The Unusual Guest at the Football Game
In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II attended a college football game between Maryland and North Carolina. Her decision to do so has a key lesson for us.
It was a six-day trip to the United States, Queen Elizabeth II’s first as a monarch, and her itinerary was busy.
She was slated to attend a state dinner at the White House, visit the National Children’s Hospital, meet with dignitaries and tour the National Gallery of Art.
But there was another, perhaps more traditional American item on her schedule: A college football game.
On Oct. 19, 1957, the stands were packed as the University of Maryland hosted No. 14 University of North Carolina. The Queen arrived around 1:15 p.m., greeted players, and along with Prince Phillip, humbly received autographed footballs and a replica of the game coin.
“Wonderful, wonderful,” she said of her experience.
Queen Elizabeth II was remembered for her compassion, authenticity and grace by tear-soaked mourners at her funeral on Monday, the same virtues she displayed with thousands of strangers in College Park nearly 65 years prior.
The Queen wasn't in her most natural element in a stadium. It was a long football game, she knew nothing about what was happening in front of her, and she might've preferred to do something else. She could’ve easily shaken some hands, given a few waves and gone on her way.
Instead, she was reportedly genuinely excited by the throngs of people who had poured into Byrd Stadium and “leaned forward eagerly” to ask questions about football rules.
There's a key leadership reminder from this.
Just about all of us at some point have to attend events or partake in activities we know nothing about and have little interest in.
A dull conference where it feels like everyone’s speaking another language. A musical a family member really wants us to go to. A movie a significant other insists we see.
It’s easy in these scenarios to focus on ourselves and make excuses for why we can’t commit, but these instances are often revealing of our character.
Instead of just lamenting them and wishing we were somewhere else, we, like Queen Elizabeth II, could do a little better to embrace the short experience that's important to another person.
It doesn’t have to be a life-changing few hours, but we can still:
- Remain open-minded about the activity
- Take it in without complaint
- Ask some questions to convey a real sense care
- Put ourselves second to make someone else happy
The Queen likely didn’t return to Buckingham Palace highlighting the nuances of the I-formation, but she got to see something she never had before and created indelible memories for the 43,000 fans in attendance that day.
That's selflessness. That's humility. And ultimately, that's true leadership.