THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2016
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. ELDERS COME IN ALL AGES
3. “AMIDST ALL THE NOISE, TO WHOM SHOULD WE LISTEN?”
4. “IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF WE FIX OUR POLITICS…”
5. “THERE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH BLAME TO GO AROUND…”
6. “TO CALL ON THE BETTER ANGELS OF PEOPLE’S NATURES…”
7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
QUOTES OF THE MONTH – JUSTIN TRUDEAU & ANONYMOUS.
“Once you get elected through dividing people
it becomes very hard to govern responsibly for everyone.”
“10% of conflicts are due to differences in opinion.
90% are due to wrong tone of voice.”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
January Greetings, Dear Friends…
As you can probably guess from the quotes above, this month’s newsletter is focused on the TONE rather than the CONTENT of communications. I was inspired in this direction by two personal emails, and, as strange as it may sound, three political speeches. You’ll find January’s Musings shared between those five items in Sections 2-6. Enjoy…
2. ELDERS COME IN ALL AGES
This came from German friend, Tanja, who’s less than half my age. She rightly took me to task for a flippant remark about the awful situation at the Cologne Railway Station New Year’s Eve. Thinking I was being humorous, the next day I texted, “Hope you weren’t hanging out at the Cologne Station last night.” Her response taught me a lesson in TONE I’ve needed more than once…
“I always stay away from places with lots of drunk men. Like the Oktoberfest or German carnival.”
Good on you – and I apologize for joking about something so serious and disheartening. I admire Germany and Merkle for being compassionate toward the refugees, and things like Cologne just make it so much more difficult…
“Well, the thing with Cologne is, nobody knows who committed the crimes. Somebody said it was people that looked Arabic. But despite all the surveillance cameras there seems to be no footage. Therefore I won’t believe it was a refugee before anybody can prove it to me.
“Apparently the train station in Cologne is well known for pickpockets. And it seems like all this has been a problem before, only now people seem to actually see that women are being harassed.
“This is something that happens for weeks during the Carnival in Cologne and the Oktoberfest in Munich. Only then it’s obviously Germans committing the crimes and that seems to be OK.
“And what about all the German tourists going to Thailand and treating women like shit there?
“They are foreigners there as well. Nothing is being done about that.
“And what apparently happened in Cologne led to German nazi idiots attacking foreigners who’ve got nothing to do with it. Just because they look Arabic they’re bad people now. People patrolling the streets to protect German women. Who’s patrolling the streets to keep idiots from trying to burn down refugee shelters? This is all so wrong.
“We’ve been one of the few countries in Europe that didn’t shut down the borders, and I hope it’s going to stay like that. Because who’s been selling all the weapons to all the countries that are at war now? It was Germany. But this is stuff that nobody wants to know.”
This is inspiring and humbling, Tanja. Thank you. It’s what “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” means.
Given the hostility rampant in the world today, we each need to rediscover our best selves and the compassion we are capable of.
Yes, clever people can and do make seemingly persuasive arguments for almost anything; I know because, for a while, I got well paid for doing that. But at 77, what’s clear is that I must call on my best self to become the Elder I hope to be. To allow our Elderhood to emerge, we must mature beyond our fearful, competitive, and self-protective egos and their compensating behaviors of superiority, exclusion and hatefulness.
If only a lot more of the world, including me, could think and act like you, especially when such awful things happen! This is what Tanja’s response helped me remember so I thought I’d pass it along…
3. “AMIDST ALL THE NOISE, TO WHOM SHOULD WE LISTEN?”
This email came as part of a on-going dialogue about how to make sense of all the data bombarding us these days. Jimmy, my friend of thirty years, lives in Texas and I live in Vermont/New Zealand; his leanings are conservative and mine liberal. We’ve learned from each other for a long time. He wrote:
“I finally got the opportunity to read some of these articles. As I read them, the analogy of completely opposite polarities emerges. And I suppose this is my dilemma …. and why I cultivate people I completely trust to help me find the “Middle Way”, since you two select information from completely different philosophical roots.
“This is both the blessing and the curse of the information age. I am finding it increasingly difficult and immensely frustrating to discern the “real truth”. What source of information and reality do I trust and to whom should I listen, since there are so many writings and voices insisting to be heard?
“This excerpt from Stockman resonated with my own intuition and what I perceive to be the “pulse” of the citizenry:
‘The people are growing weary of the lies and their restlessness will morph into anger when the economic collapse resumes. You can sense things are not right. Trust in the system has turned to suspicion and cynicism. The growing anger in the nation and the world is palpable.’”
