Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

We Must Be Equal in the Eyes of Each Other

Helen Thomas - Former White House Press Corps Member

Last month, Helen Thomas, the legendary White Correspondent retired. The longtime White House journalist has covered every president since Dwight Eisenhower and broke several barriers for female journalists. She resigned her position as a columnist with the Hearst Newspapers in the wake of controversial remarks made in late May about the need for Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Poland and Germany.  There was some discussion among talk show hosts that perhaps this prejudicial gaffe by an 89-year old legend should be overlooked. However, according to many who know her, this latest comment was not her first Anti-Semitic comment. It was perhaps the first caught on video and replayed for the world to witness.

The words we use not only say a great deal about how we feel on issues but reveal our very character. I remember long ago reading the quote, “True character is revealed at what you do when you think no one is looking.” The same can be said about what we say when we think no one may repeat it. As much as I have loved and admired my grandparents, all of whom are deceased now except my Grandmother Feemster, I still recall a Saturday afternoon hearing my grandfather use a racial slur that sent chills down my spine. Perhaps such language may have been in the main stream and considered acceptable by some fifty years ago, but it was certainly not acceptable just a decade ago when I heard it.

Even more recently, in a private conversation with several business leaders, I heard the CEO of a very prominent organization use a similar expression. This individual, still in a significant leadership position today, has perhaps the brightest intellect, business acumen, communication skills, and education of anyone I know. Yet, my perception of this individual as a community and business leader will perhaps never be the same. This one instance altered forever my view of this person. It doesn’t mean that they are not a good person or that they cannot change. We all make mistakes and I have made many myself. However, it is absolutely mandatory that as community and business leaders we learn from our mistakes, so that we do not dare repeat them.

Our Chamber of Commerce has created a diversity program whose mission it is to support the diverse minority business community in the Greater Lake Norman region and create access through education, networking, and advancement opportunities. In short, we realize that we are stronger as a region because of the diverse population that calls Lake Norman home. We are not born bigots with natural discriminatory views. We learn them – we also teach them.

Meeting President Reagan in 1992

One of the highlights of my life was meeting and having lunch with President Ronald Reagan.  Regardless of your political views, most concede Reagan brought about a renewed patriotism and a sense of optimism to our country. Reagan once said, “It is not enough to be equal in the eyes of God. We must be equal in the eyes of each other.” Let us all pray that we begin to live out that principle. Much sooner than later.


July 11, 2010 Posted by | Social Causes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Character was King

ReaganOne of my all time favorite books is “When Character was King” written by Peggy Noonan.  Peggy was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and she details some of the values which Reagan held dear.  Whether you agree or not with the “Gipper’s” political views,  few can dispute his sense of personal, business, and political ethics.  Unfortunately, not everybody demonstrates a high regard for ethics.  There are those who fudge just a bit on their resumes alleging to have the education, training, or experience they do not possess.  Others may try to trade off the success of another business, purporting to be something they are not. 

We have all probably had the experience of reading an ad in the paper for a product and service only to find out when we show up, they have just sold that last widget but they have something just as good for a little more.  Deceptive marketing, fraudulent claims, and embellished resumes are nothing new but they do carry a heavy price tag and sooner or later those lapses in ethical judgment come back to haunt those who practice them.

Last night, I was watching the Tennis Channel.  I’m simply amazed at all the cable channels now targeting certain sports markets.  There was a rematch of a Jimmy Connors – John McEnroe U.S. Open from 1984.  Both of them went at each other like warriors.  After watching the tournament and getting ready for bed, my mind raced back to another tournament –  perhaps forgotten by many of those who watched it – the quarter finals of the Rome Masters in 2005.

Andy Roddick was playing Fernando Verdasco.  Roddick was leading 5-3 in the second set and had a triple match point when the second serve of Verdasco appeared to go long.  The line judge ruled the ball out but Roddick said the ball was in after checking the mark left on the clay.  Verdasco was given an ace and then the Spaniard seemed to catch the momentum closing out the serve, then the set, and later the match.

Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick

As an avid football fan, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen players make spectacular catches, jumping up with excitement, only to show on the replay the ball had bounced on the ground first.  Roddick demonstrated a level of sportsmanship that is sorely missing in athletics.  His gesture was something we could all learn from in a business world lacking in honesty and integrity.  Quite frankly, it’s refreshing to see someone in the public eye demonstrate that type of behavior.  I’ve always been told a person’s character is revealed by how they act when they think no one is looking.  Too often, we do not take time to recognize the people who demonstrate ethical behavior.  Like Reagan, Roddick may have lost his match but he walked off the court a winner and served up an ace with fans around the world.

It was a day when we witnessed more than a tennis match.  It was a day when character was once again king.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , | Leave a comment