If you watched NBC’s program narrated by Bette White on Sunday, September 1 about the 30 funniest moments in television history, you saw that the “I Love Lucy” chocolate factory candy scene was # 1.
You can watch the scene by clicking here.
Yes, that is funny. I have to admit to you that I didn’t think most of the other 29 scenes on the show were very funny. There were two exceptions – one was from the “Dick Van Dyke Show” at an auction, and another from “All in the Family,” where Edith stuffs a phone message in her bra. I guess I just didn’t choose to use my time in the ’70’s and ’80’s watching sitcoms. And, I still don’t today.
Back to Lucy. The literature on Lucille Ball is not universally favorable. While the biographies portray her as talented and driven, we can conclude that she was a flawed person. (Of course, who isn’t?) She doesn’t top Marilyn Monroe in the quantity of biographies written about a famous person, but she certainly had plenty. Click here for a sampling from Amazon.com. She was particularly “egged” in the tabloids when she disapproved of Patty Duke, at age 23, dating her son, Desi Arnaz, Jr., at age 17. You can read a quick tracking of her life by clicking here. Regardless of what people have written, there is no question that she brought great entertainment to millions of Americans for many years.
Did you watch that show on NBC? Do you have a favorite comedy scene? Let’s talk about it really soon.
I am frequently asked what I think was the greatest speech of all time. I receive these questions since I coach professional presenters in the marketplace, as well as teach business presentations as part of the MBA program in the College of Business at the University of Dallas. I think that many people like to benchmark features of their own presentations against famous speeches that they are familiar with.
Since we recently passed the 50th anniversary of the great “I Have a Dream” speech by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., you have likely seen several editorials about the context, the speaker, and the speech. I will not repeat any of these here as they are readily available for you. There is no question in my mind that it is one of the greatest of all time, but it is not THE greatest.
That honor goes to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, gave the most inclusive presentation I have ever seen. That evening, he put it all together. There is no single presentation that I have seen which embodies all of the elements of successful speechmaking this well. No matter what you wish to critique – projection, tone, eye contact, posture, gestures, language, verbal and vocal variety, storytelling, and on, and on, and on….this speech is a model. I am especially impressed when I see how he touches all elements of his audience – young and old, white and black, rich and poor, able and disabled, male and female, and any other demographic classification that you want to examine. I especially encourage you to watch Part 7 by clicking here. He would be nominated for the presidency of the United States the next evening. Had he been elected, I think he would have been powerful with foreign leaders, but would have had great difficulty passing legislation through his own bodies of congress.
Two other items about this speech stand out to me. First, he has energy. Even 75 minutes from the beginning, Jackson has the same enthusiasm he started with. Second, he puts elements from the African-American pulpit into a political speech very successfully. As you watch Part 7, note features such as repetition, parallelism, cadence, etc., which you would see any Sunday in this type of church.
So, for what it is worth, here is my list of the top five American speeches of all time, with links to a YouTube version of the speech where available:
1. Rev. Jesse Jackson – 1988 Democratic National Convention
2. President Ronald Reagan – Challenger Explosion Speech – January 28, 1986 – in just 4:40, he settles down the country, gives hope to children who watched the broadcast, praises NASA, and restores faith in the United States space program.
3. Robert F. Kennedy Announces Death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – April 4, 1968 – en route to a political campaign stop in Indianapolis, RFK receives word of the King assassination, and speaks from the heart in an attempt to unify the country which could experience significant polarization; he holds an envelope with scribbled notes that he barely refers to.
4. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have a Dream” – August 28, 1963 – an electrifying, sincere, and emotional presentation filled with striking metaphors and allegories that marks a transition in civil rights
5. Jim Valvano – ESPY “Don’t Ever Give Up” – March 3, 1993 – filled with terminal cancer, the famous NC State basketball coach stirs the crowd with hope, passion, and humor
You may ask where are these American speeches? Yes, they are great, and likely in a “top 20,” but….
JFK inaugural address – January 20, 1961 – upbeat and enthusiastic, but disorganized, and one famous line does not make an entire speech famous
Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg Address – November 19, 1863 – we all memorized it, but our effort is why we probably think it is great
Richard Nixon “Checkers” Speech – September 23, 1952 – the first of many defiant and denial attempts by an elusive liar
Barbara Jordan addresses Democratic National Convention – July 12, 1976 – a remarkable address by a woman of color who left us way too soon, but she was the star, not the speech
What do you think? Do you have other favorites? Let’s talk about it really soon!