And so I responded with the best I’ve got at 77…
Jimmy, I strongly agree with your “analogy of completely opposite polarities” not just emerging, but being so polarized as to turn trust into suspicion, cynicism into palpable anger.
I’ve experienced this before in the 60’s and 70’s from when JFK, RFK and MLK were assassinated, Bull Connor was hosing demonstrators, we were carpet bombing Viet Nam, priests were burning draft cards, the KKK was murdering Freedom Riders and the Weathermen were doing their version of taking over Wildlife Refuges. Both then and now irrational fears on every extreme see terrifying Evils that must be exterminated in some God’s name.
Not much here is new. It’s a repeat of the Inquisition phenomenon. “Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it.” And so we do.
Like you, I don’t find information overload, especially in the age of ‘Mad Men,’ much more helpful than information paucity, and most people have neither the time nor the patience to do sift through today’s staggering amount of news. The solution is to find a channel we ‘trust’ to sort and simplify for us.
There was a time when we got our news and commentary from we felt were trust-worthy, like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Mr. Rogers and Gracie Allen. But that ended in the 60’s. Now while I may trust and rely on John Stewart, Rachel Maddow and The New York Times, others trust and rely on Rush Limbaugh, Megyn Kelly and Fox News. Too often “trust and rely on” means “limit our news to,” and then such limited versions of reality become THE REALITY. It’s no wonder we’re becoming more and more polarized…
So what sources of reality shall we listen to – or not listen to?
In my retirement I have more spaciousness than ever before, I love learning and I’m internet savvy. Still, there are not enough hours in the day to fact-check even a minuscule percentage of the relevant CONTENT available to me. So I mainly use TONE.
Whatever communication comes toward me has two dimensions: TONE & CONTENT.
CONTENT is the rational data communicated, and when there are so many contradictory versions of the same event multiplying ad infinitum, it takes Super PACS, Super-computers, and Super-staffs to keep up. I don’t have or want those in my life.
TONE is the package the rational data is communicated in. It includes all kinds of non-verbal and emotional cues that determine how the message will be interpreted and acted on.
As a simple example, I’ll tell you a story of an exchange with my son Scott forty years ago when he was seven. We live in Vermont, and hard rock Maple is a common wood. As its name says, it is really hard wood. Scott was playing with a hammer, aluminum nails and a piece of Maple. He was getting frustrated because he couldn’t drive the nails into the wood – they kept bending. Well, nobody is likely to succeed at this because the wood is too hard and the nails too soft.
So, using the dimensions of TONE (Positive-Negative) & CONTENT (Accurate-Inaccurate), let’s see how I might have used their four combinations to communicate with him. The most frequent outcomes are in the BOLD TYPE…
While I didn’t call Scott ‘stupid,’ I’m pretty sure my advice in 1976 more likely produced resistance than anything else. I do much better with the grandchildren in 2015.
But the point of all this is that, in terms of both material and emotional outcome, TONE is by far the most powerful part of any message – and, for me, it’s very easy to detect and classify. I might not know if the CONTENT of a message is accurate or inaccurate, but I always can tell whether the TONE is positive or negative. To me, positive TONE is affirming, loving, supporting, humble, inclusive, etc., and negative TONE is devaluing, hating, berating, righteous, separating, etc.
But your values for TONE may be quite different. That’s why I only give them the labels of positive or negative – your personal value system will fill them quite differently, and that will work for you. It has helped me force myself to make conscious what positive and negative TONE means to me in different situations…
4. “IT WILL ONLY HAPPEN IF WE FIX OUR POLITICS…”
This is the final part of Obama’s State of the Union address, and, for me, it is the TONE that matters. Yes, I think the CONTENT is spot on, but even if I couldn’t be sure of its accuracy, the TONE would encourage me to consider what is being said. And the same is true in the piece that follows – Nikki Haley’s “Republican Response’ that immediately followed Obama’s speech…
…“We the People.”
Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.
The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.
It will only happen if we fix our politics.
A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, …over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.
But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.
Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.
But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task — or any President’s — alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.
We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.
But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.
What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.
We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.
So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.
It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.
They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.
I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.
I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.
I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.
I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.
I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.
It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.
I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.
That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
5. “THERE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH BLAME TO GO AROUND…”
BY GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY, WWW.CBS.COM JANUARY 12, 2016
“I’m Nikki Haley, Governor of the great state of South Carolina…
“…At the outset, I’ll say this: you’ve paid attention to what has been happening in Washington, and you’re not naive.
