How Volodymyr Zelenskyy Has Restored My Faith in Men, Humanity, And Along the Way Proven That Chivalry Is Alive
Ukraine’s President shows that now more than ever, is the time to stand up for what is right.
In 1989, I saw on television a man standing in front of an army tank. He wasn’t a soldier. He was a bystander civilian. At a glance, it seemed to be one of those wrong place at the wrong time situation. I was too little to understand what was really going on. Many years later, I finally understood that that man, was at the right place, at the right time.
Throughout the years, I could never imagine what would bring a man to do that. I could never imagine how much courage it took and if he fully understood the gravity of what he was doing. But most of all, I often asked myself why.
Now, decades later, I finally understood why. It wasn’t about being able to stop the tanks from rolling or the soldiers from shooting. That man stood there to stand for what was right. Win or lose be damned. The Tiananmen incident happened in 1989. Over 30 years later, that man is still in our hearts and on my mind, every day.
For the last few years, I have lost faith in humanity. In men particularly. Somewhere between Clark Gable, James Dean, and Kevin Costner, men evolved from being the protector of women and children to weak and inferior beings who jump at the first mention of the L-word (Love). The entire mentality and social norm which men have created in society such as “Friends with benefits”, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” and “No strings attached” has solidified that men are no longer men. Men no longer want to be responsible nor commit to anything or anyone much less protect them. In today’s world, the concession is “Every man for himself”. And since we are living in a man’s world, we, as a society have no choice but to accept the norms men have created for us. I often wondered if the last good men were indeed only in “A Few Good Men”.
I was set firm in my belief, until yesterday. I had discovered that in following the example of that man from Tiananmen Square many years ago, yesterday, one man stood against an entire army.
Today the world is relatively at peace if you are living in a first-world country. No war has taken place between European countries since World War II. That is until the invasion of Ukraine. Its President, Zelenskyy, was given the rare opportunity to be what most leaders are chosen for; to lead. Despite aggressors closely inching in on him and invading his country, he has done what few Presidents have given the same circumstances. He stood with his people, his countrymen, his home. He became the leader that not only his people needed, but the world needs.
….yesterday, one man stood against an entire army.
There was no blaming mainstream media, quoting fake news, or playing the victim. He did not flee to create a government in exile, though he had the opportunity to do so. He stood his ground in a way none of us has seen in a while. Never have I seen a leader in today’s modern age, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as King David and Winston Churchill. Until now.
President Zelenskyy is standing not only in front of one tank, he is standing in front of an entire army. Not just any army, one of the most technologically advanced and most powerful armies in the world, the Russian Army, with its King of the North. Zelenskyy is the only thing standing between his people, the Russian army, and the demise of an entire country. He is the grain of rice that can tip the scale and decide the fate of an entire nation.
By any logical calculation, President Zelenskyy doesn’t stand a chance. Everyone knows it, including him. But regardless of what his odds are, he stayed, stood his ground, shined his light, and became a beacon of hope for all of us. A rare thing for any man to do, much less a President. And yet, there he is, standing still as bullets and missiles rained down on him and his fellow countrymen.
As a writer, it is not often that I am at a loss for words. But yesterday, not only was I at a loss for words, I also lost my breath upon reading his quote “I need ammunition, not a ride”.
We often think that great leaders had to be educated and molded into greatness. They have to have a certain pedigree, and was raised in a certain environment, how else could they achieve greatness? JFK comes to mind. JFK was the son of a senator and groomed to be President. Zelenskyy had none of that. No fancy upbringing, or world-class education, he was just a comedian who shined on screen and made people fall in love with him. If you don’t believe me, watch “Servant of the People” on Netflix or YouTube and see what you’re missing.
What touched me most about President Zelenskyy is that his country is no hard hitter on the global stage by any means. There are no decacorn startups from Ukraine making waves in the world, there are no significant oil and gas reserves supplying the world, there is very little known about Ukraine until this war began. Despite all of that Zelenskyy is risking his life and his family’s for his people, for his country. He has nothing to gain, and everything to lose. And yet he stays. When was the last time any of us are willing to stay for what we know to be impossible?
It has been awhile since any war has truly captured the eyes of the world. A war of this magnitude has not happened since Germany invaded Poland. President Zelenskyy has introduced all of us to modern warfare. What did Zelenskyy do to turn the tied and tip the scales? For a man who is outgunned, outnumbered, and out-resourced, he did the only thing he could do, he made phone calls. Lots and lots of calls. All hours of the day, and night. You know the saying “Everyone is just a phone call away”? No truer words have ever been spoken. Zelenskyy has managed to not only obtain ammunition and weaponry for his country with the support of Germany and the EU, but he has also managed to have the Russian economy falling to its knees through sanctions. How did he do it? By picking up the phone and fighting with everything he has at his disposal, even if it is just a phone.
Zelenskyy reminds us that leaders must lead by example. A far cry from today’s leaders who mostly lead from a comfortable armchair in a mega-mansion, out of sight and out of the minds of the people. Zelenskyy is the ultimate example of what true leaders and great leaders are. They stand their ground, protect their people, and fight for what is right.
Prior to Zelenskyy, the only time anyone ever reads or hears about a world leader defending their country, staying in a war zone is in an episode of The West Wing. Compassionate and brave leaders are merely fictional characters in our modern age. Today, most world leaders when faced with an invasion would run away in the dead of night with bags of cash like a scorned lover when the sun has shone.
Zelenskyy reminds us that leaders must lead by example
President Zelenskyy is the exception to the rule. He is here to stay rain or shine. He stays for the women and children seeking shelter in underground subway stations. He stays for the hundreds and thousands of Ukrainians fleeing on foot towards neighboring countries. But most importantly he stays for us, so we may see what hope looks like in the face of hopelessness.
Mr. President, we know you don’t need a ride, you need ammunition. Although I and so many others cannot give you either, we can give you one thing. A prayer.
We are all praying from the depths of our hearts for you and your people. You are not alone in this. You are not a single fighter, we are all with you. You are the Knight we are all willing to stand next to and fight with. You are the Warrior we are cheering on who protects the weak and the helpless from unspeakable horrors coming for us in the night.
In any language, any culture, and any nation, you are the beacon of light that all men should aspire to be.
No one knows how long this incursion on Ukraine will last, but as long as there still are people like President Zelenskyy standing on the wall to defend the innocent, the weak, and the helpless, there is still hope for the world.
Now, more than ever, we need heroes. Humanity’s existence is threatened on all sides whether it be from deadly viruses, tyrants, dictators, or fake news. Our society is dying from it. Thanks to men like President Zelenskyy, we are reminded that there are still men who are willing to stand on that wall for you, me, and for our children.
All is not lost. And with all of my heart, I pray that neither will he.