9 items tagged "current events"
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Two back-to-back conversations, literally back-to-back, on the same day, at the same venue, convinced me that the level of emotional toxicity, particularly concerning politics is at an all time dangerous high. While teaching leadership to a professionally diverse crowd, I used two examples of outcome-based communication. I was making the point that one way to measure the effectiveness of a speech, is simply by asking, does it accomplish, in the immediate aftermath, what the speaker hoped for?
The first example I used was Barrack Obama's first inaugural address. I explained that in terms of that measurement the speech "worked." Irrespective of one's politics, in terms of the Rutland "effectiveness analysis," Obama's speech was successful.
For a second example of an even more effective speech I chose Donald Trump's speech before congress on February 28, 2017. He had to do three things; rally a rapidly splintering Republican Party, defang the Democrat plan to humiliate and further delegitimize him at that very speech and he needed to inspire the nation to a positive vision of the future as he saw it. He accomplished all three. Even the least enthusiastic of his Republican colleagues, albeit a bit begrudgingly, admitted that with that one speech, Trump took control of the Republican agenda in Congress. Furthermore, the nation virtually exulted in his positivism. The speech got a 78% positive response on a CNN poll and the stock market shot up more than 300 points to pass 21,000 for the first time. Finally, he made the silly Democrat "protests" in the chamber look petty, petulant and irrelevant. All that in one speech. "Love him or hate him," I said, "that is an effective speech."
At the break I was accosted twice for equal and opposite reasons. The first was an older man who asked how could I use an enemy of America, a traitorous, secret Muslim as an example of anything "good." He said it was disgusting and bitterly disappointing of me to do so. Saying that I did not vote for Obama only seemed, inexplicably, to make it worse.
I walked away from that shaking my head but before I could even seek some calories-laden solace at the refreshment counter, I was thoroughly denounced by a woman for "praising an anti-Semitic racist." This person explained how she had admired me for years and now I had shattered all that and she was wounded, offended and deeply disappointed. It was obvious that arguing or even answering her would have been futile.
I was in the tenth grade and learning life from those who had gone ahead. A sophomore watches the seniors. From them he gains both good and bad. As a newcomer on the basketball team I was eager to learn from the "big boys." How to stand, how to dress, how to swagger as an athlete aught; these were the important lessons I sought. One day an older boy, not intentionally, by the way, taught me an unforgettable lesson about positive focus versus negative fixation. Now I do not for one moment suggest that Butch (not his real name) saw what happened as an example of that leadership principle. Likewise, even today, were ol' Butch and I to reminisce about that memorable moment, I doubt that he would see, as I do, that it afforded me a splendid teaching moment. I also want to state for the record that my understanding of the meaning of the incident did not come to me until years later. In the moment I just thought it was sweet poetic justice, the kind which involved a smallish sophomore's delight to see an older and frightening idiot get his comeuppance.
For what reason I never discovered, Butch, afoot, was chasing an eighth grader attempting to flee on a bicycle. Unable to get the bike up to speed, the terrified boy dismounted and fled on foot, leaving the bike by the road. Unable to catch and damage the little guy himself, Butch decided to damage his bicycle instead. I watched as Butch stomped on the boy's spokes. Unable to inflict the desired damage that way, Butch stepped back into the roadway to take a running leap, intending obviously to land with both feet on the offending bike.
This plan went wonderfully awry, however, when Butch stepped directly into the path of an oncoming motorcycle, the driver of which was a dangerous hulk named Darrel, one of the very few boys of whom Butch himself was afraid. Really afraid. The motorcycle veered wildly avoiding Butch and coming a screeching halt, Darrel dismounted walked coolly over to Butch and, without a word of warning, knocked him flat on his back. It was magnificent. It was a scene of glorious karmic retribution and one which I never forgot.
Reflecting on the disastrous final presentation at the 2017 Academy Awards, I immediately remembered Butch semi-conscious in the dust while I, a prudently hiding tenth-grader, laughed my head off. To this day I can remember the salacious thrill of watching Darrel, that unlikeliest instrument of God, administer punishment so well deserved.
