Celluloid heroes and a few live ones (a reprise)

The following is a repeat of a post I wrote about ten years ago. Since heroes are hard to come by and the word superstar is over used, here are some movie heroes along with a few real ones.

My daughter is reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in her high school English class, so we watched the movie the other night. As it is one of my favorites, we actually own the book and movie. Giving credit for part of the title to the old Kinks song, “Celluloid Heroes,” I thought it might be good to take a break from the issues of the day to talk about reel and real heroes.

Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes captured in print and on screen. Gregory Peck plays him so well it is hard to imagine someone else in that role. There are many wonderful parts in the movie, but the two that move me most are when the Reverend makes Scout stand up in the court room because “your father is passing” and when Jem is told by a consoling neighbor that “there are people meant to do our unpleasant tasks in this world… your father is one of them.”

I told my daughter Atticus Finch is my idea of a true hero. He does not have to carry a sword, although he may as noted below, but is courageous in a time when it is far easier to do otherwise. Standing up for what is right when others don’t have the gumption to do so, makes a hero live on in our memories. Some of my other celluloid heroes would include, but not be limited to:

– Robert Roy McGregor of “Rob Roy” also one of my favorite movies. While he carried a sword that was just a tool needed for those times. The key lesson he passed on through words and deed are “honor is a gift you give yourself.”

– Henry Fonda’s character in “Twelve Angry Men” who stood alone against 11 impatient jurors until one gave him a chance to be heard. When we all take our jobs seriously and purposefully like he did, we will be better for it, even if it takes more time.

– Rick in “Casablanca,” another favorite movie. He is a harder one to figure as hero at first, but rallies in the end. I think his imperfections make him more believable, so when he does the right thing, we are behind him.

– Sergeant Wendell White in “LA Confidential.” Like Rick, a man of imperfections, but he stands up for those treated unjustly and is relentless to find the truth.

– Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront” is another man of imperfections that comes to mind as he stood up against the mob on the loading docks.

There are countless others, especially when the movies are about real people – Erin Brockovich, Norma Rae, Jimmy Braddock, William Wallace, etc.The stories play the best and the heroes stand tallest when they are playing against the odds. These real people lead me to some true heroes of mine, some of whom movies have been made about.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King are two that come readily to mind. My blog friend at “News of the Times” describes herself as a pacifist at heart.  MLK admired Gandhi so much that he adopted his “passive resistance” mantra to shine a spot light on unfairness and bigotry. Rosa Parks became another hero for similar reasons by refusing to give up her seat on the bus when it would have been easier to do so.

Nelson Mandela galvanized a country when it could have been so easy to divide it. I would have mentioned the movie “Invictus” before, but wanted to highlight him more here. His is the best example of inclusion and how he saw South Africa as a greater entity unified rather than separate. I wish our religious leaders would follow his lead on behalf of the LGBT community. The fewer “they” words we use the greater we will be.

John Adams is a true hero as well, but I remember what he did before the American Revolution as even more heroic. He defended in an American court of law British soldiers who had reacted appropriately when accosted by American rioters. His point is we stand for truth and justice and if we did not let these men go free, we would be going against our principles. This was against the strong will of the people led by his cousin Samuel Adams.

Abraham Lincoln is a hero of many and I am included in this mix. To do what he did when he did stands the test of time. Thomas Jefferson also is included in mine and many others list of heroes.  His principles drove much what we hold dear in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

A couple of names you may not know are Elliott Richardson and Archibald Cox. I would encourage you to look them up on Wikipedia.  They were leading the case against Richard Nixon after being appointed by him. When Nixon tried to strong arm them into pursuing a more tolerable path to justice, they resigned. They were there to do their jobs as they owed it to the American people to find out what happened before, during and after Watergate.

I recognize I am picking a select few heroes, but I wanted to get people thinking about the heroes they hold dear to their hearts. Truth be told, we have heroes we interact with day-to-day, be it a teacher, social worker, advocate, nurse, doctor or parent. These are the people I admire most. Heroes may be someone who is doing what he or she has to do to get by and try to help others. So, thank them, help them, applaud them and emulate them. When we see injustice, let’s call it out and try to do right by each other. If we had a few more Atticus Finch’s in this world, we would be in a much better place.

More candid observations

In keeping with the theme of my previous post, the following are some diplomatic candid observations:

– Help me understand why the people in the White House seem surprised that North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons? I applaud their and the the South Korean’s effort and energy, but we seemed to be a little naive that Kim would cave.

– Saying something under oath in front of a judge who will sentence you carries a lot more gravitas than tweeting or saying something to a favorable interviewer. Under oath, Michael Cohen said he committed illicit acts at the direction of the candidate. I realize Cohen is not a Boy Scout, but his words under oath should carry some weight.

– A man of character died Saturday on what would have been my parents’ 67th anniversary. Senator John McCain was an imperfect man with whom I did not always agree, but he was very honorable public servant. Character and honor are two words that are not top of mind when I look to define a certain man in a US leadership position. I think it speaks volumes that McCain asked such a man to be excluded from attendance at his funeral.

