Something to talk about

Any group of people, whether it is business, high school, church, or some other association, will have people that perpetuate the gossip and rumor mill. This attribute is as old as the hills. People are going to talk.

One of our favorite artists, country-blues singer and accomplished slide guitarist, Bonnie Raitt, had a huge hit about this very subject, “Something to Talk About.” Here is middle verse and the chorus to give you the gist of a co-worker slowly realizing that another co-worker seems to be as smitten as she is.

“I feel so foolish, I never noticed
You act so nervous, could you be fallin’ for me?
It took the rumor to make me wonder,
Now I’m convinced that I’m goin’ under.
Thinkin’ ’bout you every day,
Dreamin’ ’bout you every night.
I’m hopin’ that you feel the same way,
Now that we know it, let’s really show it darlin’.

Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
(Somethin’ to talk about)
A little mystery to figure out
(Somethin’ to talk about)
Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
How about love?”

I love this song as she turns the rumor mill on its head. The rumors about them “standing a little too close” made her think and realize that is exactly what they were doing. The video which aired is clever, with Dennis Quaid acting as the interested and interesting co-worker.

Rumors at work do fly. It is hard to follow the advice of Dr. Wayne Dyer and defend the absent. But, that is what we should do. Yet, I shared the story of how a colleague was in a group dinner with a new senior executive who talked about everyone when each left the table. My friend said he did not want to go to the restroom as she would talk about him. It is hard to defend the absent when you might be next.

It is also hard to date someone at work for this reason. Yet, with limited social time, it is not uncommon to meet you future spouse at work. My wife worked at a small company that sublet some of our office space. What tickled both of us is a colleague of mine took credit for introducing us, when that was not the case. She actually told my future wife I was dating someone, which was not true, so she almost waylaid our plans.

So, if you do date someone at work, keep the PDAs to a minimum. More importantly, be prepared to ignore what people are saying as it is none of their business. As a friend, who actually met her husband at work, told her high school students she counseled, “if you do not take offense, you are not offended. Don’t cede your power.”

So, if you give them something to talk about, be OK with being the subject matter.

Bigotry is a lousy money maker (a reprise)

The following post has been dusted off from four years ago as a result of the current NC Lt. Governor Mark Robinson’s pride in his slurs of transgender and homosexual folks, that have gone largely unanswered by fellow Republicans. I will not repeat them here, but it should be noted his remarks have not set too well with many. The Charlotte Observer has two editorials from yesterday called “Lt. governor’s rants about fake issues do real harm” by the Editorial Board while the other is called “‘Filth’ sends an old message to LGBTQ in NC” by a columnist in the Raleigh News and Observer.

I have written before how coexisting and capitalism are not at odds with each other, in spite of the attempts of some through bumper stickers to show you should pick one or the other. History has shown, it is far more economical to coexist. Why? More customers. And, more customers means more jobs.

In my home state of North Carolina, we have forgotten this equation. In early 2016, our General Assembly rammed through a discriminatory law called HB2 in a special session taking just ten hours. I recognize fully the transgender bathroom portion of the law gets most of the press, but the piece which has caused the most consternation in the eyes of businesses looking at our state and ruling bodies of the NBA, NCAA and ACC, is the elimination of LGBTQ people as a protected class who should not be discriminated against.

The transgender portion was sold on fear without much data to support its issues. So, it is hard to back away from something its supporters made people scared of. But, let’s set that part aside and focus on the LGBTQ part. While there are proponents of HB2 who will argue the bathroom law should remain, the denial of protection to LGBTQ folks is flat out unconstitutional.

The proponents of the law said it is only the cities that are impacted by this law due to larger populations of LGBTQ people. Legislators in rural NC say what does it matter if Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro don’t get sporting events or new businesses? The economic dilemma for the rural parts of the state is this concept of revenue sharing. A portion of sales taxes from larger cities are distributed throughout the state to help finance smaller investments and pay for services.

The less money in the big cities means less money for the state. And, our entire state has damaged its reputation not just around the country, but around the world. I have read that some members of the General Assembly say they had no idea there would be such a backlash. The answer to these legislators is you did not take the time to know passing the law in ten hours.

I firmly believe HB2 should be fully repealed. Its treatment of transgender people using a sledgehammer approach to legislation is unjust. There could have been a more surgical answer. So, short of a full repeal, let me offer a compromise.

