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.


It is my fault

These may be the four hardest words to say in the English language. I would be curious how they are worded in other languages. A mea culpa, which is means my great fault, makes it sound nicer, but actually increases the burden. We are human. We screw up. To be accountable is to say “mea culpa” or “it is my fault.”

When I have said these four words, it gets an unusual reaction. It is my fault. One place I worked, after I said it to someone, he asked “Are you going to admit that ?”

“Yes, I screwed up,” I responded. “But, I will fix it.” This knocked him for a loop. Apparently, in his view it was the kiss of death to say mea culpa in the organization. His confusion was so obvious it left a lasting impression.

One reason for admitting fault can be traced to playing sports. When you screw up, everyone can see it. Plus, you let your teammates down. In the heat of the action, the four words are often shortened to two Рmy bad. The key is to make up for  your mistake. It is not uncommon for a chance at redemption to come by soon.

Another reason is being in a relationship. Trust me, you will screw up, especially if you are a guy. Not to generalize, but women tend to be more in tune with interactions, where we guys tend to be less subtle in our communications. So, when you screw up, be accountable. If you have dug yourself a hole, stop digging. It is my fault.

Accountability. I have screwed up many times and will again. Yet, I must be accountable for my mistakes. I read once that when mistakes have been made that end up in the tragic loss of life, the families left behind need some solace. They actually appreciate greatly a sincere apology. This does not erase the pain, but acknowledgement of the mistake helps.

So, let’s be accountable to each other. Let’s demand this from our leaders.