Sobering Realities Showcasing The Complexity and Imperfection of Man, While Calling On Us to Live Our Better Natures

April 9, 2013

Subject:  Sobering Articles Revealing the Frailty of Man, the Challenge of Making Decisions
                                    To do What’s Right, and the Case for Humility
Seldom, in a single day, have I read so many articles that show the perplexity and perversity of life: 
·         From the New York Times Page One:  “The Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood..the CIA air war in Pakistan began with quid pro quo killing of rebel Nek Muhammad.”
·         From the New York Times Page One:  “Tax Lobby Builds Ties to Chairman of Finance Panel..former aides are hired..pushing interests of business’s changes to the Code.”
·         From the New York Times:  Page One:  “Grave robbers and more steal serious history from Syria.”
·         From the Boston Globe:  Some believe, “It may be in the interest of the United States to see the savage civil war in Syria continue.”
·         From the New York Times Book Review:  “Fear Itself:  The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time.”  The book makes the case, among others, that in order to pass its programs, the New Dealers “sell their souls to the segregated South.”
·         From the New York Times Book Review:  “FDR and the Jews,” it posits that “to fight World War II, Roosevelt needed support from legislators who wanted to keep out Europe’s Jews” from immigrating to the United States.
I read all these articles in juxtaposition with the glorious day and evening I spent at Yale, celebrating the tenure of Rick Levin as President of Yale and the values which he and Yale espouse in the pursuit of truth, human rights, etc.  And yet, as these articles (and life in general) showcase, that pursuit is not an easy one to chart, and it is not always or perhaps even usually pure.  But yet, this sobering reality cannot stop us from pursuing what is right and just and fair as best we can see the light to do that as well as we possibly can.
These articles are a call for us to do what we can in our own limited time and in our own limited space, in the name of integrity and doing what we can to make the world around us a better place, starting with those closest to us.

Maintaining the Anchor of Your Own Conscience

Following the Voice of Your Conscience and The Importance of Courage
(This was a personal reflection which I wrote in 1994 in preparing a talk for my P&G associates)

There will be several turning points in all our lives – and in fact we may have to reach this most important turning point many times.  It is the point at which we make the decision:  “I will live by my conscience from this time forward to the best of my ability.  I will not allow any voice, social mirror, scripting, even my own rationalizing to speak more clearly to me than the voice of conscience and, whatever the consequence, I will follow it.”
As Emerson said:  “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”
Of all the principles that guide us, the two most essential to peace of mind are contribution – making a valuable difference – and conscience – being trustworthy – to oneself and to others.
We know that our Company will only be as strong as the intelligence, judgment and character of our employees.
Our people … our values … our principles … they are the one competitive advantage that cannot be duplicated.  Technology can be copied, capital can be bought, and strategies can be gleaned from what we do and from what others write.  But values … principles … these cannot be copied and picked up.  They flow from the heritage and character of the people who have been with and are with the Company today … the way we work together and the expectations we have of one another.
It is most difficult and often most important for you to hold your ground when you are most alone.  Only conviction, strength of character and courage will let you do this.  But there will be times in your life when it will be all important.  Times when we must hold to our own convictions, not being swayed by others, even those of great repute.
It is useful to remind ourselves how often people of high reputation can get things wrong.  Opinions about Stalin written in the years 1929-34, when he was in the process of liquidating ten million Russians as part of the collectivization of agriculture and farms, bear out the point.  H.G. Wells said he had “never met a man more candid, fair and honest…no one is afraid of him and everybody trusts him.”  Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, described him as leading “his people down new and unfamiliar avenues of democracy.”
The American Ambassador, Josephine Davies, reported him as having “insisted on the liberalization of the constitution.  His brown eyes, exceedingly wise and gentle; a child would like to sit on his lap and a dog would sidle up to him.”  Emile Ludwig, the famous popular biographer, found him to be a man “to whose care I would readily confide the education of my children.”
No matter who says what, no matter how small the group that supports your point of view, never fail to follow the voice of your conscience.
JEP Journal – 1994 – Principles of Life_022012