by Asllan Bushati – Translated by Rafaela Prifti/
The 106th anniversary of Albania’s independence (1912-2018) coincides with 550th commemoration of the passing of our national hero Gjergj Kastrioti (George Castrioti) Skenderbeu. Since he was a visionary and founder of an early Albanian state and admittedly “ The Father of our Nation”, it is worth reviewing several important points in his last speech as cited in Le Grand Castriotto d”Albanie by Stephan Zannovich. It is a publication by J.J Kesler in Frankfurt, Germany 1779. The last speech by the Prince of the Mat region and King of all Albanians appears in the French language on pages 70 through 89. According to the author, George Castrioti Skanderbeg while lying on his deathbed burning from malaria fever addressed the princes, ambassadors, generals and other leaders of the country. There one finds the fundamental principles to guide the Albanian leaders throughout history. The essence of the speech brings attention to bravery, virtue, vision, justice, generosity, merit, courage, vigilance and resolve which make up the necessary ‘moral code’ for a leader. To illustrate and support the point, I quote the citations along with some commentaries from the speech:
“As I lie on my deathbed, I leave behind a kingdom with a capable defense force and a successor incapable of leading it on account of his age. However, if you have bravery and virtue by your side in the future, you will bring defeat to the enemies’ offenses. It not the size of the kingdom that makes the throne respectable but the ability of the one who sits on it.
His last wish puts the emphasis on bravery. Indeed he himself understood that to be a quality that goes hand in hand with moral, psychological and professional features of a leader and advocate for the country’s defense. In this regard, valiance is seen as incorporated in the spiritual composition and consciousness of the leader and commander. At the same time, as a primary element of the spiritual construct, it needs to be nurtured and cultivated in time and space.
Second in order is virtue which in general sense then but even today is the guidance of spiritual, educational and intellectual norms that lead to high standards of conduct in the moral, professional, political and religious realm. It also carries the love for the country, freedom, unity, the unification of lands, justice, respect towards the ones who contributed on the national and professional level; it has human and social virtue and offers help to the ones who are in need of aid: willing and ready to make the sacrifice for others and national interest. Personal interest are not to be placed in front of the common good or at the expense of the national interest. To drive this point, the great Skenderbeg opens his speech with ‘you must be brave and virtuous’
Of significant importance is the vision that he lays out for the Albanian leaders of the time (across the board) underlining that it is not the size of the kingdom that gives power to the throne but the skills of the one sitting on it. While bravery and virtue are requisite, both need to be accompanied by ‘a clear vision’ on the part of the leadership.
For a leader to be successful, according to Skenderbeg, there has to be a climate of justice and he advises to::…establish a publication free of censorship throughout the kingdom where the violations and injustices committed by the heads or governors of the respective regions and provinces may be announced. He advises the princes that the same principle applies to the friends and kinship in their own courts who conceal such violations or worse carry them out in the name of justice and necessity. “As soon as you are in a position of power, you should tend to Justice which is at the heart of all virtues. Protect the artisans as they are the most helpful class of your respective administration and prevent their oppression from the upper class. Pride and luxury account for the indifference of the rich with respect to the plight of the poor who bear no titles or ranks and have no support. Be gentle and considerate with your own people, go to meet with them frequently and talk to them, and ascertain whether the course of justice you have put forth has been followed by your ministers. Listen to the grievances and the needs of the people without judgment in order to be trusted by them and get their help in addressing the abuses and mishaps of the state.”
In the last address of George Castrioti Skanderbeg, generosity as a fundamental element of the character of a leader is outlined in this fashion: “When one speaks ill of another, give them divided attention. Be polite with all of the people. On account of the title or rank that you will hold soon, you must be singled out through your generosity which is a primary quality among the princes. A monarch even one of lesser means must be generous.”
The artisan, the farmer, the construction worker, the solder etc all perform important tasks and duties for their own livelihood and those around them. “Protect the merits acknowledging individual work wherever it is found without exception. Kindness stems from a gracious heart since the man raises temples, puts up altars for God thanks to his kindness and skills” continues George Castrioti. Then, he brings back the topic of courage with a new emphasis. Arm yourself with courage and determination when facing poverty and with moderation when granted prosperity. Don’t give into laziness for that is the mother of all vices.”
Having an extensive and outstanding experience with enemies foreign and domestic, Scanderbeg gave warning to his leaders and generals with this message: Keep your eyes peeled when it comes to your neighbors and their treaties. They will lie in wait to try to overtake when you are most vulnerable and will go as far as giving you false assurances with regards to the legacy I leave behind. Don’t employ informants to learn the people’s opinion of your administration. Carry out your duties diligently and let them talk and write what they will….”
In the following passage, he says: “Exercise patience on the matters of war, unabated in the face of danger and yet humane, and never ruthless or hot blooded. Conceal the pain presented by your own personal misfortunes. Your opponents will always be ready to insult the losses whereas the ministers will be prone to betray. Be mindful to surround yourself with decent and disciplined forces and keep them active through exercise and training not as subordinates but rather your equals.
On the battlefield, you will lead the army as generals but you will fight as soldiers…The climax of a battle is confusing, one must be able to feel the moment of the breaking point. At that point, caution and courage will serve you better than any wherewithal. You must know how to achieve victory yet just as well be prepared to suffer defeat. Challenge yourself: don’t lose your temper due to anger which transforms a simple man into evil and a ruler into a monster.
Another word of caution: Don’t forget that the focus of the Ottomans policy is to sow division among the Christian princes. Their great power is embedded in the devastating politics of division which grants them more conquests than their weaponry. “
Five and a half centuries have passed from the time of the speech and the message of our national hero and Father of the Albanian Nation is as timely as ever. In my opinion, the speech needs to be studied and re-studied by the Albanian leading class at any level until it become second-nature. It would help them to understand concepts such as valor, virtue, vision, justice, generosity, skills, courage, vigilance, patience and wisdom. Finally, the speech will make them realize that a job title or public service post is a responsibility and a duty to serve the people and not to rule them. It is my wish and hope that the younger generation will also absorb the message and carry with them the moral code of the last speech by George Kastrioti Skenderbeu.