Byron's Babbles

My Memories Matter

As I wrote the rough draft of this post I was on a plane taxiing to the runway at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. As I looked out window I saw the dome of our Capitol and the Washington Monument (see my pictures). This caused several moments of reflection. I thought about all 12 U.S. Presidents that have been in office since I was born. I thought about the Vietnam War that happened during my lifetime. I thought about President Nixon and his resignation. I thought about the first President I voted for, Ronald Reagan. I thought about the first Gulf War. I thought about 9/11. I thought about wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thought about all the time my son Heath and I spent in Washington D.C. when he was growing up when I brought him with me to the Washington Leadership Conference of the National FFA Organization every year. I thought about getting to pay my respects to Ronald Reagan as he was lying in state in the Capitol rotunda. I thought about being with President Obama in the Oval Office. I thought about spending time with, then Vice President, Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at Number One Observatory Circle. I thought about being awarded the Smithsonian Diffusion Award in the Smithsonian Castle. I thought about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and getting to stand at the Brandenburg Gate where President Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the wall. I thought about being in Vice President Pence’s White House Office. A lot of memories were running through my mind. I realized I’ve experienced a lot in my almost six decades.

That’s a lot of history. That’s a lot of memories. But what does it all mean? Does living through all that matter? Yes, all those memories matter! Our memories make us who we are. They create our worldview in ways we hardly realize. It is why we must be always creating the situations to create memories for our children. We also need to be creating memories for our students. All that we have ever learned, from how to get along and play with others, how to read, and even how to resolve conflicts, makes us who we are. That is why who taught us and our experience of the things we have learned are all embedded in the memories themselves.

Our memories are essential because they allow us to grow and learn to be a better person. Our memories help us understand why we are who we are. When we understand why we are who we are, we become empowered to create ourselves intentionally. Oscar Wilde said, “Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” I am so glad that my peek out the airplane window caused me to open my mind’s diary and begin reflecting on who I am.


Telling Our Stories

Posted in 9/11, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Story, Story Telling, Storytelling by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 10, 2021

I am so loving The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry. Patti has done such an incredible job of developing the characters in this novel. It is yet another affirmation that we can learn so much from fictional characters. We get to know everything about these characters. In real-life and non-fiction we only get to know what is revealed, based on authenticity. In the book it was said that, “Some things can only be told by those living them.” This is why how we live, lead, serve, and tell the story is so important.

Another line in the book, “Sometimes we tell our stories, and sometimes our stories tell us.” If that statement doesn’t cause you to stop, think, and take stock, I’m not sure what will. As I have watched interviews, reflected, and remembered 9/11 today these quotes from the book are even more powerful. Every person who was living on that day experienced the event differently. Those stories can only be told by each of us in the context we lived it. And, for some the stories tell much about the person.

Additionally, I had the chance to eat dinner with my son on Thursday night and his sliders came in a basket lined with cool paper printed with actual news stories. His paper had an article about November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and an article about when the Titanic was found. He wanted to talk about these two things. I was around for those events, but didn’t have much connection with the Titanic. I did, however, live through the Cold War and have stood where the Berlin Wall was and brought home pieces of the Berlin Wall.

As leaders we need to remember these statements. It is why relationships are job one. If we want to live by the Platinum Rule, “Do unto others as they would want to be done to them,” we must know the stories of those we serve. Notice the difference between the Platinum Rule and Golden Rule is only changing “you” to “they” and “them.” Now Jesus might not be happy with me promoting the platinum over the golden, but when we study the leadership of Jesus we find that he also took time to hear the stories and context of those he served. He met people where they were regardless of their story. One thing is for sure: we all have a story. We either tell that story, or it tells us.

Something To Build On

Posted in 9/11, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 28, 2020

“A record is never something to stand on, it’s something to build on…” ~ Richard Nixon in his first debate with John F. Kennedy on September 26, 1960. The two met in Chicago to discuss domestic issues in the first televised debate in history. American History TV did a great job of providing a look back at the first televised presidential debate. Interestingly there were no more debates until 1976. Dr. Barbara Perry, professor at University of Virginia’s Miller Center, did a great job discussing the highlights and answering questions.

Nixon’s statement that our records are something to build on really struck me. For each leader, the records are always a bit different. We must remember, however, that trust is an important piece of our record. People have unique strengths to leverage and vulnerabilities to address. We must not forget that our mistakes are a part of our records. We need to take responsibility for our mistakes. When we admit we’ve made a mistake, you don’t erode trust in your leadership, you strengthen it. When the people we lead see us stepping up and owning our mistakes, they know they can trust us to do the right thing in tough situations.

Nixon’s point was that we should never sit back and become comfortable with past successes; we must continue to build on those successes. It’s always beneficial to review our accomplishments to build on prior successes. The key is to recognize current successes and chart a course for future advancement.

Never Forget

Posted in 9/11, Global Leadership, Leadership, Never Forget by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 11, 2020

This morning as I reflected on 9/11 I caught myself going to my blog archives. Then I had that moment of “Gosh, I’m an idiot!” because I was not blogging yet in 2001. That short moment of stupidity reminded me just how important my blogging is to me. It is a very personal, yet very public, shared diary of my thoughts and learning. I take my blog posts very seriously because they are something I go back to often for reviewing the learning and experiences I have had. When I think about the “never forget” theme around 9/11, I think about how important written personal accounts are, not only from that day, but from every day.

In fact, just yesterday I was in a meeting discussing some past professional development I conducted and pulled up two past blog posts to answer some questions in detail. I was also amazed that the meeting had begun with a person I was meeting for the first time quoting things from my blog. He had combed through my blog to learn about me.

As I continued to think about 9/11 I realized the events of that day served as a catalyst to the start of the blogging revolution. The days of the citizen journalist were born. We want that first hand account from people who are just like us. I was teaching school on 9/11 and I can still remember a teacher coming over from across the hall to tell me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. The TV was on in my room as we were watching the morning school news service that did a morning program for students each day. I did switch over to the news and we saw the towers smoking from a distant news camera. At that time the students in this rural school didn’t have cell phones, and if they did, not like the smartphones of today, so there wasn’t any outside communication going on. We switched off the TV and went on with the morning. Of course, I was getting tidbits as the day went on, but it wasn’t until I was on my way home with my son, Heath, who was one year old at the time. He was in the back seat of my truck and as we went past the gas station in Kirklin, Indiana we saw a line of cars that was about 3/4 of a mile long down the highway with people waiting to get gas. It then hit me; this was real. I hadn’t seen panic like this since the energy crisis of the ’70s. It was then I realized that life would never be the same. Life for my son would be very different than it was for me.

That day also changed the way we look at weblogs and citizen journalists. Bloggers were literally writing the first draft of history that day and forever after. That was truly a media revolution. Now we use video logs, or vlogs, in the same way. Can you imagine the first hand experience we would have seen on 9/11 had we had the photo and video capabilities we now have on our phones. We might remember 9/11 with even more iconic images. We might even have a very different understanding of the happenings of that day.

I don’t want us to forget how selfless heroes ran toward danger putting themselves in harms way to help others and how quickly we bounced back from tragedy. I don’t want us to forget the lives lost and the importance of being vigilant against future attacks. I also remember all the American flags flying proudly afterwards. We had them flying on combines and tractors that fall during harvest and for planting the next spring. We were all standing proud and together. Let’s “never forget” that!