William N. Thorndike, Jr. founded Housatonic Partners in Boston in 1994 and has been Managing Director since that time. Prior to that, he worked with T. Rowe Price Associates where he did investment research in the nascent field of business services and Walker & Company where he was named to the Board of Directors. Will is a graduate of Harvard College and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a Director of Alta Colleges; Carillon Assisted Living, LLC; Liberty Towers, LLC; OASIS Group Ltd.; QMC International, LLC; White Flower Farm, Inc., a Trustee of Stanford Business School Trust, and College of the Atlantic (Chair) and a founding partner at FARM, a social impact investing fund/collaborative. His book, The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, was published by Harvard Business Review Press (October 2012).
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Thorndike: At age 23, on a summer vacation in Maine, I read the first chapter [on Buffett] in John Train’s Money Masters and realized two things: (1) there were both good and bad businesses in the broader economy and it was much better to be invested in the former than the latter – a simple but powerful idea, and (2) one could make a living as an investor outside of a large firm.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Thorndike: I’ve been fortunate to have an excellent mix of a liberal arts (English literature, history, etc.) background and a grounding in the analytical foundation of the MBA curriculum. I’d like to think this combination allows for a varied “latticework” of perspectives and models.
Morris: What do you know now about business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?
Thorndike: The importance of getting on the “right train” in your career. Finding an industry that’s intellectually interesting and has attractive growth and economic characteristics (my first job was in book publishing which had plenty of the former but none of the latter).
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.
Thorndike: The Conversation starring Gene Hackman and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, in which a lone protagonist tries to make sense of a fuzzy recording of a clandestine conversation. Much like a CEO trying to focus and prioritize on what is important in a sea of data and media noise.
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.
Thorndike: Two non-business books served as loose models for The Outsiders – JFK’s Profiles in Courage and Richard Hofstadter’s The American Political Tradition, both interesting group biographies that highlighted a variety of non-conformist leaders and approaches.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
One reason that we stop and think about the great causes on Martin Luther King Day is that no one has replaced him. It was his voice that was so strong, and his message could not be ignored. There is no other Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so we return to his words so often – especially on this day.
In his clear voice, he reminded us of the dangers, the wrongs, the challenges that faced us. He did so with great passion, and with great depth and substance.
It is almost impossible to single out a quote or two. There are so many. And, yes, he repeated key phrases, in different places. But for this Martin Luther King Day, let me point out two of his themes. One, his attention to the great injustice of poverty. The other, the reminder that there is great dignity in honest, physical work.
#1 – Regarding poverty. These excerpts come from his Nobel Lecture, delivered on December 11, 1964, after receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. (You can read the full Lecture here).
In a sense the poverty of the poor in America is more frustrating than the poverty of Africa and Asia. The misery of the poor in Africa and Asia is shared misery, a fact of life for the vast majority; they are all poor together as a result of years of exploitation and underdevelopment. In sad contrast, the poor in America know that they live in the richest nation in the world, and that even though they are perishing on a lonely island of poverty they are surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity. Glistening towers of glass and steel easily seen from their slum dwellings spring up almost overnight. Jet liners speed over their ghettoes at 600 miles an hour; satellites streak through outer space and reveal details of the moon. President Johnson, in his State of the Union Message1, emphasized this contradiction when he heralded the United States’ “highest standard of living in the world”, and deplored that it was accompanied by “dislocation; loss of jobs, and the specter of poverty in the midst of plenty.”
In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich. We are inevitably our brothers’ keeper because of the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne interpreted this truth in graphic terms when he affirmed:
No man is an Iland, intire of its selfe:
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine:
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were,
as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were:
any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde:
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls:
it tolls for thee.
Notice again these lines:
In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich.
There is a lot of discussion these days about the top 1%, and then the rest of us. But those at the “bottom” literally suffer “the agony of the poor.” And, at the very least, there shoud be genuine compassion from all of us, regardless of where we fall in the “percentages,” for this agony – for these real people, who suffer genuine difficulty.
#2 – Regarding the dignity of genuine, hard work.