  • eliminate the LGBTQ discrimination feature in its entirety before you are made to by the courts. This feature is unconstitutional. Period.
  • eliminate the feature on restricting a city from having a higher minimum wage; cities who have larger economic competition and cost of living should have the right to allow a higher minimum wage than the national one. This feature needs to be vetted more than it was by itself.
  • change the transgender portion of the law to do the following; if a person has a formal document indicating a gender different from his or her birth certificate, he or she should legally have the right to use the bathroom he or she identifies with.

Again, I believe the whole law should be repealed. Yet, this compromise should help the state move forward before these business decisions not to move, expand or hold events here are more recognizable in our economic growth. The scary part, as shared by Chamber of Commerce recruiters, is we have no idea how many organizations did not consider North Carolina.

Jesus told us to treat others like he we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do as well as the economical thing to do. Bigotry is not much of a money-maker.

As a Christian and independent voter, one of my pet peeves is when so-called leaders, misuse their mantle and convey bigotry. Whether they are ministers, CEOs or elected officials, we need them to be among our better angels and be inclusive. To me, a chance to be inclusive has been missed by the relative silence of others leaders in the same party. The same goes for the other party, when one of its elected officials goes astray.

Bad word, bad word

My wonderfully efficient and effective Administrative Assistant for many years was the epitome of customer service. She had better customer service instincts than many consultants both internally with colleagues and externally with clients. She was also a very devout woman and you would never hear a curse word cross her lips.

Yet, she would get angry from time to time like we all do. So, if she was really annoyed with some mix-up or maltreatment, I would hear her say “bad word, bad word.” That was her way of cursing. No four letter expletives, just the same two words repeated twice. Very few of us can live up to that kind of exemplar.

Many who follow this blog know I do not give much credence to name-calling or labels. It weakens the argument of the user, as they tend to be shortcuts to defamation of another person or group. I do my best to avoid them, but of course, I do mess up. Yet, I try to focus on the deceitful words or actions than call the espouser a liar. I also try to avoid using those bad words in print, maybe using asterisks are the infamous acronym of BS.

What continues to trouble me is with social media so pervasive and the managers of such tools like the one (Facebook) which is getting scrutiny in Congress as we speak, we have entered into a post-truth society. The truth continues to have to work hard to keep its head above the surface. A social media expert said this weekend misinformation is six times more likely to be read and routed than the truth. And, that company who denies they know this is not being very forthcoming so says a whistleblower. Ads are how they make money, so the more read posts make more money for them.

I have used this example many times but Vladimir Putin’s early career was in disinformation for the KGB. Today, as the leader of Russia, stories by former TV producers and media people speak of Putin having a very active role in various communication channels. But, this does not surprise me because of the controlling nature of the country.

It is troubling the former US president is a huge fan of Putin’s. Though, what bothers me most is not the former president has a penchant for using untruths to tell a story he wants to tell. Based on his well-documented history, I expected these actions. What bothers me most are those acting like sycophants and rationalizers to grease the skids for the untruthful narrative and provide air cover for such stories.

It should not take so much political courage to stand up and call out the untruthful stories. Yet, it does. The folks who do get vilified and even receive death threats. And, they know this going in and still call the lying out. The folks could have been past supporters, but get ostracized for saying even the simplest of things that contradict the untruthful narrative.

So, many staff and public servants have been removed for daring to call out the untruthful behavior. That should speak volumes, but simply is not getting inside the communication channels of those who really need to hear it. This is where the rationalizing is used to sand around the edges of a bad story or deny its truth.

It truly makes you want to curse. Bad word, bad word. So, now that I feel better, what can we do? Reach out to legislators who do the right thing and thank them. Reach out to them with concerns, as well, but do your best to avoid name calling and labelling. Write comments to others like you would want to receive them – focus on brief, civil discourse. And, listen to people, not to respond, but to understand. If there is a place where you can find agreement, even on the smallest of issues, start there.

Here are a few themes to bear in mind:

-we need legislators to focus more on passing needed legislation than trying to score victories. Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job.

-we need legislators to focus on the truth more than they are doing. You owe it to us. Governing is hard enough with the facts – when people use lies, it is nigh impossible.

-when an incumbent or former incumbent denigrates the office or our country through his or her actions, the party to which he or she belongs should not try to cover up such action. The party should be leading the effort to right wrongful behavior.

