Celebrating Independence Day

July 4, 2018
J. W. "Bill" Marriott Jr. (ca. 1954)

Today, as we come together with family and friends to celebrate our Nation’s independence, I find myself reflecting on the visionary leadership that was displayed during the Revolutionary War more than two centuries ago.

Against almost impossible odds, George Washington led the Continental army with a vision of a bright future encompassing self-governance and a shared American identity. Historical records suggest his moral character and passion convinced farmers, businessmen, politicians, authors, and many others to follow him to the battlefield.

That’s my idea of leadership.

I imagine some of the brave colonial soldiers who served under Washington had similar hopes and dreams to the young sailors I served with on the USS Randolph aircraft carrier from 1954 to 1956. Just after the Korean War, we sailed the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and North Atlantic. Above are two pictures of me in my Navy uniform.

In the mid-1950s, I was a fresh-faced 22-year-old straight out of the University of Utah. As a young officer, I thought I knew a lot. But the Navy taught me a number of valuable lessons. Among them, I learned that as a leader, if you want to solve a problem, you have to get people to collaborate with you, to think about what the organization needs to do, and what the overall goal is going to be. You can’t say, “I’m the lieutenant; do what I tell you.” That’s not going to work.

In business, I have tried to incorporate that management lesson. Let me give you an example, for instance - my career in the hotel industry began right after I left the Navy. My dad, J. Willard Marriott, put me in charge of running the first Marriott hotel, the Twin Bridges, in Washington, D.C. Dad was always extremely cautious and conservative. He had to be. He launched a business during the Great Depression. But I wanted to take risks and grow the business. We established a delicate balance. I listened to him and didn’t push the company as much as I wanted, and he didn’t hold me back as much as he wanted. It was training in patience at its best.

As we light fireworks to celebrate our independence, let’s remember the brilliant leaders who had the vision to get us to this day.

I salute them and their ideals. With gratitude, I wish the United States of America a happy birthday.

I’m Bill Marriott and thank you for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.

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I did not know that the first Marriott was in Washington, DC. Makes sense, since the corporate HQ is in nearby Maryland now. Be well. Great message.