There are some who argue that our society is inviting laziness, “dependence” on programs of one kind or another. Personally, I think this is an incorrect and misplaced “reading” of the culture… But Dr. King would never have stood for “handouts” to replace hard work. Just last night, the Golden Globe for best supporting actress in a film went to Octavia Spencer who played a maid in the Civil Rights era movie “The Help.” Spencer quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in her acceptance:
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.”
(Read more about her acceptance speech here).
The line that best captures this was delivered by Dr. King in Jamaica in 1965:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Care about, and help the poor. Do whatever work you have to do very well, for there is great dignity and importance in all labor that uplifts humanity.
In his speech in Jamaica, Dr. King said:
“The time is always right to do right.”
Yes, it is. It is always the time to do right…
These are reminders for us all on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Here is an excerpt from an especially insightful article written by Nancy Koehn. It is part of The Washington Post‘s recent On Leadership roundtable exploring Tim Cook’s succession of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, and how to follow in the footsteps of an icon. At the conclusion of the excerpt, I provide links to several other outstanding articles. To read all of Koehn’s complete article, please click here.
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At this week’s iPhone 5 launch, we have our first official glimpse into Tim Cook’s leadership style as he takes the stage as Apple’s CEO. Many wonder how Cook will handle running a business handed over by one of greatest leaders and entrepreneurs of our time, Steve Jobs. Jobs is an icon who forever changed the way we connect. However, he was not the first American business leader to exercise tremendous influence over the way people live and think about what is possible. And this is not the first time such a leader has been replaced.
True, Jobs is on a short list of great American entrepreneurs. Along with Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller and Estée Lauder, Jobs has had an exceptional ability to envision what could be: products and services we couldn’t have imagined that we now can’t live without. These leaders all share an intense passion, a driving persistence, a keen sense of strategy and a relentless focus on the details of executing their respective visions. In the 14 years since he returned to the company he helped found, Jobs has embodied all of these attributes (as Apple’s long streak of product homeruns, its $350 billion market capitalization and its powerful brand attest). Given this context, the elephant in the room at the iPhone 5 launch is this: With Jobs gone, can Tim Cook carry the legacy?
Jobs has said he spent a lot of time selecting and developing his executive team. But Apple is not generally known for nurturing talent and giving its smart people the authority and scope to grow on the job. With Jobs’s dogged focus on “what’s next,” as well as his reputation for holding the reins of power tightly, it is reasonable to ask whether he has had the bandwidth (and inclination) to develop a succession plan that could render him obsolete.
But, history offers up several examples of gifted, charismatic (and controlling) founders successfully passing the baton to their successors. Take Thomas J. Watson, Sr., at IBM. By the time his son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., took over in the 1950s, many of his father’s contributions had been baked into the company culture. Not only did this keep the organization from faltering during transition, it enabled the son to focus on the next stage of important changes as its market and customers evolved. At McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, who did more to create the fast-food company than anyone else, built a team from inside the company that could carry his leadership torch after he was no longer as active in the business.
The most decisive factor in a successful leadership transition—and the reason IBM and McDonald’s stayed strong—is whether the founder or CEO has effectively institutionalized his or her own contributions. Certainly those within Apple well understand Jobs’s values and attributes: his painstaking attention to detail, his boldness of vision and his confidence in understanding what the consumer wants. And as a longtime member of the company’s executive team, Tim Cook (who came to the company in 1998) has seen Jobs’s work ethic, energy and hands-on management style up close.
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Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School and author, most recently, of The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times.
“Until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.”
Verne Harnish, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits
Each semester, I handout copies of the full text of I Have a Dream, the great speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. I take a fresh copy myself, and I have us work through the speech, circling each phrase that he repeats. The list is overwhelming: “now is the time” “100 years later,” “let freedom ring,” “all of God’s children,” “I have a dream,” “one day.” Over and over and over again, he hammers home these key phrases. This is part of the reason why the speech is burned so deeply into our collective memory.
We all need to take a lesson from Dr. King – especially at work.
We are so very busy, in our lives, and in our brains. At work, we always have the incident/task/crisis of the moment demanding our attention. So, if we want to focus on what is important in the big picture/over the long haul, it has to be front of mind, and put back in front of mind, time and time and time and time again.