On this latter point, there are many examples where entities failed to heed this advice and paid for it with damaged relationships, tarnished brands and the loss of huge sums of money – think the Catholic Church, the US Olympic Gymnastics Team, the Boys Scouts of American, Enron, Adelphia, Tyco International, The PTL Club, etc. for both financial fraud or sexual assault convictions and claims.

So, instead of bad word, bad word, we should be able to say good job, good job for those who do the right thing..

Really?

Just a few very puzzling things that require some response.

While I am not a huge fan of Senator Lindsey Graham, I did call to thank him for being on the side of the Angels. I try to call to thank legislators to balance out when I call to ask them to change a position. What did the Senator do? He stood up in front of a Republican gathering in his state of South Carolina and recommended that folks consider getting vaccinated for COVID. And, he was booed. He tried to water down his recommendation and was still booed. He tried a third time and was still booed. Really?

This followed on similar recommendations by Reverend Franklin Graham, another person I am not a huge fan of due to his bigotry, but who nonetheless has done some good things in the world. Graham wrote about getting the vaccine online and he was promptly vilified by his primary audience for so recommending. The retorts were less than Golden-rule like from this religious audience. Really?

Now, I have read that teachers are getting death threats for being worried about teaching when their is no vaccine requirement for the school. Death threats. Teachers. Really?

I recognize that people have been led to tap their innermost feelings for something which should be so simple. I also realize that only a small group of people would actually be troll-like enough to offer death threats – these folks being hateful. But, it is the folks booing people for having the temerity to try to save their lives by suggesting getting the vaccines which stymies me. Booing. Really? Why?

Good faith dealings – a needed reprise

I wrote the following post following the death of the 41st president. While an imperfect man, with whom I did not always agree, he lived an exemplary life. There are several lessons for us courtesy of George H.W. Bush.

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and cart fees. Bush insisted that he pay for his and his friends fees. He noted it would not be right for a golf club to not expect him to pay.

– a Democrat Senator noted that it was not unusual for Bush to invite a handful of Senators or Congressional representatives to the White House on late Friday afternoons for martinis, which Bush made. He would also give them a tour of the White House, if any had not seen it before.

– many noted that Bush was a voracious note writer and they took pride in words of encouragement, support, sympathy or thanks; these notes were received by media, foreign and domestic leaders, public servants, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

– after he retired, the son of one of his secret service guards was struggling with Leukemia and losing his hair due to the Chemotherapy. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with the son to lift his spirits,

– many leaders and public servants noted that Bush had many relationships around the world and here in the states, which benefited him and our country in troubling or challenging times. His ability to tap these resources to build coalitions to do things is paramount to several successful endeavors.

– relationships matter at home too, with a lovely marriage to Barbara for 73 years and a beautiful family of children and grandchildren. Marriage is hard work – this speaks volumes about the Bushes.

– Finally, in today’s times it is hard to convince some that perception is not reality. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time polishing our own apple or thinking those that do it well rate more highly as a result. One magazine defined Bush as a wimp when he ran for President, primarily because he was an obsequious Vice-President. Here was a man who flew 58 combat missions in WWII and was shot down. He was not raised to brag on himself. It would not have been false bravado for him to do so. False bravado seems to be mistaken for actually bravery these days. But, the reason he was called a wimp due to being obsequious is while he offered criticism to  President Reagan in private, it would have been detrimental to call him out in public.

Each of us could be better people. Our leaders should be among our better angels. Character matters. Dealing with people in a good faith manner matters. Telling the truth to the media, colleagues and the American people matter. Being accountable matters. Real courage is usual quietly borne and not bragged about. We should remember these truths. We should do our best to emulate them.

A Habitat for Humanity – a reprise on the Carter legacy

Jimmy Carter just celebrated his 97th birthday on Friday. The following is an encore presentation of a tribute to Carter’s legacy, especially with Habitat for Humanity.

There are strong opinions about who might be the most impactful US president. But, there should be less debate on the most impactful ex-president. In the view of many, that would be James Earl Carter, better known as Jimmy.

With Rosalynn, his wife of 73 years by his side, the 95 year-old Carter is out there with hammer and drill building houses for Habitat for Humanity. As a non-profit Board volunteer, I believe the Habitat model, embraced by Carter, is a sound model, based on sweat equity. Having helped build one house with my co-workers, I can attest to the “sweat” part, as never have I been more tired at the end of the day.

