Government, Like Fire, Is a Dangerous Servant and a Fearful Master…

George Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master…” This quote underscores the danger of a government extending beyond its constitutional boundaries.

In this short video, we not only explore the principles relating to the protections afforded by the Constitution and our responsibility to keep the federal government within the confines of its limitations, but we answer a very important question to our understanding of constitutional authority: “Is it possible for one citizen to violate the constitutional rights of another?” The answer may surprise you…

To expand on Washington’s metaphor, if you view the government as fire, then the Constitution can be viewed as the fireplace, the structure that keeps the fire in it’s proper place.

Note of Appreciation: This is the last video in our Foundations of American Government series. Thanks for bearing with me on this lengthy study. Next week, I will resume some of our more traditional police and character-related posts…

What Will You Do With Your Troubles?

In the presence of trouble some people grow wings, others buy crutches. — Harold W. Ruoff

Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor at St. Peters Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him.

Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny tobacco shop. Where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of tobacco stores worth several hundred thousand dollars.

One day the man’s banker said,”You’ve done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?” The man replied, “I’d be janitor of St. Peter’s in Neville Square.”

A sign on an army chaplain’s door read, “If you have troubles, come in and tell us about them. If not, come in and tell us how you do it.” And this is a common thread most leaders share. While there are many rewards and benefits of being a leader it also means dealing with your fair share of someone else’s troubles.

The janitor in the story serves as an example of what to do when trouble knocks at your door. The janitor could have given up and allowed his unfortunate circumstances to be his undoing. Instead, he turned his setback into a prosperous venture. No one is immune from trouble. Each of us has a choice in how we respond. Here are Three C’s to help you make the most of your troubles and come out on top.

Count your blessings. In the difficult economic times we now live it can be easy to look at the negatives. Rising gas prices and unemployment numbers are enough to worry many. As a leader, you are the thermostat to which others in your organization are set. Your attitude in troubled times can make or break the morale of your business.

Gary Gulbranson said, “It’s not the magnitude of the mess that matters; it’s the measure of the man in the midst of the mess.” How true. Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, resolve not to be a whiner about misfortune, but a counter of blessings. No doubt the negatives can take a toll, but with the right attitude, you can lead your team even in the midst of troubled times.

Consider your options. When fired from his job, the janitor took his savings and invested in a tobacco shop. Eventually he became quite prosperous. The janitor demonstrated what can happen when you keep your options open. Had the janitor stayed at the church and continued in his work, as noble as it was, he never would have become the successful man he was.

Leaders understand the power of options. As you go forward in these challenging times, keep in mind that the troubles you face today can be unexpected blessings tomorrow. The fact that the janitor could not read was not a deal breaker. He had options and he called upon them as valuable resources to better his life. A wise leader will do no less.

Chart your course. When the janitor walked out of St. Peter’s Church he did so with purpose and a plan. Do you have one? Being fired from his job may have been insensitive but it was not irreversible. He took his savings and wisely invested it in a new business.

As a leader in these troubled times it is important to have a course of action that is known and communicated to your team. Howard Coonley said, “The executive of the future will be rated by his ability to anticipate his problems rather that to meet them as they come.” And this is the challenge of your leadership.


A Malay Proverb says, “Just because the river is quiet does not mean the crocodiles have left.” No one is exempt from troubles. Troubles for leaders can be transformed into opportunities if you count your blessings, consider your options, and chart your course.

What will you do with your troubles?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Doug is a good friend and author of the book Leaders Without Borders. I hope he will be a frequent guest blogger at Police Dynamics Media. Check out his book and his blogsite at:

Two Pivotal Dates in American History

How did America get in the mess it’s in? Why is there abortion on demand in every state? Why can’t the Ten Commandments be displayed at the Alabama State Supreme Court? Why can’t the City Council of Gray Court, SC begin with prayer? Why can’t a nativity scene be placed on the Town Square? Why can’t kids pray in public school? Why has the federal government intruded into so many areas that were intended to be under the sole jurisdictions of the states?

Regardless of how you feel about these issues, this fact is clear: the Bill of Rights originally only applied to the federal government which functioned with very limited and clearly defined authority.  There are two pivotal dates in American history that changed all this: the end of the War Between the States in 1865 and the Everson v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court in 1947.

Authority and Jurisdictions – the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Those of you who have attended Series 2 of the Police Dynamics training program may remember these definitions from the Dynamic of Jurisdictions:

  • Authority – the right to impose obligations on the time and resources of another

  • Jurisdiction – limitations on that authority

The Authority Maxim states that all human authority is delegated authority – it always flows from a higher source.

In the case of American government, the Constitution is a grant of authority from We, the People and it spells out certain limited authorities. Although the need for it was hotly debated by the Federalists and the Anti-federalists, our Founders understood the wisdom of placing further restrictions on the federal government by ratifying the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights further refines the jurisdiction of the federal government by limiting its power.

