total human development, the best possible existence for humanity would be in one’s ability to achieve satisfaction in their physical/material life, mental/intellectual life and their spiritual life.

If water represents the key component necessary for the continued growth and progress of any society, the members must be honest, trustworthy, respectful to others and recognize their shared social responsibilities.

Jack fell down and broke his crown suggests that his leadership, without basic human characteristics, was insufficient to perpetuate the success and progress of the society. Without honesty, morality, equality and justice for all, the society failed — and Jill came tumbling after.

As we examine our society today we see morality, justice and equity being replaced by greed and self-interest. When moral responsibility, justice and equity are no longer the underpinning components of leadership’s values, the society suffers. One only has to search the history of the rise and fall of great civilizations to understand the predictability of the Jack and Jill metaphor.

In this simple story we have insight into the problem that we are facing as a nation. Dishonesty has lead to the January 6, 2021, insurrection on our nation’s capitol. It manifests itself in our political leaders willingness to support this failed attempt to overthrow government for personal gain. It is also exemplified in our national conversation justifying social and economic partitioning.

But there is new leadership on the horizon. Leadership which appears to be grounded in truth, equity and justice for all Americans. Herein lies our hope. Perhaps we will see Jack and Jill successfully fetch a pail of water within the next four years. Are we at the dawn of a new America with freedom and justice for all?




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Qadir Abdus-Sabur, Ph.D.

Qadir Abdus-Sabur, Ph.D.

Education Sociologist, Imam, Husband, Father, Grandfather and U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran.

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