MY father coached me incessantly but never told me what to do. You will remember how he laughed loudly with children, how he would squat low and look you close in the face. He loved nothing more than children. Good was good to him, and bad was bad. I would travel a million miles to see him now, if that were possible, but it is not. I would catch him up, and Mother, with how things have gone, and not gone. He would find it all interesting, and the coaching would continue about what he liked to call human nature. He never said it would be easy.
Organizations need help today, I would tell him. I was not aware of this 34 years ago, when I was graduating from the same university as you are tomorrow. The emphasis then was on individual achievement. Organizations - businesses, unions, government, universities, churches - appeared stable. Only the lives of the creative (writers, artists), and those who failed (war-traumatized veterans, the poor), carried on apart from organizational structure. Families, churches, schools supported the community.
To live a life of service it is no longer enough to help individuals. The counsel of self-reliance, filial respect, faithful church attendance may still be foundational, but it is not up to the challenge when whole systems of organization totter and individuals feel scattered helplessly about. Organizations preeminently need our support.
Congress and the public schools are beleaguered. To blame society's troubles on their behavior is to miss the point. Our institutions can be said to be an aggregate expression of society's current thinking on how things should be done. Law firms are failing, banks are failing. Businesses are "restructuring," "downsizing," and going on "quality" kicks, in the moment's jargon. For the individual, simple survival can look like success.
This is not how it ought to be.
Vice President Quayle does not like to see a professional woman, unwed, having a baby in a television series. What can he know of the desires for motherhood of so many women today, in a world that requires them to be self-supporting?
Self-reliance takes on a new dimension when organizations, which used to offer a measure of recognition and reward, have come under such public attack.
Thanks are hard to come by. Usually when thanks are precisely what we want they are withheld. Brace for that.
For leaders from the classroom to the courtroom, there is no final approving grade.
Whatever you do, never adopt an institutional voice.
Fairness, or applying the same rule to all, including yourself, ultimately ends disputes. The impersonality of justice underlies its compassion. When you are petitioned for personal exception - a persistent demand - you must also find a way to maintain the integrity of the system.
Something in human nature resists progress. The ignorant argue for their ignorance, the selfish for their selfishness, as if it were their right. In such cases you must press ahead for the superiority of good over what they think they know.
People would do better if they knew how to do better. When organizational inertia sets in, you may have to construe, visualize, invent the new concepts or procedures needed for progress.
At the same time, don't underestimate the value of teamwork, the collective power of individuals who want to improve things. An informal committee of advisers has saved many a failing venture. You will recognize these persons when you need them.
Friends and work associates may have to provide the affirmative personal support for many individuals that family cannot.
Even so, when you have run through your personal counselors, friends, family, professors, mentors, on some issue, and still need an answer, you may have come to where we should start: This is the knowledge that God loves us. He knows us. He structures all things. The concepts we need and the strength of heart to advance them, He provides to our thought; they are manna; they well up within consciousness continually. Know that He loves you without condition. If I were a million miles away this would still be true.