In these next three training videos from my presentation at Crossroad Church in Pensacola, I discuss the jurisdiction of the federal government. At the time, Crossroad was pastored by Chuck Baldwin, a great defender of constitutional government and the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party.

Starting with the First Amendment and moving through the Second, Third, and Fourth Amendments, we can get a feel for the intentions of the Founders as defined in the first four amendments to the Constitution.

The Second Amendment places limitations on the federal government in the arena of gun ownership. Many people don’t realize that the Second Amendment protects the right of the individual States to defend themselves from an intrusive federal force. The Second Amendment spells out the need for a State to maintain a well-regulated militia (one under the authority of the State and often called a State Defense Force today) by protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

The Third and Fourth Amendments place restrictions on all three branches of the federal government: legislative, executive, and judicial.

Are You Stuck in a Rut?

Enjoy this post by guest blogger, Doug Dickerson. Doug is a personal friend of mine and colleague in the battle for integrity. He has written a book on leadership called: Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my autographed copy to my hooch here in Kabul. You can order yours at: He is also available for speaking engagements. I hope that Doug will be a regular contributor to the Police Dynamics Blog…

Sheriff Ray

Are You Stuck in a Rut?

Nothing endures but change.

–          Heraclitus

I read a story not long ago about the standard railroad gauge. That is the distance between rails – 4 feet, 8 ½ inches. One might wonder why such an odd number but also what is has to do with them personally. As a student of leadership and as one who looks closely at organizational leadership; you might be surprised.

According to the story, the reason for the odd number is because that is the way they were built in England, and American railroads were built by British expatriates – that is, people who used to live in Britain.

They used that particular gauge because the pre-tramways used that gauge. They in turn were locked into that gauge because the people who built tramways used the same standards and tools they had used for building wagons, which were on the gauge of 4ft., 8 ½ inches.

Why were the wagons set to that scale? With any other size, the wheels did not match the old wheel ruts on the roads. So who built the old rutted roads?

The first long distance highways in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since. The ruts were first made by Roman war chariots. Four feet, 8 ½ inches was the width a chariot needed to be to accommodate the two rear ends of war horses.

Maybe “that’s the way it’s always been” isn’t the good reason some people believe it is. The causes of ruts are varied and complex. Be it boredom, the trap of falling into the monotony of a routine, or lack of vision or inspiration, it can happen to the best of us.

In order to remain relevant it is important not to allow ruts that you find yourself in to be your grave. Are you stuck in a rut? Here are three questions to answer to help you get out of it.

Are you too comfortable? In other words, are you too reliant on the traditions of the past? The easiest trap to fall into, in part, is based upon familiarity. The mind set of “this is the way we’ve always done it,” are the reins of the plow that digs the rut.

Tradition not only shows us our history, but if we are entrenched in it, shows us our future. While I do not advocate dishonoring a sound work ethic and morale that propelled you to where you are today; neither do I advocate holding on to it at the expense of your future progress. Find the balance between the two and move forward.

Comfort zones inoculate us from that which we perceive as a threat or from embracing new ways of thinking and leading. While you might feel safe there, you will not fully grasp the measure of your potential if you stay there.

Are you afraid to take risks? Herodotus said, “Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.” In this economy it is not wise to throw caution to the wind and make uninformed decisions. Simply put, risk taking is a calculated decision based on all the facts that tend to trend in your favor of a desired outcome.

What does General Electric, Hyatt Corporation, HP, FedEx, LexisNexis, CNN, and many other companies all share in common? They were start-ups during times of recession. They succeeded because leaders at the helm recognized a market need and filled it.

What risks are you afraid to take? What is the worse thing that can happen if you take it and fail? What are the regrets you will have if you don’t? John F. Kennedy said, “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

Is your thinking too small? Ruts have a way of making us feel secure in mediocrity. Ruts lull us into a sense of satisfaction in believing that as long as we are moving forward then all is well. Ruts box us in and provide us with few options. Ruts limit our vision.

As you answer the previous questions you can emerge from ruts that have held you back. Christopher Reeve said, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they become inevitable.”

Ruts make you comfortable, afraid to take risks, and kill your dreams. What ruts do you need to break free from?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and leadership speaker. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit to learn more.

We, the People – a Delegation of Authority

The Constitution of the United States is a delegation of authority from “We, the People.” Those of you who have attended Police Dynamics training might remember the Authority Maxim – “all human authority is delegated authority.”

Viewing our founding documents in this context helps us discern what our Founders were up to. The Constitution established the structure of American government built upon its moral foundation, which can be found in the Declaration of Independence.

If you try to interpret the Constitution separate from the its moral foundation – the Declaration – you can turn and twist those words to say just about anything…


What Were the Founders Thinking?

Researchers at the University of Houston attempted to determine what sources influenced the thinking of our Founders. The premise of the study was to isolate any time the Founders quoted an outside source and attempt to identify it. By doing so, they thought they could determine the major influences on the thoughts and ideas that led to the founding of our Constitutional Republic. Here’s what they found…