IT IS PRESUMPTUOUS FOR ME, AN AUTO INDUSTRY columnist and former dealer, to attempt to say how deeply Sept. 11 has changed us.

But a depression hangs over every American because of the killings, and it's important not to let that feeling overcome us. Now is a time for positive attitudes, and it behooves each business leader to set examples of leadership which will filter down to the lowest level. There is a human dynamic in organizations whereby employees attempt to emulate their leader's behavioral patterns, right down to language expressions.

New-car dealers are leaders in their communities and it's important they display leadership qualities for their employees and the entire community during these troubled times.

The dealership “bottom line” will not be dangerously affected by war time restrictions as sales of vehicles will continue and service work will remain strong.

However, the issue is far beyond the survival of a single business entity. Rather it is whether this country with its freedoms will be able to maintain a way of life. This can happen if all Americans make a firm commitment to place these values above personal gain, treasuring the gifts we've received from our forefathers.

A fine book on positive attitudes is “Learned Optimism” Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also a past-president of the American Psychology Association.

He introduced experiments in attitudes by conducting workshops. He would assign half the workshop participants to use study materials including inspirational speeches from winning coaches and successful politicians. The other half used benign material. Each participant was ultimately reviewed and graded by a panel. In each instance, the people whose study material included the inspirational messages graded higher.

This is a time for leaders to come to the fore and rise to the challenge as they have throughout our history. Leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were extraordinary mortals whose response to despotism was to engage the challenge, then set a course of leadership for their countrymen to follow.

Tom Brokaw, the TV anchorman, is author of a best-selling book, “The Greatest Generation.”

It contains several personal histories of the manner in which a “special” generation of Americans responded to the challenges of living during World War II. It was my privilege to witness first-hand some of the inspiring actions which Mr. Brokaw deemed as super heroic.

In my opinion, that “greatest” generation simply answered their nation's call just as this current generation will successfully confront the latest threat to our society.

During this season, it will tax all our emotions to bestow holiday cheer on our families and friends. However, it may be this very holiday spirit that will reinforce our commitment to our American way of life.

Season's greetings to all my readers!

Nat Shulman was owner of Best Chevrolet in Hingham, MA for many years.