– It is nigh impossible to stop bigoted thoughts or the teaching of children about bigotry. But, we must shine spotlights on behaviors that strip away at other people’s rights or promote one group’s rights over that of another. We must share our disagreement with hate speech. The easiest thing to do is vote with your feet and avoid people and places that enable bigoted thoughts. Confrontation is difficult, but listening, questioning and commenting can be done civilly with some. Or, it can take the form of openly applauding the efforts and successes of people who seem to be targeted with hate speech more than others.

– Finally, one’s reputation is the dearest thing we own. Rob Roy said your honor is a gift you give to yourself. This is why it is puzzling so many Republican legislators are spending their dear reputation supporting a man who daily brings dishonor to the Presidency and would throw them under the bus if needed. Please note my intentional avoidance of the use of “leader” in my descriptions.

We Americans and others around the world are craving an honorable leader. And, as said in the movie “The American President,” being President is entirely about character.

Rob Roy and Linked In

I have been away from Linked In for a several months and was making some updates the past few days adding a number of connections. For those of you who have been on this network building site, invitations lead to mining which lead to more invitations and so on. My wife was using our family computer as I did this connection building on my work computer a few feet away.

She was listening to me comment on some of the names that I viewed as I scrolled down the list and became fascinated by my sorting observations. The observations are the unfiltered first reaction to a name on someone else’s inventory list which heavily influence the decision of whether to invite or not invite someone to “friend” you for lack of a better term. The reason I mention this exercise is I had just completed watching yet again one of my favorite movies “Rob Roy” starring Liam Neeson in the title role and Jessica Lange as his wife. Why is this important and what does it have to do with LInked In?

If you have never seen “Rob Roy” I would encourage you to do so. Without giving away the end, the theme of the movie is “Your honor is a gift you give to yourself.” Rob Roy’s honor is more dear to him than anything else. He would not be who he is without it. His wife, family, clan and even enemies admire him for it. I have shared this with my children as well. I tell them their name is the most important asset they have . When someone mentions your name, what do you want people to say about you? Do you want them to say “I don’t trust him” or “he is not a hard worker” or would you rather them to say “his word is gold” or “he has got your back?”

Using this context, as I sorted through the names of people on the connection list of others, recollections like these came to mind. As an Old Fart who has been in an industry and area for a long time, I know a lot of people. And, they also know me and would hopefully have more things on the good side of the ledger to say about me. I had a colleague once whose reputation was not pristine. He once commented that he had been marketing to someone for 18 years and knew them well. I made the comment to myself, “and they also knew you, as they have never hired you for any work.”

As I went down the Linked In list, by far the names I recognized provoked a favorable reaction. I haven’t thought about that person in years or where are they now? Yet, there was a handful that proves the antithesis to the Roby Roy theme is alive and well. My wife would ask about a particular sigh or “tsk.” I would comment this person is not very trustworthy (I declared some as sleazy), this person is a jerk to others, or this person is a real rectum.

These observations were usually based on concrete examples, so they were more than the result of personal interaction. One would more often than not try to game the system. One made everything more difficult than it needed to be. One went out of his way to have a very good employee fired over a minor screw-up, which is ironic since the accuser was far from perfect. One took a female colleague into a stairwell to bless her out (this one scared me when I first heard about it). One was fired for sexual harassment by two different employers by being an asshole primarily to female subordinates. Not to be gender specific, there are a few women on the list who elicit a negative reaction as well.

In my dealings with people through the years, one of my pet peeves is when someone treats a perceived subordinate of another supervisor differently than he does a perceived peer. In other words, they look down on the subordinates, suck up to the managers and treat the peers in a more appropriate way. The example of the person fired is an extreme one, but more common is the condescending tone used by these people to perceived subordinates or actual subordinates.

I recognize I have used extreme examples to prove my point, yet these are the ones I would sigh and pass on when I saw their names. On the flip side, there are many of whom I am proud they would accept my invitation to be in my network. They are the ones who provoke the Rob Roy type response. That is what we should aspire to be. People whose name provokes fond memories or respect. Atticus Finch is another name in books and movies that evokes such a response. I often say my wife is easily the best half of our family. She has commented to me about how wonderful neighborhoods have been where we once lived. I finally told her the neighborhoods were nice because you lived in them. You made them nicer and people responded to your efforts.

But, in-between these extremes are people who are accountable and responsible. They work hard and they endeavor to do the right thing. Sometimes they give in to temptation and feel badly about it. They would then fess up and take their medicine. One of the lessons I received early on was about the friar who responded appropriately to the question “what would you do if you found someone’s wallet filled with a lot of money?” The first person answered “I would turn it in to the law” while the next person said “I would keep it.” The third friar said truthfully “I would be tempted to keep it, but would pray that God would give me the strength to turn it in.”

Your name is so very important. How do you want to be remembered when it is heard? It is up to you, so please remember Rob Roy’s mantra – “Your honor is a gift you give to yourself.” None of us are perfect, but it is a goal we should each aspire to reach. If you don’t, Linked In can serve as the reminder to others you don’t want.