Byron's Babbles

My Revolving Rushmore

IMG_8286One of my favorite sessions that I do for 3D Leadership is called Setting Your Leadership Style. I start off by playing the awesome music video of the song by Alter Bridge, Show Me A Leader. Since we are having to do these on Zoom™ instead of in person here are some takeaways from the chat box and discussion:

  • Do not compromise values
  • Don’t compromise on beliefs
  • We need great leaders so hope never dies
  • There needs to be one clear message (clarity)
  • The only thing to do is next right thing
  • Can’t survive without strong leadership
  • #FarmKidsRockToo (couldn’t leave this off – it was added for my benefit)

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 10.45.46 AMThen comes one of my favorite activities that I call Rushmorean Leadership which was then followed up by an activity called Extending the Influence. The activity calls for teacher leaders to bring pictures to identify four great leaders to put on their own personal Mount Rushmore. Then they bring six additional pictures to extend the influence. Part of the share out was in small groups (the ability to do this on Zoom™ is incredibly intuitive and has lots of options to customize for the facilitator’s needs) and part was done by FlipGrid™.

One of the questions I always like to ask is if the participants’ Mount Rushmore would look the same a year from now or would have looked the same a year ago. There were varied answers to this ranging from yes to no and then everything in between, like maybe one or two different. Then a triad of things were said by participants that really struck me:

  • We never know when we will meet the next person that will go on our Mount Rushmore.
  • Who will be the next to influence us?
  • My revolving Rushmore

This reminded me of the beginning monologue phrase in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” To me, this means that people come into our lives and we enter other peoples lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When we treat every encounter as a chance to impact, influence, or inspire we bring purpose to our lives. Most people that enter our lives are seasonal and they’re with us for a reason. Once that reason is fulfilled life has a way of moving them on. We also need to remember, the influence the great impact that others that we have never met influence us. Think about the influence of the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore and the impact they have on us. Remember, you also are influencing someone you haven’t even met. Thus, we really do have a revolving Rushmore.

IMG_8163So, why use Mount Rushmore as the through line for this activity? Mount Rushmore is not just big; it is about the ultimate bigness – a monument to monumentalism. Think about the bigness of the role that individuals that you would place on your personal Mount Rushmore have had. Borglum, the sculptor, was obsessed with the bigness of America: the heroic story of a handful of tiny East Coast colonies growing to becoming an entire continent. Think about the four Presidents that were chosen with that bigness and growth in mind. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and expanded the country’s size with the Louisiana Purchase. Teddy Roosevelt made sure the Panama Canal happened, thus connecting the United States globally.

When I think about the idea of our own revolving Rushmores, I remember the rush of emotions that I felt when seeing Mount Rushmore in person for the first time. That rush contained thoughts of patriotism as well as awe. The awe was about the scope of the project as well as the awe in our ability to create and our human weirdness. Why had we done this? Why does this monument that the sculpting began on in 1927, with a dedication by Calvin Coolidge exist? I believe it is because of the great value we place on those who have had influence on us. Think about the work on Mount Rushmore that spanned some 14 years. A lot happened in our country during that 14 years. Leaders came and went and world/country history changing events happened.  There was the Great Depression, World War II, and three different Presidents. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was there for the Jefferson dedication (there was a separate dedication as each face was finished). And, Mount Rushmore was finished one month and one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Is that a lot of history, or what? The sculpting alone is a monument to our tenacity. The hardness of the granite is a monument to the very strong foundation built by the founders of our country. The granite is so strong and hard it is said to only erode one inch per 10,000 years. When you think about it, our country has had a revolving Rushmore of those that have been on our “stage” and made a huge difference. This is no different than our own lives and the people who have been major players, making entrances and exits, playing many parts. Those great people who enter our “stage” make us who we are and make up our own revolving Rushmore.

The Nuanced Context Of The Great Society

Posted in Amity Shlaes, Calvin Coolidge, Great Society, Leadership, Lyndon B Johnson, Reflection by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 5, 2020

The Great Society: A New HistoryThe Great Society: A New History by Amity Shlaes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a well written and researched book. The book, for me, was written in such a way that lets the reader determine her/his own views on the subject. I spent a great deal of time pondering and reflecting on the content of the book. Having been a child during the Great Society era, I agree with the fact that the federal government, during this era, redefined its role in the arts, on media (television and radio), and public schools. As, Shlaes taught us, “Washington left no area untouched” (p. 6). In turn, the federal government became intrusive in the 1960s. The lesson learned was that the hypocrisy of how the middle class and the poor were treated began to limit our ability to innovate. One of the biggest lessons we should take from this book and the 1960s and 1970s is our need to find ways to truly evaluate programs, which we still do not have. Any time there are programs initiated by government we need to be able to answer whether the programs were worth and cost and if they achieved what was promised. This made me think of another of Shlaes great books, Coolidge, where we learned of Coolidge’s disdain for using legislation to experiment. In my blog post Remember Freedom Is Yours Until You Give It Up: https://byronernest.blog/2020/01/25/r… I spoke of how Harry Truman always spoke of the nuances of leadership, and the Great Society must be studied, which Shlaes did, in the nuanced context of the relationship of the Vietnam War, poverty, and civil rights.

