Personal Letters of Gratitude and Thanks: The Ways of Great Leaders

Over the weekend I was going through my parent’s personal records.  During WW II they had written each other  almost daily.  The letters are in 15 large manila envelopes along with photos and official documents.

My dad was an inveterate record keeper.  In his military file I saw this typed letter addressed to:

My Dear Mr. Filson:  and dated December 4, 1946.

It reads in part:

I have addressed this letter to reach you after all the formalities of your separation from active service are completed.  I have done so because, without formality but as clearly as I know how to say it, I want the Navy’s pride in you, which it is my privilege to express, to reach into your civil life and to remain with you always.

You have served in the greatest Navy in the world.

It crushed two enemy fleets at once receiving their surrenders only four months apart. . .

No other Navy at any time has done as much.  For your part in these achievements you deserve to be proud as long as you live.  The Nation which you served at a time of crisis will remember you with gratitude.

The best wishes of the Navy go with you into civilian life.  Good luck!

Sincerely yours,


James Forrestal     (The Secretary of the Navy)

A Personal Letter from Ed Callahan

Ed was was confirmed as NCUA Chairman in October 1981. Prior to this we had worked together for four plus years when I was supervisor of the Credit Union Division for DFI in Illinois.

I would soon join Ed at NCUA in December. Nonetheless he took time to write.

The letter was addressed to Charles Filson at my Wilmette, Il home, dated November 17, 1981.  It reads in part:


I’m sitting here in the in the Albany, N.Y. airport for my flight. I’ll probably have many waits like this in the future. It gives me time to reflect.

The past few weeks have been wild.  Now that the events are past, I’ve got time to think of all the good friends.  The only really important thing is just that-friends.

You have been one of the best. . .

Thank you very much.

I’m looking forward to our future endeavors.  We’ll have some exciting times.

E. F. Callahan

Signed Ed


Gratitude and Thanks

Neither of these exceptional leaders needed to write these messages of gratitude and thanks.  But they knew the success of their organizations depended on others, not their  individual capabilities.

Government service, whether chosen or drafted, is sometimes under appreciated.  Or worse, captured by the political divisions now seeding distrust of any government calling.

These two individuals in very different spheres of influence and responsibility, illustrate in these personal gestures, what makes great leaders in any organization.


3 Replies to “Personal Letters of Gratitude and Thanks: The Ways of Great Leaders”

  1. I still love to send and receive personalized notes of appreciation. (Handwritten are the best!) It’s becoming a lost art, and that’s a shame.

  2. My friend and mentor Sarah Bang instilled in me the importance of a little note of thanks. It does mean the world and often times only takes a minute or two. We need more gratitude and less attitude.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *