Leadership Communique, 11/17/2013

Lessons in Leadership

Good morning,

Sunday in mid November and it will be 70 degrees on the UCO campus in Edmond. It is hard to imagine a more attractive recipe for a fall weekend. Our trees and shrubs are clinging to the last of their vivid colors, as the wind finishes them off. Last week’s morning chill ended the growth and bloom cycles of most outdoor plants. Fall is here and winter is waiting on the sidelines.

Michael Carolina, the Executive Director of OCAST (Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology) was gracious in again accepting our invitation to spend time in our L in L format. His pathway and accomplishments have distinguished him among Oklahoma and national colleagues. OCAST’s public service mission and program impact the state and its institutions, including UCO. I appreciate Michael’s expertise on the importance of technology in our future, and his ability to effectively communicate its relevance to virtually all aspects of our lives life and society. He is an exceptional mentor and it would be valued added-opportunity to spend to with him and OCAST, perhaps as an intern.

A second guest here this week, which you did not attend, was the keynote speaker for the annual Oklahoma Women in Higher Education conference. She is General Rita Aragon, currently serving on Governor Mary Fallin’s Cabinet as Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs. Rita, a UCO double graduate, is a powerful spokesperson on military issues, and also a major proponent for education and degree completion. Her energy and indomitable spirit are apparent from the first few moments with her. She is an articulate speaker with a reputation of “telling it like it is”. Her comments to the assembled educators were enthusiastically received, and would have been highly relevant to L. l and our focus on personal and collaborative leadership development. Some of you may have met the General in the past. She is an avid UCO supporter, and I encourage you to connect with her during one of her forthcoming visits to the campus. Persistence, service and integrity are among the characteristics she most often cites as lasting leadership values to be cultivated throughout life.

If you were 55 years old or older (and obviously you are not), you would undoubtedly be able to answer this question. “Where were you when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated?” It was a defining moment in modern American history and in global affairs as well. Should you have looked at television over the past few weeks, you would have spotted an increasing number of programs devoted to the moment, the man, his family and the pivotal times in which this cataclysmic event occurred.

It has been one half century since that sunny day in Dallas, 50 years since all seemed to change in a matter of moments. It was also a momentous time for TV and television journalism, as almost all of America watched a screen somewhere for over 30 straight hours.

TV was not what you observe today. There were few networks and limited technology by today’s multi-platform expectations. TV and the dean of on screen journalists, Walter Cronkite, guided the nation through this trauma with strict standards of professionalism, expertise and excellence. His work and those of his colleagues bears scant resemblance to the talking heads that appear hour after hour on dozens of sites offering instant analysis and expertise on issues and events even as they are unfolding. It was a different time and a different measure of journalistic responsibility.

Thousands of books and articles, documentaries and dramatic films have been produced over these years attempting to sort of the event and its implications. New insights seem to emerge anew, particularly as we cross the half century mark since JFK’s death.

There are many perspectives on the time and the man and what might have been. Though he was president for only thousand days, Kennedy’s enduring influence is undeniable. There is a entire generation, Americans and others, who answered his inaugural challenge, each in his/her own way. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

The clarion call to public service, do do something for others, to be part of a mission larger and profoundly more important than oneself, was heard and embraced by millions. Implicit in the Kennedy ethos was the sense of hope based on one serving the needs of others. Around UCO, and other places, this call is termed “be the change”, paraphrasing the thoughts and words of many including Mahatma Gandhi.

President Kennedy exhorted us to give the best of us in what we do for the sake and welfare of others in our neighborhood, community, state, country and in the world. This call to service is blind to borders and other culturally-imposed barriers intended to divide us. His was to actively shape the world we wanted, and to do so together.

And so we hear it today, each in our own way. The leadership programs in which you are members have connections that reach back to the days of John Kennedy, and the promise his election, words and actions held out for many, here in the USA, and far beyond.

On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy delivered the commencement address at American University. It has been often citied since as a call for peace in the midst of the Cold War with the USSR. It is replete with memorable insights.

In his opening remarks, he quoted John Masefield commenting on the nature of education and the role of the university. “There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university…a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see”.

I encourage you to find time this week to learn more about John Kennedy and his legacy. There will be many choices across the media and in print from which to chose.

Wishing you a productive week,

Don Betz