In other words, one major job of a leader is to repeat what is important over and over and over and over again. “until they mock you.” There is no alternative to this.
Here’s how Mark Aesch, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) put it, in his book Driving Excellence: Transform your Organization’s Culture – and Achieve Revolutionary Results:
With an issue this significant, putting it in front of any group of people once is not going to get it done.
You need to come back, time and again, to make people focus on the issue’s importance.
Everyone – bus operators, radio controllers, customer service personnel, up to and including the vice presidents – is nudged to tie our strategies to the most basic task they happen to be performing minute to minute.
How are you doing? Are you repeating the key elements of your mission and your strategy over and over again to your people?
Are they mocking you yet? If they are not, you’ve got some more repeating to do.
Every year about this time, probably because of Presidents Day, I re-read brief biographies. This year, I selected Ulysses S, Grant (1822-1885), 18th President of the United States. This is one of two, the other written by Josiah Bunting III that is part of Times Books’ “The American Presidents” series, with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. serving as general editor. Although both Korda and Bunting cover much of the same material, there are significant differences between their respective approaches to the18th president of the United States.
For example, Bunting clearly disagrees with, indeed resents the fact that Grant is generally remembered “as a general, not a president, [which] explains in part the condescension – there is no better word for it — from which pundits and historians have tended to write of him.” Bunting asserts that if judged by the consequences of Grant’s common sense, judgment, and intuition, his presidency, “so far from being one of the nation’s worst, may yet be seen as one of the best.”
Korda indicates no inclination to view Grant’s presidency as “one of the best.” He duly acknowledges the problems which awaited Grant after he was elected to his first term in 1869. “What did Grant’s reputation as a president in, however, (and continues to do so today whenever journalists and historians are drawing up lists of the best presidents vs. the worst ones), was the depression of 1873, which ushered in a long period of unemployment and distress, made politically more damaging by accusations that the president’s wealthy friends were making money out of it.” Given that the United States was growing too fast, in too many different directions at once, and the inevitable consequence was corruption and an unstable economy, “it would have taken a more astute man than Grant to slow things down or clean them up.”
This last observation by Korda is consistent with a contemporary assessment of Grant by the Edinburgh Review, one which Brooks Simpson quotes in his own study (Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction 1861-1868), and which Bunting also cites: “To bind up the wounds left by the war, to restore concord to the still distracted Union, to ensure real freedom to the Southern Negro, and full justice to the southern white; these are indeed tasks which might tax the powers of Washington himself or a greater than Washington, if such a man is to be found.”
In his Epilogue, Korda explains that he wrote this book because, from time to time, “it is necessary to remind Americans about Grant, first of all because his is a kind of real-life Horatio Alger story, exactly the one that foreigners have always wanted to believe about American life…and that Americans want to believe about themselves.” Yes, his presidency was severely flawed but as a general, Grant “defined for all time the American way of winning a war”: It must have an essentially moral base to earn and sustain the full support of the American people, it must take full advantage of its great industrial strength and depth of manpower, and it must apply aggressively – without hesitation — all of its resources to achieve the ultimate military objective, total victory.
However, Korda suggests that any politician contemplating the use of military force should first consider lessons which Grant learned from failed Reconstruction initiatives in the South: “armies of occupation are no substitute for political thought, and that generals are not be necessarily the right people to institute basic political reforms or to reconstruct society.”
It remains for others much better qualified than I am to comment on the relevance of that statement to America’s current military involvement in various parts of the world. However, I greatly appreciate Korda’s attempt to provide a balanced view of Grant in terms of his character, talents, and values…all of which served him so well on the battlefield but which proved insufficient to the political challenges that he encountered later as the 18th president of the United States.
“We Must Rise To The Majestic Heights Of Meeting Physical Force With Soul Force” – Dr. Martin Luther King Beckons Us Toward Non-Violence
(note; I write on this blog about business topics, business books – and a few other subjects. I also teach Speech. This article refers to a section of what some call the greatest speech delivered in the United States in the 20th Century).
Today is Martin Luther King Day. I have read his words, watched him on video, read biographies. He was a remarkable man – a remarkable leader.
In this year, on this day, maybe it would be good to remember his clarion call for non-violence.
He had reason to demand change. He was the Pastor of the church where Rosa Parks was a member. Her “crime” was technically a crime, but a crime based on an unjust law. Dr. King would later write:
I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail – read the full text of the letter here).