Not only does the home owner have to help build his or her house, he or she has to help other home owners build their houses. But, another famous couple is building on the Carter Habitat legacy. You may have heard of them – country singers Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. They hope to carry the hammer and drill forward after the Carters can no longer do it. Yet, the older couple are still out their hammering away, even after falls, hospital stays, etc.

Yet, that is not all of what Carter does. He still teaches Sunday school, which is so well attended, it was moved to the church sanctuary. He has also written about thirty books – I have read a couple, one on his upbringing and one on addressing the maltreatment of women in the US and world. His and Rosalynn’s “Carter Center” has helped to eradicate guinea worm disease in many places around the globe. And, Carter has been asked by several presidents to be an envoy to certain countries to represent our interests be it for state funerals or to elicit the release of an American in custody.

To be frank, his presidency is not given sufficient credit as he served one term as an outsider. To my surprise, I read that a significant number of bills were signed into law on his watch, but that is not well known. But, it is clear, he has been a much more impactful former president. He will be missed when he is gone.

Let’s celebrate them while he and Rosalynn are with us. A good way to do so, is to sing a Peter, Paul and Mary song, “If I had a hammer, I’d swing it in the morning, I’d swing it in the evening all over this land….”

Allies are critical – we cannot take our friends for granted

When a German state official was asked a few years ago what are the strengths of America, he noted its military power and its allied relationships. His concern at the time was the lack of respect that the previous president was showing to our allies. Sadly, the current president has made a second mistake in keeping our allies abreast. This cannot happen.

The first mistake was not giving ample heads up to our allies that the US was pulling out of Afghanistan. They were somewhat surprised and, as a result, less prepared to act when the time came. That is poor form.

The second mistake happened this week when Australia canceled a deal with a French entity for submarines to make a better deal with the Americans. No phone call or heads-up was made to the French and they were beyond frustrated. In fact, France pulled their US ambassador in protest. Just three months ago, President Macron said side-be-side with President Biden, America is back.

Allies are critical. With allies on our side, we have been able to build coalitions to do things. Yet, when we lied to our allies about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as pretense for invading Iraq, our allies were left holding the bag as well. A UK investigation faulted President Bush and Prime Minister Blair for misleading the UK people about the WMDs.

The US announced leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord in 2017, an accord that all but three countries had signed. It was an agreement we helped forge, yet our word does not mean as much with fickle presidents. Fortunately, we rejoined the agreement under President Biden. One departure under the last president that got less press is the US pulled out under an eleven country Trans Pacific Partnership to enable Pacific based countries to better compete with China. The other ten countries went on without us.

No deal is perfect. No relationship is perfect.. But, we cannot take our friends for granted. This is especially true when an action may be detrimental. You must talk it through. Thinking of it in terms of married relationships, marriage is hard work. You have to work at it and you cannot take your partner’s love for granted. Our allies may not love us, but the same goes for them. Do not take them for granted.

Sometimes, you just have to be more direct

When dealing with people who have a high sense of self worth, ranging from arrogance to narcissism, a common attribute is the “all about me” chip they carry around with them. This chip also precludes them from thinking they ever did anything wrong.

I have observed and dealt with a few narcissists in my career, but also many who carry this chip around. In my dealings with others I have tried to be at my diplomatic best. This especially comes in handy when you have to tell a client his or her idea lacks merit. But, what happens when you are dealing with someone who rarely, if ever, thinks he or she did something wrong?

One of our blogging friends Cynthia writes an excellent blog on PTSD and other issues related to dealing with narcissistic people. She offers first hand experience and supportive advice. I commented on a recent post the best way to deal with narcissists is to avoid or limit exposure to them. What makes this approach so valuable is narcissists fail to realize they are the lone constant in all of their negative interactions.

When you do dialogue with a narcissist or arrogant person, an extra dose of tolerance and diplomacy is required. To me, it is a truism the most intolerant of people require the most tolerance of others in dealing with them. But, when people show little acknowledgment or remorse of their shortcomings there are times when you just have to be more direct and dial down the dipllomacy.

