Category Archives: Series

The Cooking Gene

The Cooking Gene. I don’t think I have it. But I have read the book by the same name by Michael W. Twitty, and I highly recommend it. While its subject matter requires a mature reader, as the Amazon summary says, “As he takes us through his ancestral culinary history, Twitty suggests that healing may come from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past. Along the way, he reveals a truth that is more than skin deep—the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.” 

This is not a cook book by any means. And while it dives a bit too deeply into the food science for my taste, it is to provide a solid foundation for the more relevant discussions built upon it. In these times of racial strife, this book looks at what brings us together to a common table while also examining the deep hurts and atrocities that led to much of the discord which still festers nearly two centuries after the abolition of slavery in the United States.  

Twitty focuses primarily on how southern cuisine is essentially African cuisine, a point which he argues quite effectively. In the preface, he states,  

The Old South is a place where people use food to tell themselves who they are, to tell others who they are, and to tell stories about where they’ve been… It’s a place where arguments over how barbecue is prepared or chicken is served or whether sugar is used to sweeten cornbread can function as culinary shibboleths… I dare to believe all Southerners are a family. We are not merely Native, European, and African. We are Middle eastern and South Asian and East Asian and Latin American, now. We are a dysfunctional family, but we are a family. We are unwitting inheritors of a story with many sins that bears the fruit of the possibility of ten times the redemption. One way is through reconnection with the culinary culture of the enslaved, our common ancestors, and restoring their names on the roots of the Southern tree and the table those roots support. 

Twitty walks the reader through the old south of Virginia and surrounding area and tells the story of how slavery spread through the deep south and westward. He details the differing experiences of slaves depending on where they were sold or traded. He connects how today’s “soul food” connects back to African traditions. How the tradition of fried chicken at funerals is tied to African religious practices. But more importantly, how these traditions are not siloed into one race or culture, but now serve the purpose of uniting us in a shared history.  

“You must know your own past,” is as much a theme of the book as anything else. Twitty details his ancestor’s journey from Africa, to the auction block, to the plantations, and to where they are now. But those aren’t his only lines. Either through force or hushed attraction, his DNA also includes the slave owners and their families as well. As he discusses the conflict it causes him, he becomes a microcosm of the south itself. With its conflicted history, we like Twitty, must discover who we are, where we are going, and how to get there while moving our collective family from dysfunctional to united.  

—–

Twitty, M. (2017). The cooking gene : a journey through African American culinary history in the Old South. New York, NY: Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. 

Dedication and Leadership

Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde is one of my favorite books. Hyde, who had been a member of the Communist Party for over twenty years, renounced his membership and joined the Catholic Church in 1948. However, instead of abandoning the things he had learned as a member of the party, he instead adapted his lessons and training for his new life. This book is an instruction manual of sorts for other organizations (original audience is members of the Catholic Church) to apply the techniques to building dedication to the cause and leadership abilities in their membership. Continue reading

Dedication and Leadership

Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde is one of my favorite books. Hyde, who had been a member of the Communist Party for over twenty years, renounced his membership and joined the Catholic Church in 1948. However, instead of abandoning the things he had learned as a member of the party, he instead adapted his lessons and training for his new life. This book is an instruction manual of sorts for other organizations (original audience is members of the Catholic Church) to apply the techniques to building dedication to the cause and leadership abilities in their membership.
Hyde writes that he does not “believe the strength of Communism lies in the strength of its ideas” (p. 12). Instead, he points to the distinguishing mark being, “their zeal, dedication, devotion to their cause, and willingness to sacrifice” (p. 16).

Idealistic young people will want to change the world and will pursue their own idealistic course in any case. If their idealism is not appealed to and canalized within the circles in which they have grown up they will seek elsewhere for an outlet… They say if you make mean little demands upon people, you will get a mean little response which is all you deserve, but, if you make big demands on them, you will get an heroic response (pp 17-18) .

I first became aware of this book when it was quite literally thrown at me at a Leadership Institute school. It is on Morton Blackwell’s “Read to Lead” list. I have since given several copies away to colleagues and friends. Now, it has become even more meaningful from the perspective of an educator.
“Dedication and willingness… must be developed within a person, then drown out of them, not forced in… It is bad psychology and bad politics to ask for too little” (p. 27) How many educators today ask for too little? Hyde gives a direct challenge, “[I]t does not matter how dull a subject may be, it can still be presented in an inspiring way. It is up to the tutor to discover how this can be done.  This calls for thought and ingenuity. But above all else, he must himself be inspired” (p. 50).
Education, even of obscure theories, can be applied to everyday life. “Any Communist tutor who is worth his salt finishes each class with these words: ‘What are the comrades going to do about what they have learned today?’… The first item on the agenda when the class next meets will be: ‘How did the comrades apply what they learned last week?’” (p. 56)

Education is not for the sake of education. To pursue that focus is to totally miss the mark. Instead, education should provide the tools for life. “The Communist tutor is expected to remind himself over and over again that he is not just concerned with passing on knowledge to people. His aim is to equip them for action and to assist them to become leaders” (p. 74) That must be our focus. It grieves me when a student tells me they want to be pre-med or pre-law so they can make a lot of money. If we can convince them to be dedicated to the cause of excellence in everything from term papers to their part-time jobs, success will follow. We must teach them to be the leaders of the next generation. If just a few of the students who pass through our classroom could learn that lesson, a career as an educator will be worth it.  


Reference:
Hyde, Douglas. Dedication and Leadership. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966.

If Aristotle Ran General Motors

Preface:
This is a review “If Aristotle Ran General Motors” by Tom Morris that I originally wrote for my Administrative Ethics course with Dr. Hank Edmondson in Fall 2009.  Although it was written in 1998, this book remains, in my mind, one of the best resources for explaining ethical theory in relatable and understandable terms.  

The somewhat ruthless corporate world would, at first glance, seem to be the last entity which would seem willing to integrate the principles of ancient philosophy.  However, Tom Morris makes the integration of these two seemingly conflicting interests his goal in If Aristotle Ran General Motors.[1] Morris is well qualified for this challenge.  Holding doctorate degrees in both philosophy and religious studies from Yale University in addition to several other honorary doctorates, he spent fifteen years as a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.[2]  He has been featured in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Readers’ Digest, and USA Today[3].  He currently serves as the chair of the Morris Institute of Human Values in Wilmington, North Carolina.[4]

The book begins with the assertion that:

The newest problems we face can’t be solved without the most ancient wisdom we have.  It’s time for a wake-up call to summon us all to the enterprise of a little collective philosophy.  We’ve come to a juncture in a history when we need to understand the human condition more deeply than ever before and apply that understanding to the way we live and do business every day; the people we live with and do business with will not be satisfied with anything less.[5]

So, what is the ancient wisdom which needs to be applied to the newest of problems, be they personal, professional, or public policy?  Morris points to four separate “dimensions of the human experience” which have four goals: truth, beauty, goodness, and unity.[6]

Truth is nearly universally recognized as being powerful, to the extent that “even people who lie to you indicate in a backward sort of way their partial, and deeply flawed, recognition of at least some power of the truth; they think of it as too powerful to be entrusted to you.”[7] But, what then is truth?  What is known and communicated about certain fact is likened to a roadmap.  Truth is when that roadmap corresponds directly to what is actually there. “It [truth] is the relationship of accuracy that holds between a good map and the territory it represents.”[8]  Morris continues to explain that in order for one individual to trust another, truth must always be present.  Trust, in turn, is the “absolute necessity for truly effective interpersonal activity.”[9]

Without all the facts relevant to their jobs, people feel lost and sense a lack of control over their lives and destinies.  Nature does abhor this kind of vacuum.  Human beings can’t stand to feel helpless, so to compensate, they latch on to the first notion around that looks like relevant fact.  And then the speculation or gossip spreads like fire, consuming the hearts and minds of the people it touches.

Human beings can’t do without truth.  If they don’t have the genuine article, they’ll fall for anything that passes for it.  And this can create serious problems for any company. [10]

Furthermore, once the truth-based trust is lost through deception, “nothing short of divine intervention can rebuild the relationship and create a positive result.”[11] Therefore, “lying is one of the most dangerously corrosive and subtly destabilizing activities to be found in human life.”[12]

So, the truth is important to relationships with others, be they personal relationships or professional relationships.  That has, at this point, been well established.  What then about beauty?  Its purpose is well understood in the personal realm, but does it fit into business? Beauty “refreshes, restores, and inspires.”[13]  It then may be reasonably inferred that employees who are surrounded by beauty will be refreshed and inspired, and overall productivity will increase.  John Muir is quoted as saying, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”[14]  While aesthetics is one dimension of beauty in the workplace, there is another which is even more necessary. 

Workers do not simply need to be surrounded by beauty, but they need to create beauty as well.  While, it may seem like this would be limited to those in artistic occupations, anyone can create beauty in the workplace.  Beauty depends on what is valued.  If an employee values the product he or she is producing, they are producing beauty.  “There is beauty in providing acknowledged excellence of quality in a service or product.”[15]

So then, that leaves goodness.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau defined goodness as “only beauty put into practice.”[16]

Like truth and beauty, goodness is the soil within which the soul can grow and flourish.  Without it, human beings wither and harden and spiritually die.   Goodness is a necessary condition for healthy relationships and for thriving community.  Morality is not about deprivation, denial, and artificial constraint; quite to the contrary, it is about ultimately living as well as human beings are capable of living.[17]

At its core, goodness is the heart of ethics.  Every different viewpoint seeks to explain one central question.  While the paths to the goal may differ with each different philosophy, the eventual goal is “spiritually healthy people in socially harmonious relationships.”[18]  If a group of people, no matter the size, are working together for a common goal, the result will be much more powerful than if each individual was working on his or her own.  “The harmony of guitar strings vibrating together produces what no particular string could give rise to alone.  Socially harmonious relationships among human peoples can be likewise uniquely productive.”[19]

This leads to the last dimension, that of unity.  Unity fulfils the spiritual desires of an individual.  Morris refers to unity as the “ultimate target of the spiritual dimension.”[20]  He acknowledges “Alienation and the adversarial mindset are everywhere.”  Yet, “this is not a spiritual state of being.  It is, rather, the antithesis of what spirituality aspires to realize.”[21]

So, how does one move towards unity?  Eliel Sarrinen, an architect, offers some insight: “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan”[22] The same principle can apply to individuals.  How should one act at home, at work, at worship?  They are all interconnected and individuals must be the same person at all three locations, even though different aspects of their personality may emerge.

This concentration on unity is not to disparage individualism.  Instead, it works to take the strengths of each individual in the group and combine these strengths into a group force which is powerful beyond the imagination of any individual.  Working together towards a common goal, while preserving individual identity is the true purpose of unity.  Homer wrote, “Not in vain the weakest, if their force unite.”[23]  A shared purpose will unite, and inspire individuals to set aside smaller differences, which can weaken the organization. 

Morris concludes:

Organizational success and inner-personal satisfaction require significant doses of truth, beauty, goodness, and unity.  These four timeless values are the four foundations of sustainable excellence and human flourishing.  Nothing less will do… 

We need to thrust our roots down as far as possible into the innermost springs of human thought and behavior.  We need to find the most universal and reliable touchstones of sustainable excellence and the most fundamental keys to ultimate motivation.  In the end, it is only the rock-bottom truth about human happiness and fulfillment that will give us enduring foundations for our work together.[24]

This book undertakes a difficult task, and yet manages to accomplish it.  The cold, hard, fact and profit based world of business seems at direct odds with the contemplative and theoretical world of philosophy.  Yet, Morris manages to make the connection in an organized and convincing manner.  Using language typical of the management and leadership genres, If Aristotle Ran General Motors presents a well-rounded overview of philosophical principles and makes clear connections from the ancient wisdom to the modern day problems they would alleviate. 

Pospisil, writing for Industry Week, agrees: 

Morris weaves the observations of numerous philosophers, literary and political figures, and social historians into his text to pique the reader’s interest in applying ancient wisdom and contemporary thought to everyday business problems.[25]

The trend for the merger of philosophy and business has not been lost on major industry publications.  The Economist wrote:

Company executives in search of wisdom are turning from psychotherapy and religion to the cleverest thinkers of all: ancient philosophers. For corporations, philosophy has become the latest management fad.  Tom Morris, author of “If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business”, earns $30,000 an hour-one of the highest fees for a non-celebrity speaker in America–for teaching Socrates and Hegel to the likes of IBM, Campbell Soup, General Electric and Ford.[26]

