The most popular and most often reprinted newspaper editorial of all time, “Is There a Santa Claus?” appeared in The New York Sun in September of 1897. Written by Francis Pharcellus Church, it responded to a letter from an eight-year-old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon.
I present Church’s inspirational response, below, not to debate if there is a Santa Claus, but rather to remind us, as leaders, to renew our beliefs.
In order to overcome what Church calls the “skepticism of a skeptical age,” you have to know and refresh your personal beliefs. Do you know what you stand for as a leader? Do you believe you can make a difference?
As leaders, we ask the people we lead to believe in us personally, even when we know we may not fully become the kind of leaders we really want to be. We ask employees to believe in the team vision, which we know we may not fully attain. We ask our teams to pursue missions we may never completely fulfill and to aspire to greatness we know we may never entirely achieve. If you don’t believe in these invisible but worthy aims, if you don’t believe in your leadership, they won’t either.
Take some time this holiday season to reflect on your leadership. Take time to envision, dream, and aspire to what could be. Think about all you believe to be true about great leadership and, if necessary, refresh, rethink, and recharge your personal leadership beliefs.
If you’re not sure what you stand for—your real purpose, why people should follow you, what you expect, what you value, and what you will and will not tolerate. Take time to put your beliefs in writing. Read Leadership Credo and create yours today, and get ready to lead differently tomorrow.
Here’s wishing you all the best this holiday season and wishing you lead with curiosity, excitement, and renewed belief in yourself in 2016.
Church replied to Virginia with this now legendary editorial that gives us the well-known phrase, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.