When I raised concern with NC legislators about the unconstitutional and “Jim Crow” like nature of a drafted Voter ID bill before it was passed, the author of the legislation wrote me back and ripped me a new one and he did so again after I diplomatically rebutted. I showed them to an attorney friend and his response was it looks like your roles are reversed when reading the tenor of the emails. My final response to this legislator was simple – I am a 54 year-old white man who was raised in the south; you and I both know what this legislation is all about. It should be noted the law was later ruled unconstitutional.

I was dealing with one of the most overbearing leaders of a business unit in a company I worked with. His direct reports followed their leader and tended to be overbearing as well. So, when I interviewed him to get his thoughts on compensation for his staff, I knew I was in for an interesting interview. He held firmly to a practice called stretching out raises – i.e., when budgets are tight, lengthen the time between raises to eighteen or twenty-four months. He was quite vociferous that he could give them same value in raises that he would have given at twelve months. After several minutes of this diatribe, I said “you can If they are still here.” His business had a lot of turnover.

The above are two examples of push back. The common theme is I had done my homework and felt comfortable in offering a response. I knew the Voter ID law was unconstitutional, as the NC Attorney General had written a piece saying those very same words and why. I knew the business leader was experiencing high turnover as I had seen the data..

Yet, it is not that easy to push back, especially on an overbearing person who has trouble acknowledging his or her mistakes. I have used the example before of working with the youngest curmudgeon I have ever met. It was all about him and he would tell you so. When my wife and I invited my work friends to a party, he was fuming out loud to others for me to hear – “I don’t want to go to your stupid party.” My response was direct, “Then, don’t come.”

I will continue to try to wear my Harry Potter “diplomacy cloak” more often than not. Yet, there are times when the cloak needs to be set aside. Note, one needs not be rude to be direct. You do want the message heard or read. Yet, it helps to be armed with facts or a position of strength. As for my curmudgeon friend, I thought the party would be good for him, so when he rudely said he did not want to come, it was no bother and we had a good time without him.

Arrogant and narcissistic people tend to complain. Nothing or no one is ever good enough. Even those on their good side, should not get used to it, as they will at some point misstep in the eyes of the narcissist. That will not change. So, if pushback does not suit your style, the avoidance approach works well. A colleague asked why I did not eat lunch with a known narcissist in our office. My response was simple – “I don’t want to listen to him running people down.” Or, as my friend told me once he got to fifty, he realized he did not want to suffer fools anymore, so he avoided them whenever possible.

My tribe is America, my race is human and my home is Earth

Tribal politics will bring down America’s democracy if we let it. It has already caused one of its two major parties to become adrift, untethered to truth and lawfulness. While I can disagree with Democrats on various policies, Republicans are just not often in the same ballpark as the facts and seemingly do not care. We need them to care or step aside and let a new party form. A party cannot vilify its truth tellers and aggrandize its liars and be credible. Both parties lie, but what I see as an Independent is a tipped scale to the right.

My tribe is America, my race is human and my home is Earth. Each of those are important. If we do not give each of these elements proper footing, then we increase our chances of our demise. Those apocalyptic films use a desert like Earth that became that way due to nuclear holocaust. We are destined to be that way, but it will be due to insufficient water and food resources for the population.

There are more autocratic governments who are cleverly aiding and abetting the demise of democracy. With social media and conspiracy minded zealots, it is like shooting fish in a barrel to wind up America (or British) toy soldiers and point them at each other. We should never forget this is what Vladimir Putin was trained to do in the KBG – disinformation tactics. He had no idea at the time how much easier his skill set could be deployed.

Democracy requires an informed public. Even before the rise of the last president, the most untruthful person to ever inhabit the White House, there has been an orchestrated attack on mainstream media and institutions. These groups are not perfect, but they have been painted with broad and narrow brushes to mask their effectiveness. Fear sells. Facts are boring. Competence is boring. As Putin and Hitler knew, people can be made to believe just about anything. Or, at the very least, be taught to doubt it.

So, we Americans and other citizens, must do our part and become more informed. We must use multiple sources of information and avoid getting news from social media. I try to be accurate, but what I write is not news, so please verify everything you read here. Over time I have learned there are sources that have more veracity than others, but we must do our part to be informed. I grow tired of party leaders telling me something did not happen that just happened or whitewashing history.

We have infrastructure needs in America that are ten years over due. Yet, the last president is attempting to not have an infrastructure bill passed because it will make the other party look good. The fact he passed on doing something on infrastructure after campaign promises seems to get overlooked. America needs these improvement and Americans support the effort in the majority. Our tribe needs to see this happen before the next train derails or automobile bridge collapses.