Beyond being called a “management fad” the book has been seemingly well received.  The Virginia Quarterly Review called the book, “entertaining, full of interesting anecdotes and quotes, and food for thought for anyone whose daily tasks require working with other people.”[27]  The Library Journal summarizes the book as maintaining, “the path to business and personal excellence lies in pursuing the virtues that Aristotle identified as truth, beauty, goodness, and unity” and offering “examples from various businesses to show how well they succeed as a result of their pursuit of these virtues.”[28]  It concludes, “Morris writes with style and humor, which makes this book an enjoyable and thought-provoking one.  His work provides insight into both professional and personal conduct.  Recommended for both public and academic libraries.”[29]

Finally, Training & Development writes:

Morris applies his 15 years’ experience as a philosophy teacher and the writings of history’s wisest thinkers to today’s changing business milieu. Much of the wisdom sprinkled throughout the book is that of-you guessed it-Aristotle. But Morris also includes quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Saint Augustine, Francis Bacon, and many others. 

“The philosophers of the centuries, from Plato and Aristotle to the present day, have left us the equivalent of a huge bank account of wisdom that we can draw on for a wealth of insight applicable to both business and the rest of life. 

Find out why the four timeless virtues-Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Unity-are relevant to the modern workplace, and learn how to make those qualities the foundation of your everyday business and personal life.[30]

Morris attempts to bridge an interesting divide.  While the recent events in major companies across the country highlight more than ever the need for a renewed interest in the study of ethical behavior, the bridge presented here, while unique, accomplishes the goal in a convincing fashion. 

The wisdom of the ancients (and some not so ancients) applied to modern business problems is a novel approach.  Business, and just about any other form of modern management, typically has a myopic focus.  The only focus is earning a profit.  When financial security is the primary focus, every moral and ethical obligation soon becomes flawed to achieve that end. 

To circumvent this attraction to flawed logic, another focus must be determined.  If an entity, be it an individual or a transnational corporation, shifts its focus from earning a profit, to reaching for the ancient principles found in philosophy – truth, beauty, goodness, and unity – the actions preformed by that entity will still lead to a profit  (at least in most cases) but will do so without violating moral obligations.

This book, in fact, illustrates the need for a liberal arts education.  It is not enough for students to learn how to balance a ledger, or to create a marketing campaign.  These students must be taught to approach each problem they encounter not through the myopic lens of simple profit and self-promotion, but through the multi-faceted, interdisciplinary lens of a liberal arts education. Looking at an issue from a collection of different angles will illuminate the one best course of action.

References:
[1] Morris, Tom. If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business. 1st ed. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.
[2] Morris Institute of Human Values, “Tom Morris – Biography.”  2008. http://www.morrisinstitute.com/index.php?s=morris&c=tm (accessed September 27, 2009). para.2
[3] Ibid, para.  4
[4] Ibid, para. 2
[5] Morris, If Aristotle Ran General Motors, 3
[6] Ibid, 19-20
[7] Ibid, 26
[8] Ibid, 26
[9] Ibid, 30
[10] Ibid, 30
[11] Ibid, 43
[12] Ibid, 44
[13] Ibid, 70
[14] Ibid, 71
[15] Ibid, 81
[16] Ibid, 116
[17] Ibid, 117
[18] Ibid, 118
[19] Ibid, 119
[20] Ibid, 179
[21] Ibid, 179
[22] Ibid, 181
[23] Ibid, 194
[24] Ibid, 212 – 213
[25] Pospisil, Vivian. “Ethics check.” Industry Week/IW 246, no. 17 (September 15, 1997): 36. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 27, 2009). para. 9
[26] “Socrates, for pleasure and profit.” Economist 355, no. 8176 (June 24, 2000): 75-75. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 27, 2009). para. 1
[27] “Notes on current books: National & international relations.” Virginia Quarterly Review 74, no. 2 (Spring98 1998): 63. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 27, 2009).
[28] Toschik, Joseph C. “Book reviews: Social sciences.” Library Journal 122, no. 15 (September 15, 1997): 83. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 27, 2009).
[29] Ibid
[30] Cohen, Sacha. “Books.” Training & Development 52, no. 1 (January 1998): 70. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed September 27, 2009).