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Silence Is Golden

I love it when one of my favorite Presidents is quoted in books that I am reading. Robert Caro included a quote from former United States Speaker Of The House Sam Rayburn credited to former President Calvin Coolidge is his book The Path To Power. Ive already blogged about Sam Rayburn in “Sam, Be A Man.”

Rayburn was credited with saying that one of the wisest statements outside of those written in the Bible was when Calvin Coolidge said, “You don’t have to explain something you never said.” This speaks to the wisdom of our 30th President. Coolidge matters and was a role model of great leadership. Sometimes the smartest thing is to say nothing at all.

“You don’t have to explain something you never said.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

This can keep us from ending up negotiating and debating against ourself. Additionally, being silent at the right times can keep there from being misunderstandings. Just because there is silence does not mean we need to talk, especially if we are not completely knowledgeable on the subject being discussed. I’ll bet if you are like me you have had times where you have wished you hadn’t said something – because you ended up having to explain it and then couldn’t.

It is also important to listen to what has already been said. Often, in meetings I say, “Everything has been said, just not by everyone yet.” I’ll bet you’ve been in meetings where everyone keeps saying the same thing or making the same point over and over, too. Robert Caro teaches us that reading biographies of leaders offers us great learning. I am certainly learning a lot from reading his work.

The Great & Humble Leadership Of Calvin Coolidge

This past July my family and I spent the day in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont in Plymouth Notch. We went there to learn more about one of my favorite Presidents, Calvin Coolidge. I have read many books about our 30th President and studied many of the papers he wrote. I am fascinated with his leadership style, path to the Whitehouse, and his upbringing. In our quest to get my son to all 50 states before he graduates high school, we thought it fitting to spend time at the birthplace and childhood home of President Coolidge as our way of seeing Vermont.

Snow Roller

As soon as we walked up to the visitors center, we understood the draw of this place known as Plymouth Notch. It was beautiful! Then as we learned about President Coolidge’s grandparents and parents, it became very evident how he could grow up to be President of the United States. His father was born in Plymouth, Vermont. John C. Coolidge was truly a servant leader. As I see it, he was the guy who held the town together. He was a farmer, store owner, and worked at a variety of other occupations. He served as the postman, snow roller (there was no way to plow snow at that time so they rolled it – see picture), town police, cheese maker, and he even made carriages. In addition, he was a veteran of the Vermont militia, and was in charge of the area militia. As you can see, he was a prominent local leader, he served in numerous Plymouth town offices, and was elected and served in both the Vermont House of Representatives and Vermont State Senate. What a role model for our 30th President.

This was quite the example for the young Calvin Coolidge growing up. President Coolidge learned hard work on the farm and developed a love of agriculture and farming that never went away. I wonder if there will ever be another President of the United States who grew up on a farm or who was a farmer like Calvin Coolidge or Harry Truman? It was amazing to stand in the sitting room, known as the “Oath of Office Room.” Coolidge was back home when President Harding died, so was sworn in by his father, there in that room, to be President of the United States. The room displays the table, Bible, and kerosene lamp used in the swearing in and then his inauguration. President and Mrs. Coolidge occupied a second floor bedroom during their many visits. Here we were, standing where all this happened.

“…to walk humbly and discharge my obligations.” ~ Governor Calvin Coolidge when asked his goal as Governor Of Massachusetts

Calvin lived in Plymouth Notch until 1887, when he left for school.  In 1895, he graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts and moved to nearby Northampton to study law.  Northampton, Massachusetts would be home for him for the rest of his life. After admittance to the bar in 1897, he established his law practice and soon became involved in local politics. Here are some key milestones in Coolidge’s rise to the presidency:

• Began a steady rise in the State Republican Party in 1899

• City Councilman of Northampton, Massachusetts

• Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts

• Served in both houses of the Massachusetts State Legislator

• Served as Massachusetts’ Lieutenant Governor and Governor

• Gained national attention during the Boston police strike of 1919

• Elected as Vice President to Warren G. Harding in 1920

• Became President in 1923 upon the death of Harding

• Elected President in 1924 after gaining the faith of the American people in only 15 months

President Coolidge was an outstanding example of a President who regarded his office, the most powerful in the world, as a stewardship–rather than as an opportunity to remake civilization. He proceeded from practical considerations of government, politics and popularity, applying his life-long experience as an elected office-holder. His decisions were usually compromises, made after long consideration of the conflicting interests involved. He announced them in as few words as possible and committed himself only so far ahead as might be necessary. During his administration the advance of the United States into the future was distinctly experimental–always in search of the sound course.

“They criticize me,” Coolidge said, “for harping on the obvious. Perhaps someday I’ll write On the Importance of the Obvious. If all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” ~ President Calvin Coolidge

I am so glad we had the opportunity to walk among the houses of President Coolidge’s family and neighbors, the community church, taste cheese in the family’s cheese factory still in operation today, one-room schoolhouse, and general store which have all been carefully preserved. We also were able to pay our respects as the President is buried in the town cemetery. From walking where he walked we can understand why all during his life he would never waiver in his character or methods. He listened, he assimilated, and he waited until there appeared what seemed to be the soundest course. He did not try to make circumstances; but, when they appeared in the right configuration, he acted. By spending time there I learned where he had learned to be the principled and outstanding humble leader. I have been a student of Calvin Coolidge leadership for many years, and have now had the experience of seeing and understanding where his principled and conservative beliefs came from and were developed.