Yet, our human race is critical. We all bleed red. We all want safety and security. Most of us want some form of community, either friends and family. But, if we do not take care of our planet, it will have a harder time taking care of us. All of us. Climate change has already reared its ugly head and we are seeing the cost of worsening conditions in money, health and lives. Many of our ocean fish have particles of plastic in their bodies which we, in turn, will digest. Chemicals have been tainting and poisoning our water supplies and air for some time.

For elected officials to do nothing or as little as possible to remedy these issues. is beyond poor stewardship. In my view, it is malfeasance. The story (captured in the movie “Dark Waters”) of Dupont poisoning its workers, their families and other citizens surrounding a plant that made Teflon is bad enough. This was proven in court with the largest data trove ever assembled. What unnerved me the most is they knew it long before per memos and reports in their own files. And, when they lost the arbitration based on this mountain of “causal data” they reneged on the deal and had to be sued one case at a time before settling all claims after losing the first three.

Tribe – America. Race – human. Home – Earth. Let’s stop the BS and start solving our real problems. As the old Fram oil filter commercial used to say, “You can pay me now, our pay me later.” Let’s install those oil filters now in this old car or it will stop working and we won’t be able to get anywhere in it.

Leadership can happen

In Ken Burns’ seven part documentary on “The Roosevelts” which focuses on Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor, conservative pundit and author George Will gives FDR high praise for galvanizing American industry toward building planes, jeeps, trucks, ships, tanks, guns, equipment, etc. for World War II. What may be less known, is FDR knew he had to allow the companies to make a profit to gain their full support. It also effectively ended the depression era as it got people back to work.

In this same documentary, Eleanor was asked to travel to the Pacific during the war to help the troops. Admiral Bull Halsey did not want her to come, as he saw it as a waste of time he could use planning. In her first twelve hours, he changed his mind entirely. Halsey noted she worked her fanny off visiting several hospitals, bases and going to several events. He noted the first lady visited every soldier and sailor in the hospital at bed side, asking their name, where they were from and if she could do something for them. As Halsey pointed out, these badly wounded combatants needed a mother to stop by and talk with them..

Dwight Eisenhower was getting all kinds of lessons from people about how to be a leader as president. Here was a man who led the Allied command and had to work with many countries and a variety of egos. Eisenhower told them leadership is not beating on your chest and using fear. Anyone can do that. It is gaining consensus toward a common goal. It is sharing your ideas and listening to theirs. They have to buy into the change or it will not be successful.

Although, LBJ can rightfully be criticized for our failures in Vietnam, along with JFK and Richard Nixon, he used his entire political capital and bully pulpit to get the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed. He knew the time was now as well as knowing the Democrats would lose the south if they passed. But, he got them done noting if the presidency is not used for doing big things, what is it for?

Even Nixon with his Watergate scandal, made two significant changes that helped America. He broke the ice on relations with China starting much needed conversations between two world powers. The significance of this move cannot be overstated. And, in reaction to the pollution of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River causing it to catch fire along with Rachel Carson’s book and earlier Congressional testimony on “Silent Spring,” Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ronald Reagan was not perfect as no president is and the Iran-Contra affair is his albatross, but he made an ad lib during a speech in Berlin in 1987 that led to major change. He said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The Berlin wall would come down a few years later. Reagan almost did not say it, but knew instinctively the time was right.

Let me close with a story about a president of a company that I have used before. Paul O’Neill was made the new CEO of Alcoa, a company that was falling short of expectations. At his first press conference, O’Neill did not say the normal buzz word type things. He said he was going to make Alcoa the safest place to work. A financial analyst called his investors and told them to sell Alcoa stock. He later said that was the worst advice he ever gave.

O’Neill knew the only thing the unions and management could agree on was employee safety. Two weeks into his tenure a worker died in a tragic accident on the floor. He called in his direct reports and said “we killed this man.” I want to know in twenty-four hours why he died and how we can prevent future deaths. With that signal, communication up and down the lines improved, empowered employees starting sharing productivity and revenue enhancing ideas and the company took off.

Leadership can happen. Often it takes courage to stick your neck out and do something. All of the above folks also failed to lead on occasion and made some poor decisions. So, even today when we see leadership, we need to let them know we appreciate what they did.