He could not have known what the future would hold. He could not have known how he and his country would soon be tested. But in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky gave his twenty-minute presidential inaugural address to the people of Ukraine.
Despite being one of his country’s greatest success stories, making a fortune in the entertainment business and then holding its highest office, he asked not to be celebrated or held up as a model. “I really do not want my pictures in your offices, for the President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait,” he said. “Hang your kids’ photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.”
Last week, in an act of brutal illegality and avarice, Ukraine was invaded by its Russian neighbor. Zelensky would become an international hero as he stood and fought, refusing opportunities to be rescued. What could be motivating him? His own advice—his 2 young children, just age 17 and 9. The same goes for the soldiers and citizens who have been fighting valiantly alongside him against incredible odds. It’s their children whom they are fighting for–their chance to live in freedom as well as to live proudly, knowing that when it counted, their parents were there to sacrifice everything for them.
Each of us should be inspired and humbled by their example. But as Zelensky said, we don’t need to hang their photos up on our wall. We can hang up pictures of our children and strive to make them proud, to make the decisions we must make for them, for their future, for their safety, for their freedom. We must do the right thing…because they are always watching.
Like so many, we’ve been both horrified and inspired by the events in Ukraine. Last week, Ryan Holiday received a touching email from someone he knows in Ukraine. It prompted him to reach out to his agent for an estimate on the amount of royalties he’s earned from the Ukraine and Russian translations of his books. Ryan donated all ~$15,000 to a charity in Ukraine called The Come Back Alive Foundation. Come Back Alive funds body armor, supplies, training, and more for the soldiers defending Ukraine. We hope you can make a donation to Come Back Alive as well. And you can also support the people of Ukraine by speaking out, by reaching out to representatives in your country, state, or city. As Come Back Alive has on their page, “We believe that a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.”