And he knew that to gain freedom, to gain equality and justice, he had to “demand it.”
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed. (Again, from the Letter from Birmingham Jail).
But, how to demand it? This is where Dr. King’s greatness is seen. He believed in demanding it/taking it without violence. His friends had been beaten. Some had been killed. (many, over the decades). Freedom Riders had had their heads bashed in. (Here’s one example: just read the Wikipedia article about Congressman John Lewis, regarding his early activist years. For a gripping photograph of John Lewis, with bandages on the back of his head after being beaten by the KKK, in 1961, go to this Slate.com Magnum Photos slide show — look at picture #6. The photo is from a press conference, and the future Congressman Lewis is seated next to Dr. King).
But Dr. King was certain that to respond to violence with violence was not the answer. Here are words from his greatest speech, I Have a Dream, delivered at The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963 (read the full speech here):
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
Today, in relative comfort, four decades removed from the turmoil of that era, we forget that the approach of non-violence was not guaranteed to “win” the day. There were other voices, recommending other paths — like Malcolm X, in a speech delivered some eight months after Dr. King’s, on April 3, 1964: The Ballot or the Bullet (read the full speech here):
The question tonight, as I understand it, is “The Negro Revolt, and Where Do We Go From Here?” or What Next?” In my little humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet.
If we don’t do something real soon, I think you’ll have to agree that we’re going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet. It’s one or the other in 1964. It isn’t that time is running out – time has run out!
There’s new strategy coming in. It’ll be Molotov cocktails this month, hand grenades next month, and something else next month. It’ll be ballots, or it’ll be bullets. It’ll be liberty, or it will be death. The only difference about this kind of death — it’ll be reciprocal.
The black nationalists aren’t going to wait. Lyndon B. Johnson is the head of the Democratic Party. If he’s for civil rights, let him go into the Senate next week and declare himself. Let him go in there right now and declare himself. Let him go in there and denounce the Southern branch of his party. Let him go in there right now and take a moral stand — right now, not later. Tell him, don’t wait until election time. If he waits too long, brothers and sisters, he will be responsible for letting a condition develop in this country which will create a climate that will bring seeds up out of the ground with vegetation on the end of them looking like something these people never dreamed of. In 1964, it’s the ballot or the bullet.
The contrast is so stark. And the judgement of history is correct. Dr. King’s speech was the greatest delivered in the era – not the one by Malcom X. Why? Because, ultimately, the path of non-violence is the better path.
This is the message of Dr. King. But his was not a soft message. He had studied Gandhi. He believed that the path of non-violence was the path that had the greatest possibility of success. Dr. King believed that the path of violence was both wrong, but also a losing path.
On Martin Luther King Day, let’s remember the turmoil of his era, the path he beckoned us toward, and the truth that the struggle for justice – justice for all – is ongoing, for us and our children and our grandchildren, and generations to come. And let’s remember his message: that freedom must be demanded, but never with acts of violence.
This is one in a series of volumes that anthologizes what the editors of the Harvard Business Review consider to be the “must reads” in a given business subject area, in this instance self-management. I have no quarrel with any of their selections, each of which is eminently deserving of inclusion. Were all of these article purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be $60 and the value of any one of them exceeds that. Given the fact that Amazon now sells this one for only $15.14, that’s quite a bargain. The same is true of volumes in other series such as “Harvard Business Review on….” and “Harvard Business Essentials.” I also think there is great benefit derived from the convenience of having a variety of perspectives and insights gathered in a single volume
Authors of several articles about self-management later developed their concepts in much greater depth. They include Stewart Friedman (“Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life” was followed by Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life) and Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee (“Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance” was followed by Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence). “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey”?” co-authored by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass continues to be the second most popular HBR article ever published.
The first article, Peter Drucker’s “Managing Yourself,” serves as an excellent introduction to the other nine in which their authors also address issues that remain compelling relevant to those who are struggling to manage themselves effectively. For example, “How Resilience Works” (Diane L. Coutu), “Overloaded Circuits” (Edward M. Hallowell), and “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror” (Robert S. Kaplan). I also appreciate the editors’ skillful use of two reader-friendly devices, “Idea in Brief” and “Idea in Practice,” both of which facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points later.