Small colleges, large growth

This past week my wife and I attended our daughter’s senior project presentation. She did a marvelous job, showing equal parts poise and command of her material, to well-mask her nervousness. Her professors thought so as well giving her an A on her presentation.

Our daughter attends a small college with about 900 students. She has truly come into her own here, knowing her professors and advisors and having a terrific cadre of friends and associates. She has been involved with several campus groups and is now co-captain of the climbing team.

She has done well making the honor roll each semester, even as she modified her majors, minors and concentrations. She is her own person and diplomatically and eloquently pushes back when she does not care for every part of your argument. She has become a keen observer of protecting our environment and civil rights.

We are so very proud of the young woman and person she has become. As high schoolers and their parents look at colleges and universities, I would encourage them to find the right fit for them. Maybe a big place will be the right fit, but for some, they may get lost. For my daughter, a small college has been profound. She has grown immensely.

 

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Good faith dealings

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 in 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.

 

Sunday sermonettes redux

Good Sunday morning everyone. It is a rainy morning here. Here are a few little sermonettes on this Sunday morning.

A favorite mantra of mine is “don’t mistake kindness for weakness.” This weekend, the embodiment of that mantra passed away, former President George H.W. Bush. A key lesson for many today, toughness is not correlated with a false bravado. If someone has to tell you how tough or how smart he is, my advice would be to look under the hood.

With the G20 conference now ended, what stood out to me is the giddy handshake/ hug between MSB and Putin. To me it was due to them both being in on a joke. They have gotten away with doing their own thing and having something on the current US President. Both know that the US President has business ties in each country with a goal to leverage his candidacy and presidency to do even more. So, they both feel a level of impunity. Note to all, when leaders squash human rights or look the other way when violated, that is when Jesus crires. If you are not religious, that is when our parents cry.

Yesterday, I watched the terrific movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Queen and Freddie Mercury’s rise to fame and impact. It is very entertaining and even emotional. A key premise is how Mercury defined the group to a record producer, ironically played by Michael Myers. He said we are a family of misfits playing to the misfits in the final row. I like this. This group’s family chemistry is a key thread to the movie, which I won’t spoil here. Do go see even if it is just for the music.

So, to wrap up these sermonettes, kindness is important, human rights are important and family in whatever form is important.

 

 

 

No good deed goes unpunished – a sequel

There is an old saying in Human Resources that simply says “no good deed goes unpunished.” This saying has been around since well before social media. But, social media has highly leveraged this phrase into over-sensitive political correctness.

Mind you, I am all for treating people like I want to be treated. Yet, there is another quote that comes to mind which was told to me by a friend who advised high school students. She said, “Do not give your power away. If you do not take offense, then you are not offended.”

It seems almost daily that someone with notoriety makes an effort to communicate a message offering a self-help tip or commenting on maltreatment of a group or person. Yet, someone or some group takes offense at the tip saying it demeans another group. A key question to ask is did people speaking on behalf of that group take offense? Another is was the slight intended or was it inferred?

I fully recognize there are people like the US President who often intentionally and accidentally offend individuals and groups. These folks need more pushback because they seem less inclined to change or could care less. With that said, the President will often use derogatory comments to distract the media from a greater malfeasance, so focusing on a slight, allows him to change the subject.

What I am speaking to most is people who blow small or unintended things into major transgressions. Using an old phrase, they react as if someone killed their mother. Folks, don’t make mountains out of molehills. In so doing, it is akin to crying wolf. One gets ignored on the more impactful transgressions because people become inured to the constant criticism of smaller ones.

Recently, a celebrity made a point to say exercise and watch what you eat during the holidays and was accused of fat-shaming. She apologized for any perceived slights, but said that was not her intention.

Comedians often focus on generalizations that help people see we all have imperfections. They also are keen on poking fun at lies and hypocrisies in leaders. Of course, they need to be mindful of not going too far, when the humor becomes cruel, but if we cannot laugh at ourselves, we will have a very boring world. I am reminded that President George H.W. Bush loved Dana Carvey’s impersonation of himself as did President Obama of the the “angry Obama” portayed by Keegan Michael Key.

