American Legion Post 20


An interior moral compass guided some of America's most important leaders.

That's the lesson found in "Profiles in Character: Sixteen Americans and the Traits that Defined Them." The author, Dr. Jennifer London, wrote the book with her late husband, Dr. J. Phillip "Jack" London, a Navy veteran who went on to lead CACI International, a major defense contractor. Jennifer London spoke May 8 at a meeting of American Legion Post 20, which is affiliated with the National Press Club.

"Doing the right thing is easier said than done," London said.

Dr. Jennifer London
Dr. Jennifer London addresses American Legion Post 20 on May 8. Photo: Rex Stucky

Her book describes figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart and others. She said that in each example, a defining trait led these leaders to excel, even when it cost them.

London cited Dr. Jonas Salk's altruism in his decision not to patent his polio vaccine. Such a patent might have made him extremely wealthy. However, London said, he wanted the vaccine to become as widely available as possible.

She also described President Harry Truman's courage when he faced the moral dilemma of ordering an invasion of the Japanese home islands during World War II, or using the atomic bomb instead. "He made the decision on his own," London said, rather than diffusing responsibility for such a profound choice.

In a similar vein, London discussed Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's letter that he prepared in case the D-Day invasion failed. "If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone," the letter said.

London contrasted such willingness to take responsibility with some of today's politicians. "Politics has polluted every aspect of our world," London said.

London holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Ohio State University, and she completed postdoctoral education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Business. As president of her own consulting firm, she has advised clients on strategic planning, business development, marketing and community relations.

American Legion Post 20 has been affiliated with the National Press Club for more than a century. It was founded at the urging of famed World War I General John J. Pershing, who was an associate member of the Club at the time.