Reflecting on Leadership
President Obama gave his first two commencement speeches in two very different venues. At Arizona State there was a lot of controversy over both inviting him as well as the decision not to award him the customary honorary degree. The reason cited was that he has not completed his "body of work". He agreed and in fact challenged the new graduates that just as he has not completed his body of work they are only beginning theirs.
At Notre Dame, the most prestigious Catholic college in the U.S. the controversy was around his position on women's choice as it relates to abortion. His position here was that the two sides would never be reconciled, but we should take steps to stop demonizing those whose viewpoints is different than our own. Not just about abortion, but about many things.
It was interesting today watching the press reaction to Congress' vote on denying the funding to close Guantanamo Bay. They wanted to get the administration to take a position on whether or not that represents the President's first "failure". The Congress apparently has legitimate concerns about the disposition of the detainees and felt the closure is premature. They kept pressing for recognition of a "mistake". The Administration responded that while the Executive Order may have been premature, it did galvanize action.
We really want to classify things as right or wrong, as a win or a loss. I am not sure that is leadership, in fact I am pretty sure it isn't.
On a positive note a colleague of mine was elected to a position on the school board in our community yesterday. I am pleased on a number of levels.
- She is an "includer" and a thinker. I have worked with her in a number of capacities and rarely heard her express "right" or "wrong" positions.
- She is a listener. She weighs things carefully and thoughtfully before coming to a decision or conclusion.
- She is committed. Her personal history shows someone who has served her community in a number of capacities over an extended period of time. This is not any easy time to serve.
- She was endorsed and supported by people from many different perspectives and on differing sides of issues.
These things are important to me because we are a very polarized community. It is very important for many people to be "right". As a result we have no defined road map for how we move forward as a community. We have very high unemployment, budget shortfalls for our schools, and not much of a plan for coming out of it. Perhaps her election is a sign that we are beginning to recognize that progress begins with relationships and willingness to hear the other person.
Last week I mentioned Bill George and his new generation of leaders who focus on "stakeholders" not shareholders. I think she might be one of that new generation. I wish her luck and I offer her my continuing support.
This Monday we celebrate Memorial Day, a tribute and an homage to those who served and those who died to preserve our rights to disagree, personal competency and a number of other core values that we hold dear.
I wonder what those who passed and those who remain think about where we are today not only in terms of our economy, but our values and where we go from here.
I like the fact that the president of Notre Dame mentioned that even while he disagreed with the President on many core issues he was proud of a President who called for discussion and tolerance for differences rather than demonizing those whose viewpoint is different from your own.
I also agree with President Obama and Senator McCain that Guantanomo became a symbol that I didn't care for and that now the issue is not if, but when we close it; and that is a good thing.
What do you think......?