Godly Men – My Father

To conclude this little series, I wanted to talk a bit about the man who I have known the longest, how has made the most extensive impact on my life – My father. I know I inherited his love of travel. Mom jokes about both of our middle names being “Let’s go.” I can have a duffle bag packed and be headed for the door a bit quicker than he can now, but he would be right behind me. The only thing that would get him out the door quicker was if someone needs him.

I was raised with a strong example. A few weeks ago, on a rather lazy Saturday morning, we received a phone call. It was a bit early, but not a big deal. I was heading outside in my farm clothes (old jeans and holey t-shirt) to feed the horse. I heard “What hospital?” and I knew to turn around, head back to my bedroom, shave and get dressed. We were going somewhere. I have been shocked to discover that such a reaction is not typical for people in my age group. It has always been an automatic assumption in my household, even to the point where it is second nature even when dad was off at a football game at the other side of the state.

I posted a few weeks ago about giving a speech at GMC. The man who introduced me (Edward Shelor, also mentioned on Tuesday) pulled me aside before the start of the event. He told me that he had my introduction, but wouldn’t be mentioning my “greatest accomplishment.” A few years earlier, he had been taken to the hospital with abnormal heart rhythm. His niece, who is one of my best friends, and who I was working with on the campaign at the time, called and told me. She was worried because she was stuck at a campaign event for another hour. What she didn’t know is that dad had heard me talking on the phone, had gotten dressed, and we were on our way before she had even finished telling me what was happening. We beat her to the hospital. What Shelor calls my “greatest accomplishment” is nothing more than the influence of my father being automatically applied in a real life situation.

Some of my other “great achievements” have been planning events. As a graduate assistant, I had to plan two program dinners, and oversee a statewide academic conference. My first time meeting with the caterer, she made the comment, “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” No, I had not. I had just been sitting in dad’s meetings setting up conferences for most of my life. By my being able to see him organizing conferences twice a year for most of my life, I was ready and knew what had to be done. While I did get nervous, I was able to pull it off without panicking.

Dad has a network of spies. By network, I mean a HUGE network. I can be anywhere in the state and run into someone who refers to me as “Little Quincy.” It’s not uncommon for Dad to know where I am, and who I’m with, before I’m even done with my dinner. Some of his spies (I’m thinking of Harold Mason here, among others) even like getting me in trouble. (I promise, I had shrimp gumbo in that glass, not a margarita… My Diet Coke was right beside me on the table.)

Dad has always been a model of hospitality and responsibility. During the summer, he keeps our yard in immaculate condition. He cuts the grass once or twice a week. He always asks me (bugs me?) about checking the oil in my truck and keeping it clean. He is always willing and eager to invite people over for lunch after church, or for dinner during the week.
He loves music, as do I. While our styles may be slightly different, we still are able to sing with each other and have a good time. He leads the music at our church. While he might annoy me at times with his song selection (seriously, I can almost guarantee that one of four songs will be sung every Sunday…) I have come to have a new respect for the dedication it requires. He’s started getting me to fill in for him when he can’t be there. While I still feel a little out of place, that is just another thing we share.

I remember how proud I was the first time Dad and I had gone somewhere and we were introduced as “Mr. Simpson and his father.” But, I know I’ll always be Little Quincy, and that’s okay with me. Love you, Dad.

Godly Men – Marc

Forgive me if this is a bit rambling, but I’m writing a bit later than I would have liked. There are some men who come into your life seeming by happenstance. Eight years ago, there was a family that had been visiting our church for a while, but I really didn’t know them. They sat on the other side, and none of the kids were my age (at least from the perspective of a 16 year old). I knew the father was a teacher or something, but they soon announced they were moving, so my lack of knowing more really didn’t matter. Then, it happened.

This was when I was working with a construction company. We had a killer of a remodel job that summer. It was an old house and hadn’t been updated any since, I would guess, the late 50s or early 60s. Needless to say, it was rather labor intensive undertaking. As I said, the family was relocating. Mr. Marc had finished the previous academic year, and was transferring to a new school system in northeast Georgia. In the meantime, my boss asked him if he wanted to join the crew (He had worked construction while he was in college) for a few weeks in between the professional gigs.

Mr. Marc and I were tasked to work together, adding a light in the attic. It was the middle of summer, in the south. Attics in the south in the summer are best described as hell. Needless to say, it was HOT. If you know me, you know that I don’t take heat well. I thought I was not so slowly melting. The only thing that made those few days bearable was getting to know Mr. Marc.

