Category: Leadership

One more thought about King

The Roman Catholic Church takes sainthood seriously, even if a prospective saint didn’t. Dorothy Day (1897-1980), responded to the idea of her potential sainthood by saying, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

In spite of her resistance, the canonization process is underway. That she would vote “no” is the best evidence that her practice of faith should be recognized. A redemptive aspect of faith is that outcasts/non-conformists improve the neighborhood.

A federal holiday is somewhat akin to sainthood. I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would respond to MLK Day with something like, “That’s nice, but let’s pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

The New York Times‘ opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie said one of King’s most powerful sermons was “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” given at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1967. Bouie sees MLK as a “democratic theorist.” From the sermon:

Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world.

(See also “8 powerful speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr. that aren’t ‘I Have a Dream.”)

Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King and Dorothy Day, St. John the Divine, New York City, February 20, 1973, Timeline photos, from the Dorothy Day Guild Facebook page

A squeaker in the House

Yesterday morning was my bi-weekly road trip to see my aunt. She was clear, content and delightful. Last night, she had a fall, injured her head and took an ambulance ride to the ER. On my second road trip, I found her alert, aware and ready to go home. So, I drove her back to her memory care unit, then headed home.

Nearing home after midnight, I heard Hakeem Jeffries’ speech of transition as he handed the gavel of the Speaker of the House to Kevin McCarthy. Then, at home, I watched the new Speaker’s acceptance speech following his election on ballot 15. The speeches were dramatically different in substance, tone and style.

I hope you had, or will find, an opportunity to listen to both speeches and their visions for the future. The past two years saw a remarkable amount of significant legislation passed by a very divided Congress. The new Speaker has a hard act to follow. The new Congress has made a raucous beginning. Bless their hearts.

The new Speaker, greasing a squeaking wheel, from “GOP leader McCarthy elected House Speaker on 15th vote in historic run,” by Christina Wilkie, Chelsea Cox, Dawn Kopecki, CNBC, January 7, 2023

Hazardous duty

During her military career (1986-2018), Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben served in several strategic leadership positions, including Chaplain of the US Naval Academy and Chief of Chaplains of the US Navy. She was the first woman to hold those positions. After retirement from the Navy, Kibben taught Leadership and Ethics at the School of Engineering of the Catholic University of America. She’s a Presbyterian.

On December 31, 2020, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Kibben Chaplain of the US House of Representatives. If you watch the House proceedings this week, you can see her in action as she opens the sessions with prayer. The C-Span cameras pan the House as she prays–capturing a scene a bit more relaxed than an assembly of Annapolis midshipmen or the crew of an aircraft carrier.

Kibben’s third day as House Chaplain was January 6, 2021–marked by the US Electoral College vote count and the accompanying insurrection. Many Christians observe January 6 as Epiphany Day, which follows “the twelve days of Christmas.” January 6, 2021 may have been the most hazardous duty, thus far, of Kibben’s distinguished career. May this January 6 be more peaceful at the US Capitol.

From Wikipedia

100 years ago

My dad’s birth was among the events of 1923. Among the 1923 forecasts about life in America in 2023 was this prediction by Charles Steinmetz: “The time is coming when there will be no long drudgery and that people will toil not more than four hours a day, owing to the work of electricity.” He visualized that every city would be a “spotless town,” also due to the work of electricity.

Those predictions were compiled by University of Calgary faculty member Paul Fairie, who noted that aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss (1878-1930) predicted that by 2023, “gasoline as a motive power will have been replaced by radio, and that the skies will be filled with myriad craft sailing over well-defined routes,” which the Minneapolis Journal deemed “an attractive prophecy.”

The last time the US House of Representatives needed more than one ballot to elect a Speaker was in 1923, when Frederick Gillett (1851-1935) was re-elected on the ninth ballot. After serving three terms as Speaker of the House (1919-1925), Gillett served one term in the US Senate (1925-1931).

From “What happened when the Speaker of the House was NOT chosen in the first round of elections,” by Terry Moseley, The Daily Mail, January 3, 2023

Not wired for a legislature

The US House of Representatives adjourned yesterday after three ballots failed to elect a Speaker. David Jolly, former Republican representative from Florida, said to Nicole Wallace on MSNBC: The only place I’ve ever served is the United States Congress and it led me on a journey of self-discovery that I’m not wired for the legislative behavior, the “how do we work together with 200+ people.”  The “never Kevin” caucus is probably people who are not wired for a legislature.

I didn’t come up through a state legislature and learn those things, so I kept asking, “Why aren’t we solving immigration and health care and all these other things?” But, that’s not what the legislature does. Every member doesn’t get their own way, and I suppose that Kevin McCarthy’s pitch in conference today was exactly that, which is, “You don’t get to be 10% of the caucus and control the other 90%.” But you do in today’s politics because that’s what the Republican Party has created.

House Democrats support Hakeem Jeffries, but 19 Republicans refused to support McCarthy. The first test of the new Congress demonstrates the difficulty a slim majority presents for Republicans, which has become the “anti-party,” focused on what it is against. After opposing the Affordable Care Act for years, they had no “Plan B” when they gained control of Congress. If a few Republicans vote with Democrats to elect Jeffries, they could have someone fresh to rail against.

