I’ve decided to end the year with a guest blog from my friend and fellow Vistage Chair, Larry Cassidy. We’ve been having a discussion amongst us Vistage Chairs about the recent tragedies, hate crimes and terrorism and the related impact some members have begun to see in their companies. For me, Larry’s commentary expressed the challenge we face as a nation and caused me to pause. With that in mind, I am making it visible here, offering you some food for thought as you begin the holiday season.
First, a couple of stories and then Larry’s post.
One member reported an angry customer screaming in the lobby of her financial services company that the customer service rep he dealt with (second generation Pakistani American) should go back to her home country.
My first newsletter was sent on June 27, 2011, some 230 newsletters ago. And for those 4½ years I have stepped carefully around politics. Today I will take edge up to that tricky topic, not so much traditional politics, but rather on who we are, and what price we 322-million folks are willing to pay to be that.
We have undergone many serious gut-shots in the past several years, Paris and San Bernardino being the latest. As I ponder these tragedies, and before releasing this newsletter into the wild, my thoughts go to three big ideas:
- becoming the best version of ourselves,
- the hard price we are (or are not) willing to pay to get and stay there,
- our leadership as a part of all that.
There are many pieces to that, and we each have our own ideas. I will share mine below. You may disagree. But I do so because it is a conversation we cannot avoid, and all voices are required.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
The Statue of Liberty, dedicated 10/28/1886
Terrorism is a stark and frightening example of what others can do to us. Paris. San Bernardino. Too much, too often. And leadership is what we choose to do about it, and how we go about doing it.
Once again, we confront events with which we have not contended (remember: Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11), and while such moments spawn anger and paranoia, they also summon our better angels. Which is one more good reason we would rather live here than anywhere else in the world, our flaws notwithstanding.
As I now savor almost-eight decades, I wonder if our fears might extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch, our shining beacon of freedom. And I question whether my opportunity to be born here, to live here, and to experience this thing called America, could have happened had such fear and paranoia won the early days of our history.
A bit dramatic? Go back a century-or-more, and we Irish were potato-heads, lazy scum. Italians were looked on as not much better. Jews? Forget it. African Americans, which was hardly what they were called? Slaves at best. Nor does that count Japanese-Americans or German-Americans in WWII. Pretty lucky for we shoddy Irish (and me) that we got past much of that.
Yes, we each have a right to feel, to fear, to embrace and to be safe. But before we pounce, look around. Soak it in. The ethnic, religious and nationalistic mess we behold is what has combined to make us great. It is our grand experiment, a palate on which each color and belief and ancestry is a part. It is us. So, what will it be ten, or fifty, or a hundred years from now?
Once again, we are in the process of deciding. In every business, classroom, sanctuary, gathering and discussion. And we are the leaders: the parents, coaches, elders, teachers, business executives. Make no mistake, we are deciding, we are leading and we are teaching.
- So what will we do, and how will we go about doing it?
- Which parts of what made this country great will we keep, and which will we discard?
- Will we mirror or will we reject what those who threaten us espouse?
- And once we decide, once we move on, will we have found our way to safety while continuing to lift our lamp beside the golden door?
This is a big deal. And we are all right in the middle of it.
P.S. This is the last post this year, see you back here in January.