Now from the vantage point of a half century of leadership I can see the real point.
Beyond the issue of poetic justice, there is a wonderful lesson for life and leadership.
Here, then, are some observations on the 2017 Academy Awards, compliments of Butch the bully.
On January 20, 2017, the United States of America will celebrate one of its most treasured values in a grand public ceremony. A new president will place his hand on the Bible and take the oath of office. It is a solemn, sacred and significant moment that is not really about the person being sworn in. The inauguration ceremony is actually about the most fundamental, non-negotiable value of this republic; the peaceful transfer of power subject to the will of the electorate according to a constitutionally established process.
In the more than two centuries of this nation's history every transfer of power came by ballots not bullets. No president ever seized power. No dictator ever came by the gun. Never in our history has some army colonel taken over the radio station and proclaimed himself "president for life." We have had our share of contentious elections but we have never had a coup d'etat.
Not since the first election of Abraham Lincoln has a presidential election so bitterly divided the American electorate. One the one side is the deep and angry distrust of the Democrat/Clinton political machine. This has been fueled in no small part by the actions of Bill and Hillary Clinton for decades. Many Americans are frustrated that no one can seem to hold the Clintons accountable. This feeling that they (The Clintons and the Democrat party) can "get away with murder," figuratively at least, runs contrary to a deeply held American value that no one is above the law.
The most recent, but by no means final, chapter in the Hillary Clinton email scandal is absolutely cinematic in both its dramatic timing and in the inclusion of the absurd figure of Anthony Weiner in the story. This ludicrous comedy would be funny were not national security at stake. Furthermore the FBI's announcement that her email scandal was open yet again was hardly designed to buttress Hillary Clinton's already terrible score on the trustworthiness scale.
Up against Hillary Clinton in this astonishing election is the human lighting rod of Donald Trump, himself a figure straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster. His rough-and-tumble, hard-nosed, tough-talking NY businessman demeanor was a sudden and shocking jolt to traditional career politicians. To this brazen "I don't care what you think about me" attitude he mixed in a flair for showmanship that would make Harry Houdini jealous. The recipe was nothing American voters had ever seen before.
Some liked it. Some liked it a lot. Some hated it with an incendiary zeal. His haters labeled Trump a vulgar bigot among other even less flattering descriptions. Trump won the Republican primary, which hardly anyone predicted, upsetting the Establishment Republican apple cart. Said establishment responded with a dog-in-the-manger, corporate pout that sounded like nothing more than elitist bad sportsmanship to the growing hoards of Trump supporters. Some of Trump's defeated opponents' petulant thumb sucking response may well have aborted their future presidential aspirations. Forgetting defeated Republicans, Trump's victory in the primaries enflamed the Democrats. All this toxicity unleashed perhaps the nastiest, most vitriolic presidential campaign in American history.
Now we are at the end of it. On November 8, 2016, America will decide its own future. Probably not since the Civil War has so much been on the line in a single presidential election. My attorney advised me that as the president of a Christian non-profit, in the current atmosphere, I should probably not announce my support for either candidate. Ok, I won't.
What I will do is offer some thoughts for you to consider while making up your mind for whom YOU should vote.
In the vast sea of contemporary communication pitfalls, the habit of emotional listening is perhaps the most damaging. Last night when Donald J. Trump was nominated for the presidency of the United States, I tweeted a few simple words. Here they are... WAIT.... first please let me ask you to just read the words. Try to resist the impulse to read anything into the words. Just read the words.
I was not really all that surprised by some of the responses. Some felt the words were praise for Trump. They were not happy that I did not say it was a "horrible" event or an "embarrassing" event or a "disgusting" event, and because I did not use those words I was presumably campaigning for Trump. Others saw the words as an attack on Trump. How could I call such an "inspiring" and "thrilling" moment astonishing? And why couldn't I get on the Trump train?