So, let’s pull back on punishing folks for every unintended slight. Let’s not punish good deeds. Pick your battles.  Let’s reserve our offense for more serious slights that lead to bad policies, military deployment or demonize (or make false equivalence for) groups of people or their actions. If we focused on every lie the President said, we would be at it all day.

 

 

Cups of coffee and thanks

An old friend and colleague used to say about marketing, “You can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” I have expanded his advice over time to mean  fellowship and building relationships regardless of whether a future transaction is involved. To me, it is also a metaphor for saying thanks.

Cups of coffee (or tea, smoothie, etc) represent getting together for whatever reason. It could be to help a friend or the friend’s adult child network for a new or first job. It could be to meet to discuss how someone can follow their service bent and volunteer.

It could be catching up with an old friend you bumped into at the store. It could be to coach someone on an interview or offer snippets of advice to an adult child. Or, it could be to say thanks to someone for doing you a favor.

Whatever the reason, those cups of coffees represent more than the caffeine. They represent community. They represent gratitude.

Just like cups of coffee, you can never thank people enough. And, of course, you can order decaf. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Imperfections

We humans are an imperfect lot. We do our best to hide our imperfections, but we all have them. No race has any more or less than others. Yet, one of our imperfections is as old as time. Jesus warned us against this with the Golden Rule. The imperfection is to think we are better than another group of people that may look, worship, vote, or love differently than we do. Too often, we feel a group or person is beneath us and should not be given the same rights.

The US Constitution and its various amendments has also tried to provide a set of rules that say we are all created equal. Quite simply, my rights are no important than that of another. The converse is also true. Like Jesus’ words, it is an ideal that we should strive for. And, when we fail, we should feel remorse and do better. Our leaders must represent our better angels. When they don’t, we lose the benefit of their example.

Unfortunately, examples can work in the opposite direction. Bigotry has to be carefully taught. And, when leaders look the other way or grease the skids on bigotry, it festers and becomes more pervasive. Under the guise of populism, we are seeing a greater degree and more pervasive bigotry in the US, Hungary, Poland, Germany to name a few countries. At the heart of this populism is a bigotry that betrays the Golden Rule.

With the current US President, America can no longer claim to be a beacon of democracy. The traits of lying, bullying, demeaning the media and allies, and thinking me first are not conducive to leadership. The current US President occupies the seat of leadership, but I would not use that term to define what he does. A leader unites. A leader accepts responsibility. A leader is accountable. This President could do better in each of these areas.

We must hold him accountable. When he lies, we must say that is unacceptable. When he demeans, we need to let him know children our watching. We are all imperfect, but imperfect people should not throw stones. Jesus said something about that as well. I hope and pray he will do better. We need him to. The same goes for other leaders. And, for us.

 

Accidently saying the wrong thing

Watching an interview of Michelle Obama with Gayle King of CBS, her mother Ms. Robinson joined in. As many know, Ms. Robinson moved to the White House to be there for her grandchildren as their parents traveled and did their jobs.

During the interview, King asked her why she was only on television once. Robinson said the reason was “I did not want to accidentally say the wrong thing.” I greatly admire her self-reflection. This comment struck me as we have a man in the White House who consistently says or tweets the wrong thing.

If the current incumbent would recognize that he is his worst enemy, he may be less inclined to opine on things where he does know the facts. He also would refrain from being hyper-critical of folks who dare criticize him or say things he does not care for. This attacking style toward anyone is wearisome and reflects poorly on the office of President.

Just this week, the US Presideny took criticism of Emmanuel Macron too far indicting the whole country of France. It is similar to when couples argue and they say something cruel in the heat of argument, which they regret. In the case of the President, he makes these cruel remarks on almost a daily basis.

This morning I read yet again a letter from a Trump fan who says the US President is just being “politically incorrect,” making it acceptable behavior. What this man does is well-beyond politically incorrect. He is being an untruthful bully. As I have said many times for several years, people can be politically incorrect without being an asshole.