Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Email from the High School

Went to a seminar this afternoon about malpractice risks for attorneys, simply for the insurance discount, bored to death and thankful for the internet access. Halfway through, I get an email from my daughter's high school:

We were alerted by the Omaha Police Dept. that a student had left his home earlier today and was probably armed. While no threats of any kind were directed toward the school or any students, we followed our established procedures to ensure the safety and security of all students. Furthermore, we also worked with the Omaha Police Department who did find the student a short time after they had alerted the school of this matter, thus bringing this incident to a close.

Knowing what I do about bureaucracies, I cynically suspected either exaggeration or minimization, but also suddenly realized what was important, why I leave the house in the morning, and that risks can appear where you never suspected them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is TLC a Cult?

A commenter leaves a message:

Do you think TLC is a cult?

The question reminds me of a line from the movie The Survivors when Walter Matthau's character confronts Robin Williams' "Donald Quinelle" who's joined a cult of survivalists:

Sonny Paluso: You think Wes is God, don't you.
Donald Quinelle: No, not God, Just an ordinary man. Maybe a little ahead of his time, but just an ordinary man.
Sonny Paluso: Wes is an asshole.
Donald Quinelle: Blasphemy! Oh, you'll smoke a turd in hell for that!

In other words, Gerry isn't a God, he's just an ordinary man and anyone who says differently has blasphemed our Dear Leader and must be either reprogrammed or shunned! Boil up a batch of Kool Aid, somebody's starting to sober up!

Just kidding. My honest answer is that I don't think it is. But I fear it's becoming a cult of personality, more loyal to personalities in power than to the principles that made it such an amazing experience.

I'm on the F Warrior Board. One of our rules, newly created, is that we can't divulge internal discussions. I'm not saying I agree with it or not, but it's a rule, voted in, after a particularly heated argument.

I bring it up to demonstrate why I edited the email I sent to the rest of the FWB tonight. I didn't selectively edit for my own purposes, in other words, but to comply with the rules. What I said might answer the question:

I was looking forward to Dallas but responses like [X's] that accuse the questioner of being "distrustful" make me think our meeting, so helpful last year, will likely degenerate into personal attacks and tests of loyalty (which is defined as not asking any tough questions) rather than an honest dialogue about what's best for the alumni.

It's true that change is hard, but it's also true that what organizations need is a variety of viewpoints and people with a willingness to ask tough questions and debate honestly. It's also true that our mission is independent of the TLC Board and that our Board was designed to support the alumni rather than the TLC Board.

In fact, dig out your Spring '06 Warrior where [] describes the beginnings of the F Warrior Club as "from the moment of its inception, it was designed to be comprised of the Alumni, by the Alumni and for the Alumni.. While supportive of TLC the F Warrior Club was always meant to be autonomous, answering only to the needs of the Alumni."

He goes on to say that the FWB was then created and "was never meant to govern, but only to serve the interests of the club."

Are we living up to that foundation now, assisting the President as he drafts explanations of his decision to "reorganize" the board toward obsequiousness, accusing each other of being "distrustful" when someone respectfully asks questions or points out that what she saw at Grad II differs from the official company line, undoubtedly in the name of fulfilling her role representing her regions' alumni?

And rather than accusing people who ask questions like this of having [issues] or of [spreading innuendo] perhaps we should be asking ourselves what is the best way to carry out our mission statement, the best way to "answer only to the needs of the alumni" as [T] put it several years ago.

Our interpretations of how to serve the alumni will differ, which is why we're all necessary. My fear is that our meeting will quickly become part witchhunt (for whoever forwarded [Y]'s email to [Z]) and part loyalty test where anyone who asks tough questions won't have them answered but will instead be attacked personally, accused of being distrustful for daring to speak out. My other fear is that, much like the TLC Board, we will degenerate into sycophancy toward personalities rather than carrying out TLC principles.

Not exactly what the alumni need right now, at such a trying time, in my opinion. How about instead we strive for transparency to the alumni who may be, understandably, confused about what's going on inside TLC?

Why not encourage all of us to speak openly, without fear from personal attack, much like we're taught to honor the gifts jurors share with us in voir dire?

I'm glad you're optimistic, [] but I'm not so sure, given what I've seen so far. Gerry says "love is always the winning argument" but I'm afraid we've forgotten it and that it will tear us apart in Dallas when we so desperately need to come together...

P.S. [X], Thank you for your courage in speaking out and being real. We know what happens to people who dare to exhibit these traits on the TLC Board, but we should encourage them on ours if we're truly "answering only to the needs of the Alumni."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TLC Board Shakeup

Just heard that new TLC President Jude Basile made some changes to the TLC Board of Directors, the "Big Board" as it's known. Out are Kaitlyn Larimer, Fredi Sison, Carl Bettinger, Lynne Bratcher, and Gerry's wife Imaging Spence.

As I said on our F Warrior conference call when asked my feelings about these changes:

"I think it's bullshit. Those people are my heroes"

And they are. But they're gone. And they, other than Imaging, also were the three highest vote receivers in Norm Pattis' blog survey.

I was surprised, but apparently others, at least those who voted, were not.