From “US House fails to elect new speaker in first rounds of voting,” by Al Jazeera Staff, Aljazeera.com, January 3, 2023

The art of concession

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) kept a journal that became a syndicated column on 12/31/1935 published as “My Day” in many newspapers until 9/26/62. Her column for November 4, 1954 describes a visit by an old friend, Britain’s Queen Mother.

The column also includes two brief paragraphs:

I am writing this column on election day, so I know nothing as yet about the final results. Being a pessimist, I always expect to lose and therefore, if I happen to win, it is that much more of a surprise. I hope with all my heart that we are not going to lose, but whatever happens in this world one has to accept it and go forward with the intention of doing better next time.

If one wins one has to put the best one can into one’s service because that is all one can do to repay the voters who put their trust in a candidate. If one loses one must struggle equally hard to build up one’s party and to use one’s time usefully in business, even though one does intend to go back to politics in the future.

From “The art of the concession speech,” by Al Tompkins, Poynter, November 6, 2020

Incarnation: messy, but redemptive

On Thursday night, as Winter Storm Elliot arrived, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” lost all nostalgia. The final report of the January 6th committee was released about ten minutes before Lawrence O’Donnell began Thursday’s edition of “The Last Word” on MSNBC. He described how Cassidy Hutchinson was inspired by Alexander Butterfield to tell the whole truth in her testimony.

Then, Andrew Weissmann, Dan Goldman and Barbara McQuade gave their first impressions of the 845-page report. It was the best hour of live television that I’ve seen in a long time. I downloaded a pdf of the final report and began reading it myself. I concur with other first impressions. The committee has produced a thorough, compelling report, based on the testimony of mostly Republicans.

The story of the magi’s search for a new king and the treachery of the old king, Herod, became eerily relevant as I read passages like page 75 of the report, which described Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his Deputy Richard Donoghue, refuting President Trump’s claims of fraud, culminating in: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”

From “The Three Magi,” Biblical Archaeology Society, December 15, 2022

Dressed for the occasion

On December 26, 1941, Winston Churchill said to a joint session of the US Congress: The fact that … here I am, an Englishman, welcomed in your midst, makes this experience one of the most moving and thrilling in my life, which is already long and has not been entirely uneventful.

On December 21, 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered–in English–to the same assembly, in the same chamber, a memorable, well-received speech. He and Churchill were on the same mission: to thank America for help with resistance to a warring dictator, and to ask for more help.

This was Zelenskyy’s first trip outside Ukraine since the Russian invasion began almost a year ago. Given the current winter hardships being endured by Ukrainians, the simplicity of their president’s clothing lent a sense of urgency and authenticity to his presence and to his message in Washington.

From “Full Transcript of Zelensky’s Speech Before Congress,” The New York Times, December 21, 2022

Democracy as Oasis

I believe historians will record the 2020-2021 “Stop the Steal” campaign as a clever ploy to cover-up an “Attempted Robbery.” It would make a great John Grisham novel. Unfortunately, this story will be in the non-fiction section of the library.

The real-life heroes are the poll workers, county and state election officials, law enforcement personnel, journalists, judges and a few high-ranking officials who did their duty. From Heather Cox-Richardson’s brief, eloquent “first draft” of this history:

Fittingly, on December 15, the Coup d’État Project of the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Illinois, which maintains the world’s largest registry of coups, attempted coups, and coup conspiracies since World War II, reclassified the events of January 6 as an attempted “auto-coup.” According to its director, Scott Althaus, an auto-coup occurs when “the incumbent chief executive uses illegal or extra-legal means to assume extraordinary powers, seize the power of other branches of government, or render powerless other components of the government such as the legislature or judiciary.”

The stresses and strains of the US, an old democracy, are lived out in plain view. Many democracies are new, with their own difficulties, such as Ukraine and Mongolia. From “Kerry Calls Mongolia ‘An Oasis of Democracy’,” Voice of America, June 5, 2016.

Caleb’s journey

I enjoy the second Saturday in December. The Army-Navy football game is unique. Joe Bellino was a childhood hero. He won the 1960 Heisman Trophy as a Navy halfback, but I’m always impartial. This year’s game went into double overtime. I would have been happy if it had ended in a tie. I always pull for both teams.

The Heisman Trophy ceremony follows the Army-Navy game. The stories of hard work and sacrifice are inspiring. This year’s winner, USC quarterback Caleb Williams, gave a very impressive Heisman acceptance speech. He was effusive in his thanks for those who made it possible. His offensive line was in the audience.

While this may be an individual award, I certainly understand that nothing, absolutely nothing in this sport nor in life is done alone. … As we say in the locker room … there can never be a great book or a great story without some adversity in it. ,.. To his offensive line, calling them by name … who are all here to celebrate our accomplishment, this doesn’t happen without each one of you. … Thank you.

From Heisman Award Ceremony, ESPN, December 10, 2022, via YouTube