Paying the Price of Greatness

By:  Kami Harris

The iFamily Leadership Academy mission is to grow scholars:  leaders who love learning and pay the price of greatness; leaders who embody a moral foundation of truth, virtue, compassion, courage, and voluntary sacrifice; leaders who positively impact their families and the world for good while fulfilling their personal mission.

Irena Sendler was just an ordinary Polish Citizen who worked as a social services director in Warsaw.  During World War II, she, together with her underground network, rescued approximately 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.  When she was discovered, she was taken to a prison and tortured daily in an attempt to get her to reveal the names of the children whom she had helped escape.  She remained strong.  The episodes resulted in many fractured and broken bones in her tiny 4’11’’ body.  Eventually, Irena was sentenced to execution…

Greatness.  What is its cost?  How do you become truly great?  What price are you willing to pay for it?  Building  leaders who love learning and pay the price of Greatness is iFamily’s mission.  When you become a member of iFamily, you are choosing to pay this price.   Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”  What responsibilities have you taken upon yourself to inspire greatness at iFamily?  What are some keys that can help us continue to build this type of environment as part of our community?

High Expectations/Quality not Conformity

“There were no “teenagers” before World War II…Instead of Teenagers, there were Youths.  Youths were young people who wanted to become adults.” -Myth of the Teenager by Michael Platt

How do we have youth rather than teenagers at iFamily?  Part of this, I believe, has to do with our expectations.  I truly believe that our youth will rise to the expectations that we set forth for them.  Do we expect them to do hard things, or do we expect them to just hang out with their friends the majority of the time?  Do we expect our youth to contribute and serve within their families and communities, or do we expect them to be waited upon and served?  Do we expect them to act with dignity and respect and treat others with the same, or do we justify their actions and throw up our hands saying, “Kids will be kids!”  

While youth are going to make more mistakes than the typical adult, and while youth is a time for learning and growth without the severe consequences of adulthood, youth are much more capable than we, as a society, give them credit for.  This is a time for them to spend time with people of character who can help shape their virtues and desires.  This is a time for their abilities and skills to be put to the test-to take part in meaningful service and leadership, and to have “crucible” experiences-experiences that show them who they truly are and what they are capable of.

Mentors not Professors/Individualized Education

Part of the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson Education is a belief that within each person is genius.  Not just some people have it.  Everyone has it.  It is not comparative in nature.  It is not about figuring out who is the best at something.  It is a mentor’s role to recognize that seed of potential and see their students with “spiritual eyes” and help them know what is the next step for them personally.  One of the key differences between a mentor and a professor is that they see each student as an individual with unique abilities and gifts.  Professors give rewards or punishments based on different levels of conformity.  Students are seen as wrong or right based on that level of conformity.  Mentors, on the other hand provide opportunities for transformation.  Mentors inspire genius and help prepare the mentee for his/her unique mission.

Personal Choice and Responsibility/Classics not Textbooks/You not Them

“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.” -Sir Walter Scott

I’m sure many of us home school moms have this hanging on a cork board or pasted on one of our walls somewhere in our homes, but what does it actually mean?  To me, it means that we are agents unto ourselves.  No one can force another to learn.  No one can force another to be truly great. Learning is something that happens within us.  It is a personal choice we each have to make.  In order for us to truly be free to learn, we must also be free to fail.  That is what the often misunderstood TJED key “Inspire, not require,” partly means.  We can require our children to do certain work, but we cannot force learning.  We must do our best to inspire our children to choose learning for themselves.  We cannot take the responsibility upon ourselves of whether or not our children learn.  We can only inspire by great teaching and exposing our children to noble and beautiful things.  We can help our children develop good habits, but only they can choose to open up their minds to learn.  One of the most powerful influencers is seeking greatness ourselves and becoming an example of that to our children and mentees.

“Be noble and the nobleness that lies in other men, sleeping but never dead, will rise in majesty to meet thine own.”  James Russel Lowell.  

Choose classics.  Classics are the best books, music, art, and people that we can come back to time and time again, because every time we learn something new.  When we surround ourselves with greatness and nobleness, it begins to become part of us.  Studying the greatest works and people of strong moral character are keys to a quality education and to becoming great.


“Virtue is the only solid basis of greatness.” Webster 1828 Dictionary

In order for us to be truly great, we must have a foundation of virtue.  Virtue is moral goodness.  I believe that every person is born with this desire for goodness.  I believe the source of this light is God.  When we choose goodness in the face of difficulty, this light grows, and thus our virtue grows.  There have been many effective leaders throughout history, but only those with virtue were truly great.  We can have great communication skills, great knowledge, and a great work ethic, but if we don’t use these skills to promote goodness, it would be better to not have these abilities at all.  As we teach and inspire the youth of iFamily, let us have goodness at the foundation and purpose for doing what we do.  Let us teach the principles of strong character and the power of having a strong moral code in everything that we do.

The underground organization that Irena had been part of bribed the guards on the way to her execution.  She escaped and hid until the war was over.  After the war, Irena was imprisoned again and brutally interrogated because she had ties with a resistance organization that defied the communists.  Because of these ties, Irena’s story was suppressed.  It wasn’t  until 2001, that Irena’s sacrifices and stories began to be told so that they might inspire others.  

How did Irena have such courage?  How was she able to have such strength as she was not only imprisoned once, but twice?  How does someone develop such love for others that she is willing to suffer such anguish for the benefit of another’s safety?  How is a leader born?  

As mentors and members of iFamily, let us do everything in our power to inspire this kind of greatness in our youth. Our youth can be prepared to face the crucible moments in their lives.  We are powerful community of loving moms and dads who want the very best for our children.  Let us continue to expect greatness, expose our children to greatness, and exemplify greatness and be willing to pay whatever the cost–of becoming great.


Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens by Oliver DeMille and Shanon Brooks teenager.html