In just a few days, for the first time in history a woman will be nominated for the presidency. Do you know what I will tweet?
A Chicago area athlete, a boy who "identifies" as a girl has been playing on the girls' sports teams at his/her high school for some time with only a low level of controversy. The school accommodated the student with private shower facilities apart from other athletes of either gender. The U.S. Department of Education has now ruled that practice discriminatory and "humiliating" to that student. That student must now be allowed full and unrestricted access to shower with and at the same time as high school female athletes.
This is insane, of course, but an insane government should be expected to make insane decisions, and insanity now rules. No thought has been given to the high school girls, girls who "identify" as what they actually are. They must, or their schools will lose substantial federal funds, MUST shower nude with a student who has all the physical characteristics of a boy. The average sophomore in high school is fifteen. That means a fifteen-year-old girl must shower nude next to boy, a boy who is physically intact, irrespective of his "identification." The invasion of her privacy, her
Please read the following quote. It was the opening line of a BBC online news story of October 11, 2015. It was written by BBC's health editor, James Gallagher.
"The first clinical trial injecting foetal (British spelling) stem cells into babies still in the womb has been announced."
The story concerns a new medical trial being conducted in England and Sweden hoping to "lessen symptoms of incurable brittle bone disease." This terrible disease, a result of a DNA disorder, causes a devastating lack of development in bones. Certainly it is to be hoped that it can be cured. Having said that, look again at the opening Gallagher quote.
Two different terms are used for the unborn. Those being destroyed in the womb are called "fetuses" and those being medically treated in the womb are referred to as "babies." Later in the story he says, "The stem cells will come from terminated pregnancies." In other words, what the tissue in the womb actually is, is decided by someone, science or its own mother, one supposes, without any regard to whether it might always simply be the same thing. If those someones want to kill it, the baby is a fetus. If they choose to cure it, the fetus suddenly becomes a baby.
The ethical issue is unavoidable. Is it a baby or a fetus? Does what someone, the mother, science, whoever decides to do with the unborn determine whether it is human or not? In other words, if a fetus is a fetus why cure it? If it is a baby, why kill it?
"Pigs in a Blanket, fry 'em like bacon." That was the chant repeated over and over again at a recent march led by an organization which calls itself Black Lives Matter. The marchers and their megaphone-wielding leaders were oblivious to one of two things:
1) The fact that a deputy sheriff in Texas had just been brutally executed.
2) That such incendiary language seems to endorse that murder or even call for more.
I cannot believe that no one, not one single person in the entire organization said, “Hey, I just saw on the news that a law officer was gunned down yesterday.” No one? They had no idea this had happened? That is inconceivable. They do not live in some impenetrable news vacuum. They knew it. They were deaf to it. They claim to care about lives. Evidently
(Warning graphic content. Reader discretion advised.)
For the Nazis, the eradication of the Jewish population of Europe was a complex problem of arithmetic, science and logistics. It was never about ethics or the morals of mass murder. The challenge was numbers. They needed a solution, a final solution. How could they dispose of such huge numbers? That was the Nazi's only question. They wanted to kill millions, not only Jews but communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others. Deciding whom to kill or imprison was never really the issue. Anyone they deemed less than human, was the easy answer to that easy question. Nazi "science" so called, embraced a fundamental genetic distinction between themselves and such sub-humans. Choosing the victims and dismissing any ethical issues around killing them was hardly ever the questions. The means to do it was the real Nazi dilemma.
The horrific international machine of murder devised by the Nazis, arose from one philosophical proposition; the assignment of "less than human" status to several strata of society, beginning with the Jews. The real challenge was a matter of how to do it fast and efficiently. Once the ticklish little matter of morals was brushed aside, the problem for the Nazis became finding the means to concentrate such large numbers in central locations, an economical instrument for putting so many to death (bullets were after all expensive) and a way to dispose of so many bodies. But these were questions of planning and logistics, not ethics. The Nazis saw what they did, not as mass murder, but as the " final solution" to an international problem.