I don’t know if he remembers it or not. I was still in high school, but planning on going to the tech school to pursue a certificate in residential wiring. (Yes, this now professor’s dirty little secret… my first post secondary program was a tech school.) Anyway… since I was going off to the big bad tech school, he gave me a verse to remember.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. ~ Colossians 2:8

That verse stuck with me the following seven years as I finished my four programs. Then a few years ago, they moved back. As time continued to go on, I noticed something. He was one of the first ones to treat me as a man, instead of a child. I know that sounds weird, but when there are people with an age gap, that you’ve know for your entire life, it takes longer. It was like with Mr. Marc, the gap was just small enough, and given that we really started to get to know each other when I was in my 20s, and he accepted me into adulthood.

Mr. Marc is a man whose passion for God is obvious in his life, and that passion reflects in his family. His children range from teenagers to infants, and their love and respect for him is obvious. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes is right, even when his opinion is not popular. He has laid the foundations of many generations of Godly offspring. “His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed” (Psalm 72:17). Even beyond that, he has proven an example to me of the rewards which occur when scriptural principles are maintained.

Thank you, Mr. Marc, for being an example to me. Thank you for accepting me as, albeit admittedly somewhat younger, peer. Thank you for your friendship, and the friendship of your family.

Godly Men – Bruce

Originally, I was planning on just focusing on men who have journeyed further along life’s path than I. But there is one guy I felt compelled to include as a major influence on my life who is only a few months older.

It is quite surprising that we haven’t killed each other or sent each other to the hospital more than we have. I broke his arm while playing on a trampoline. He smashed me in the face with a railroad tie sending me to the hospital to get my lip reattached. He was there when I face planted into the side of a hill while horseback riding and broke six teeth. I was there right after he was kicked in the head by a horse he was helping to train. No, I wasn’t there when he decided he wanted to be part of the house we were building and nailed himself to the wall, but my absence then was the exception.

My earliest memory of the two of us was us deciding to play in the leaves instead of touring Appomattox Courthouse while visiting his family in Virginia when we were both six. Since then, we have played together, worked together, built several houses together, and become adults together. I remember the excitement when my mother called me to see how to look at a picture message of him and a girl with the caption, “She said yes!” I remember about a year ago looking across the packed sanctuary as Dana Sorrow and Bruce Clayton entered into a lifelong covenant before God and their friends and became Mr. And Mrs. Bruce Clayton. I remember, a few months ago sitting in a crowded waiting area with eager anticipation as Bruce walked out and told us that Bradley had been born.

There are people whose life is inevitably intertwined with each other. Bruce and I have that kind of friendship. His mother sang at my parents’ wedding. We worked together while we were in high school. And now, we are neighbors, and best friends. Bruce is the kind of friend that will sit on a truck toolbox with you through the night and into the early hours of the morning while every aspect of a major life decision is discussed, debated, and evaluated while the bonfire that once roared brightly is consumed to ash. He is the kind of friend who will challenge me when I’m wrong. He is the kind of friend who I’m okay with being locked in a car with him, my family, and his family for 16 (or more) hours in two days. I know he is, because we have done these things, and more.

I have known the friendship of Bruce for most of my life. Now, I am excited to see him become a man. I have seen him stand up and protect his family. I have seen him keep his cool when things became heated. I have watched from the sidelines as he has become an amazing husband and father. If I can be part of the man he is, I will be doing pretty good.

“If” By Richard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

Godly Men – Educational Mentors

The number one factor of student success in college is attending class.

The statement above may not seem to be very profound, until you consider it is still burned in my mind from five years ago. There have been two men during the course of my academic career who have provided guidance through the intense, often confusing journey through the halls of academia. Over the course of my undergraduate and graduate education, I attended two institutions. I was able to find a close friend and mentor at both.

At Georgia Military College, the man was Edward Shelor. This retired Marine Lt. Colonel turned history professor not only was able to bring his personal experiences into the classroom and make the material come alive, but also welcomed students into his office to sit and talk about history, politics (aka, history in the making), and educational topics in general. I’ve had the chance not only to get to know him, but also his sister and niece through working campaigns. As such, he’s grown to be not only a professional and educational mentor, but as a member of my extended family.

