Sunday, March 26, 2017
Saturday, March 25, 2017
In today’s climate of moral ambiguity, ethical lapses, and political uncertainty, having competent leaders at all level of government is more essential than ever.
What, though, makes a leader? Too many people believe that the mere possession of power or a fancy title makes a person a leader. Power and a title make a person a boss, or in the case of nations, a leader—but, leadership is an entirely different kettle of fish.
True leadership is not about giving orders or receiving obedience from followers. One can be a leader without a title, and with no more power than the ability to motivate people to achieve more than they believe themselves capable of achieving.
A leader, first and foremost, is someone who cares about those who follow. A true leader is more a guide and mentor than a director. The best leaders, in fact, seldom give orders; they create visions and communicate those visions to others in such a compelling way, they’re followed out of curiosity. Great leaders are great communicators. They are able to paint a vision of a positive future, and translate that vision into terms that others can understand and believe in.
Leaders are honest. They don’t tell people what they ‘want’ to hear, but what they ‘need’ to hear. They have integrity. A good leader does not have to describe correct behavior and conduct—he or she models it in every action. A good leader has the courage to take unpopular actions for the good of others, rather than pander to special interests, put personal interests first, or take the easy way out.
A leader, in order to be effective, must put the good of the many ahead of the benefit of the privileged few.
The world is a complex and dangerous place. Groups without effective leadership are little better than mobs, surging from crisis to crisis, energy dissipated in unfocused groping for coherence. Leadership is essential to move the mass in a positive direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a social club or a nation, without effective, enlightened leadership, progress is accidental, often in the wrong direction, and many opportunities are missed.
Good leaders focus on doing the right things, rather than appeasing special interests. This is not to say that things shouldn’t be done right, but before expending energy on a task, a good leader asks if it should be done at all. One can argue that the Holocaust was an efficiently run program attempting to annihilate an entire race of people, but it’s inarguable that it wasn’t the ‘right’ thing to do.
We have lots of bosses and rulers, people who are expert at ‘making deals,’ but, if we’re ever to have true peace, security, and prosperity, what we need is better leadership.
Friday, March 24, 2017
On March 19th, General Michael Hayden, the former Director of both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), gave the third address in CWM’s Presentation Series, CIA and NSA: A View from the Top. Many of General Hayden’s comments were connected to his recent New York Times-bestselling book Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.
A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic sellout audience of 132 followed the talk with interesting questions, which was to be expected, as many were retired CIA officers. General Hayden was very gracious throughout, including in fulfilling many requests for photos with him, and later signing copies of his book which he donated to the Museum. He also took the time to come briefly to the Museum, despite a need to get home to deal with a family concern, and said that he would visit again for fuller tour.
Old Bust Head brewery, next door to the Museum, hosted this fundraising event for CWM on their production floor and provided great cooperation with us for it, including providing a $7 ticket for credit towards their excellent draft beer as part of the event ticket. We expect to continue working with both the Vint Hill Winery and the brewery to host coming Presentation Series events.
The next of those, on May 21st and which will also be at the brewery, is Eyewitness as the Wall Falls: A Fateful Week in Berlin. Col. Jim Gray (USAF Ret.) will give us a gripping day-by-day oral and visual account of his week in Berlin while the Wall slowly became more and more permeable as he crossed the border repeatedly over that time. He will also take us into the thinking of people on both sides as much as possible, at a time when no one knew how this would turn out, and whether this would provoke a violent response from the Soviets. For further information, please see CWM’s posting on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/eyewitness-as-the-wall-falls-a-fateful-week-in-berlin-tickets-32595553177. (If you are interested, you may want to purchase tickets soon, as all three of the previous presentations sold out weeks in advance of the event.)
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Friday, March 3, 2017
At last month’s CPAC, Trump White House strategist, Steve Bannon, vowed to ‘deconstruct’ the administrative state. While Bannon didn’t go into detail as to what such ‘deconstruction’ would consist of, administration actions in the first two months do give some clues. The first White House budget proposal, along with a hefty increase in defense spending, has drastic cuts in the budgets of civilian agencies, including a more than 30 percent cut in the State Department and foreign aid budget. In addition, appointees to head civilian agencies are both being sidelined and ignored, or are individuals who have a track record of opposing the agencies they’ve been designated to lead.
Looking at what’s going on one could easily reach the conclusion that what Bannon actually meant to say was ‘destroy.’
While die-hard Trump supporters are probably cheering as he sticks his finger in the eye of the bloated, unresponsive Washington bureaucracy, one also has to wonder if anyone is giving any consideration to what this all means.
Let’s start by conceding that government is often inefficient; many agencies are probably overstaffed; and services are not always delivered where and when they’re needed. But, is the answer to that the abolition of the agency that’s supposed to deliver those services?
Over the last decade there’s been a marked trend to militarize American foreign policy. If we strip the already modestly funded civilian foreign affairs establishment (foreign aid in its entirety accounts for less than two percent of the budget), do we plan to give that mission over to the defense establishment? Will the military be called in to patrol our national parks, or will we turn that job over to the energy and timber industries that will be given uncontrolled access? Who will assume responsibility for air traffic control, water and air quality monitoring, food and drug safety standards? These are not jobs that will do themselves, and leaving it to the industries isn’t such a good idea—don’t forget; it was shortcomings in these industries that led to the need for government monitoring in the first place.
Does government need improvement? You bet it does, but when the bath water is dirty, let’s change it, not toss the baby out in the process.