“Neither am I. I see what you see. And many of your frustrations are my frustrations.
“A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better. A frustration with the same, endless conversations we hear over and over again. A frustration with promises made and never kept.
“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.
“We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken.
“And then we need to fix it.
“The foundation that has made America that last, best hope on earth hasn’t gone anywhere. It still exists. It is up to us to return to it.
“For me, that starts right where it always has: I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country.
“Growing up in the rural south, my family didn’t look like our neighbors, and we didn’t have much. There were times that were tough, but we had each other, and we had the opportunity to do anything, to be anything, as long as we were willing to work for it.
“My story is really not much different from millions of other Americans. Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America. They wanted better for their children than for themselves. That remains the dream of all of us, and in this country we have seen time and again that that dream is achievable.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.
“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.
“At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.
“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.
“I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America’s noblest legacies.
“This past summer, South Carolina was dealt a tragic blow. On an otherwise ordinary Wednesday evening in June, at the historic Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, twelve faithful men and women, young and old, went to Bible study.
“That night, someone new joined them. He didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, didn’t sound like them. They didn’t throw him out. They didn’t call the police. Instead, they pulled up a chair and prayed with him. For an hour.
“We lost nine incredible souls that night.
“What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about.
“Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs.
“We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.
“We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.
“There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.
“Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong disagreements. We will. And as we usher in this new era, Republicans will stand up for our beliefs…
“And rather than just thanking our brave men and women in uniform, we would actually strengthen our military, so both our friends and our enemies would know that America seeks peace, but when we fight wars we win them.
“We have big decisions to make. Our country is being tested.
“But we’ve been tested in the past, and our people have always risen to the challenge. We have all the guidance we need to be safe and successful.
“Our forefathers paved the way for us.
“Let’s take their values, and their strengths, and rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man. And woman.
“Thank you, good night, and God bless.”
Thank you, Nikky Haley, for the TONE of your response – it is one of an Elder who can lead us and, hopefully, “bring us together.” I’ve been hoping for such leadership since I saw that on a sign held up during one of Nixon’s campaign stops in 1968. Yes, please, Elders, come forward to lead us in TONE so we work together across our marvelous diversity! And there does seem to be a country with leadership that is doing just that…
6. “TO CALL ON THE BETTER ANGELS OF PEOPLE’S NATURES…”
BY KEVIN J.DELANEY, WWW.QZ.COM, JANUARY 20, 2016
The mood among world leaders is pretty gloomy. Reasons include the ongoing ISIL threat, the millions of displaced people in the Mideast and Europe, and disappointing economic growth, just to name a few.
But Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is amazingly unfazed by the storm clouds all around. “I can’t help but being tremendously optimistic,” the 44-year-old leader told attendees of the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos gathering.
His electoral mandate is to “provide a positive and good government for Canadians,” Trudeau says, “rather than focusing on what we’re scared of.”
But what about the prospect of terrorism attacks on Canadian soil?
“People are open to not choosing to live in constant fear,” Trudeau says. “We have to make a choice about how much we’re going to close and limit and crack down on our society in order to protect it.”
What about short-term costs and security risks represented by open immigration?
“Diversity isn’t just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention,” says Trudeau. “It generates creativity that helps change the world. We know this in Canada.”
How about the impact of low oil prices on Canada’s energy-producing economy?
“The low oil prices are a challenge but the Canadian economy is a lot more than natural resources,” says Trudeau.
What about the costs of transitioning to a greener economy?
“We can fight climate change without sacrificing growth and prosperity,” he says.
Trudeau’s optimism is all the more stark against German chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to decline her invitation to Davos in order to stay home to deal with the migrant crisis. And his strategy for getting the Canadian electorate to share in his optimism sounds rather, well, optimistic—especially in light of the fractious situation gripping his neighbor to the south, where US president Barack Obama, in his latest state of the union address, highlighted the US political divisions he regrets that he has failed to erase.
“Once you get elected through dividing people it becomes very hard to govern responsibly for everyone,” Trudeau says. “The choice we made was to call on ‘the better angels of people’s natures,’ to use a great Lincoln line.”
Will future events make Trudeau’s optimism look foolish? Canada’s new leader has made it clear he’s willing to take that risk.
I don’t see Justin Trudeau as “the most optimistic man on earth”; to me he is that rare combination of a leader who is psychologically astute, morally courageous and verbally superb. May we all have many more!
See you next month, FW
7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:
2015 IN INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING……
COLBERT WELCOMES PALIN’S ENDORSEMENT OF TRUMP…
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