Once I transferred to Georgia College, I met the man I’d annoy for the next four years (and counting) quite by accident. My first class was supposed to be with Dr. Womack, but she had some health issues that semester. So, one Prof. Wilkinson fill in for the first half of the course. Now, known simply as W, he has been a constant source of advice, and not all of it was good. 🙂

The man is known for his pranks. While I never was sent to the airport to pickup “someone” (who turned out to be a skeleton from a closing doctor’s office) or had flowers sent to someone on my behalf, he still managed to give me a hard time. More than once I went to meet him for lunch (and sometimes dinner), and instead walked into a perfectly setup blind date with someone who typically either had major religious differences, already had a boyfriend, or in some cases, a girlfriend.

But, this was also the guy who convinced me to attend my first academic conference, who talked me into presenting a conference paper as a senior instead of waiting until I got to grad school, and the first one who actually told me to go ahead and do the thesis. During one of the most depressing times I’ve endured, following the election of 2006, he convinced me to get my application in for the Georgia Legislative Intern Program, one of the best experiences of my life.

His office is always open to his students, and to those who wish they were his students. It is known simply as Club W. If you walk by, be prepared for it to be full or overflowing. He oftentimes reminds me of the pied piper by the number of people who follow him around. He may have an idiosyncrasy or two (or a dozen, there’s a reason I didn’t use his full name) but he was a constant source of encouragement (and old style soft peppermint) during my time at GCSU, and since.

He doesn’t talk much about his past, which has led to some interesting speculation by some of the students. My personal favorite is that is the basis of the Most Interesting Man in the World of the Dos Equis commercials.

Tomorrow, a man I grew up alongside. We’ve been responsible for sending each other to the emergency room, and yet, we are as close as brothers.

Godly Men – Historical Heroes

You didn’t expect all my heroes would actually be living, did you? I am WAY too nerdy for that. 🙂 And the truth is, there have been quite a few historical figures who have made an impact on my life.

I have a book that I keep on my desk. Ok, I have a lot of books I keep on my desk, but I’m just talking about this one today. It’s America’s God and Country edited by William J. Federer (Amazon). This amazing complication of quotations and writings focuses on the founding fathers and their influences and catalogues their statements concerning God and Christianity.

These men, like Thomas Paine likened the American cause to a religious duty:

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolidation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; ‘tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.[1]

George Washington proclaimed that, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”[2] This first president of the United States also said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”[3]

Patrick Henry, the fiery patriot of the revolution, is famous for his statement, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” But, that is only a small section of his speech that day.

We shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave…

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”[4]

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, author of The Federalist Papers, and President of the United States, wrote that “Religion [is] the basis and Foundation of Government.”[5] He also wrote, “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage… Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.”[6]

That leads to my historical hero of heroes. This man not only was a driving force behind the Declaration of Independence, but he also served as ambassador and as President of the United States. In the midst of this, he and his wife raised and nurtured a son who followed his father’s lead and served as President. This is a man who would have preferred to stay with his family, but answered the call of duty and served his country in nearly as many roles as existed. This man is, of course, John Adams. He wrote:

Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.

The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure, than they have it now, they may change their Rulers and the Forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.[7]

He knew the struggle for independence would not be an easy task. He wrote:

If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, and that a free country![8]

Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgment approves this measure [The Declaration of Independence], and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence Now, and Independence forever![9]

Regardless of what is presented in 1776 – The Musical, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were often bitter rivals. They wrote to each other often in heated discussion. In these letters, Adams said:

I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.[10]

Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company… The most abandoned scoundrel that ever existed, never yet wholly extinguished his Conscience and while Conscience remains, there is some religion.[11]

Doug Philips wrote Ode to Dabney to honor one of his heroes, Robert Louis Dabney. Dabney had been personal aide to Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson during the war, and later became known as a leading apologist. Philips provides this introduction, “Robert Lewis Dabney is best known as the premier defender of Christian orthodoxy to emerge from the South in the latter half of the 19th century. A theologian of rock-solid convictions, Dabney not only stood against the rising tide of modernity, but he was able to predict with devastating accuracy the consequences of compromise for the American church.[12]

Tomorrow, I will discuss two men who are a bit more modern. These two men led and advised me through the often tricky and potentially devastating journey of higher education. But, to close this post, I leave you with Philip’s Ode to Dabney.

We must remember Thornwell, Palmer, Girardeau —
All Southern men who preached with power, unity, and flow;
But when it comes to logic pure there’s one that tops our list:
Hail Dabney, prophet of the South, our great apologist.


Geneva had its Calvin, Rome its Augustine,
England had is Cromwell to fight the libertine;
But in our land there was but one who dared to turn the tide
Of reconstructionistic zeal and yankeedom’s foul pride.


The feminist, the plutocrat, the wiley carpetbagger,
The Darwinist, the bureaucrat, and transcendental braggart;
The scalawag, the suffragette, the surly Statist simp
Were by your pen defrocked, exposed, and wounded, left to limp.


The solomonic wisdom from your pugilistic pen
Has rendered impotent the creeds of far less noble men;
And with a keen, perceptive flair that exceeds Nostradamus,
Your prophesies have proven wrong each foolish doubting Thomas.


You make us leave our comfort zone and re-engage the battle,
Content no more to tolerate the sophomoric prattle
Of Socialists, Republicrats, and those who compromise;
No longer may we coddle them or listen to their lies.


And so with joy we doff our hats and shout from every mouth:
Hail Dabney, wise apologist, defender of the South![13]

References:


[1] Paine, T. December 23, 1776, The American Crisis. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 490

[2] Washington, G. October 3, 1789, From the city of New York, Presidential Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 654

[3] Washington, G. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 660

[4]Henry, P. March 23, 1775 Speech to the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 288

[5] Madson, J. June 20, 1785. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 410

[6] Ibid.

[7] Adams, J. June 21, 1776, Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing, p. 8

[8] Adams, J. June 21, 1776, In contemplating the personal effect that separation from England would produce. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing, p. 8

[9] Adams, J. July 1, 1776, Speaking to the delegates of the Continental Congress, Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing, pp. 8-9

[10] Adams, J. December 25, 1813, Letter to Thomas Jefferson. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 13

[11] Adams, J. April 18, 1817, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 14

[12] Philips, D. (2004, July 14). Ode to Dabney. Retrieved from http://www.visionforum.com/news/blogs/doug/2004/07/793/

[13] Ibid.

Five Days of Godly Men

Give us Men! Men-from every rank, Fresh and free and frank; Men of thought and reading, Men of light and leading, Men of loyal breeding, The nation’s welfare speeding; Men of faith and not of fiction, Men of lofty aim in action; Give us Men-I say again, Give us Men!

There is a lot to be said of bloggers. I love writing, though I don’t do it as often as I need. I love reading the writing of others. But, there is another type of new media commentary, the video bloggers, or vloggers. One of the Vlogs I view on a regular basis is “For The Record” with Molotov Mitchell of World Net Daily. While I may not totally agree with everything he says, I love the passion and fire with which he says it.

One of his episodes a few weeks ago was about a thirteen year old boy who, for his birthday, was given a gift from his father which I think is one of the greatest gifts that can be given. Instead of something temporal, like a video game console or another toy, the father set up 52 meetings for his son with Godly men around the country. (The son is chronicling his journey at www.52godlymen.com.)

Give us Men! Strong and stalwart ones; Men whom highest hope inspires,
Men whom purest honor fires, Men who trample self beneath them, Men who make their country wreath them As her noble sons, Worthy of their sires; Men who never shame their mothers, Men who never fail their brothers, True, however false are others: Give us Men-I say again, Give us Men!

No individual reaches adulthood without the influences of people around them. It is a wise father who seeks to ensure that those surrounding people are Godly men of character. Now, I am far from thirteen years old. And I have never traveled to meet me. But, I have not needed to travel. God has brought a host of Mighty Men of Valor into my life to give me advice and to who me an example of the Christian life.

Over the next five days, in honor of Thanksgiving, I am going to be posting tributes to some of these men. The list will not be inclusive, but without them, I would not be who I am today.

Give us Men! Men who, when the tempest gathers, Grasp the standard of their fathers In the thickest fight; Men who strike for home and altar, (Let the coward cringe and falter), God defend the right! True as truth the lorn and lonely, Tender, as the brave are only, Men who treat where saints have trod, Men for Country, Home- and God: Give us Men! I say again- again- Give us Men!
~ Josiah Gilbert Holland