Byron's Babbles

Are You Setting Precedent?

This week while reading On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis I came across a phrase from Queen Elizabeth I. She was reported to have said: “It is much better to set precedent than to have to live by it.” I loved this. To me it meant that she understood the importance of being an innovative leader and the power leaders have for setting the course for the future. One precedent she set was to rule by good counsel and trusted advisors. Many times I hear people in meetings saying that we don’t want to set precedent. Well, I say if it is a good thing then we probably should set a precedent. We basically have three choices: sit back and accept the status quo, let someone else lead, or we can lead by setting new precedents.

A great example of the latter was George Washington. Washington was well aware that he had been given the power to shape the American presidency. He believed that the precedents he set must make the presidency powerful enough to function effectively in the national government, but at the same time these practices could not show any tendency toward monarchy or dictatorship. He was said to have commented frequently that, “I walk on untrodden ground.” There are many things that Washington set the precedent for during his presidency that are still in place today. A few include:

  • Being called “President”
  • Presented the State Of Union as a speech (Thomas Jefferson broke the tradition, but Woodrow Wilson started again)
  • The White House protocol still used today of mornings and daytime for business and afternoons and evenings to entertain visitors
  • Because of Washington’s love for being at Mount Vernon, he set the precedent of presidents retreating to their homes or other places.
  • He set the precedent of a maximum of eight years in office (FDR broke that precedent, but in 1951 we made the constitutional amendment for a two term limit)

Never forget, great leadership is about standing for something bigger than yourself, and setting a precedent where it is needed. After all, an organization’s culture, or country’s culture for that matter, is a reflection of its leaders. Which means it all starts with you.

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Reflections From My Son On Martin Luther King, Jr.

Quotations From Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last weekend my son was doing homework and asked if he could discuss his answers to an assignment with me. Of course I was a willing participant. It turned out to be a great discussion and chance for me to learn just how values driven and principled my son had become.

It was a great English class assignment where the students were given nine quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. and asked to react with what he/she believed the meaning of the quote was or how to use the quote to make the world a better place. I thought it was a great assignment for reflection. I was so blown away by our discussion that I asked my son if I could share his answers on my blog. He said yes! So, on this day that we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., here are some quotes and some reaction from my son, Heath:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This shows how a person should stick to his or her core values and principles when in a time of challenge. This quote is as good today as back in his time.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This explains how we need to get along and not fight within. We need to be united and not be separate.Because if we don’t, we will all go down as fools. This is also a good quote to relate to today in our current political environment.

“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This just shows that we need to be willing to go all in on our thoughts and beliefs. As Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death. The quote is saying they you need to be committed to what you believe in and be ready to die for it.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This shows that you have to be comfortable even when you aren’t comfortable. You have to be able to take a chance even though you don’t know how the end result will be.  

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false, and the false with the true.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

We need to practice civilized disdain, where we understand each other’s differences and respect the different opinions of each other. This will allow us to work together and reach consensus.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do your research to know what all sides believe in and knowing the details of the issue.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even if we see an injustice of someone or something that doesn’t affect us personally we still need to be concerned and help those who are being hurt.

“I have a dream that one day…the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

He wanted all cultures and races to come together and understand each other and respect each other. 

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

It doesn’t matter where you come from or what zip code you live in we all are fellow human beings. He wanted people to not judged by the race or color but by how good of a person you are and their skills and talents.

Hopefully you’ll take some time to reflect like we did. Today, we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., the de facto spokesman of the Civil Rights Movement, for his key role in directing our nation closer to its goal of equality for all.

Dad & Lad In The Who Dat Nation

Posted in Andrew Jackson, Community, Courage, Culture, Democracy, New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, Who Dat, Who Dat Nation by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 19, 2019

img_4636My son and I had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana last weekend to watch the New Orleans Saints beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 in the NFC Divisional Game. We are huge Saints fans because of Drew Brees, but have also fallen in love with the Who Dat Nation. We had our first taste of this last year in the NFC Divisional Wildcard Game where New Orleans defeated the Carolina Panthers. I am amazed at the following of the Saints by this city. New Orleans needs the Saints and the Saints need New Orleans.

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We also had the opportunity to see former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco honored at the game for keeping the Mercedes Superdome Open and the Saints in New Orleans following Katrina. Blanco knew she would take a hit politically if she green-lighted the renovation of a football stadium at a time when most New Orleans residents remained displaced, businesses were shuttered and the city could not provide basic services. She also knew, however, that keeping the Saints was important to economy of New Orleans and would be an inspiration to the city. During the ceremony at the game she recalled saying, “Not on my watch will we lose the Saints.” This took incredible vision and political courage. Really it was just plain leadership at its best.

During our visit my son, Heath, and I took in all the New Orleans culture and talked about how important New Orleans was as a port for both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. New Orleans was important to the founding of our great nation and had to be defended in the early 1800s and was won in The Battle of New Orleans in 1815. We discussed how grain would come the Ohio River out of Indiana to the Mississippi River to New Orleans in barges. Once the grain was sold the barges would be disassembled and the lumber sold because at that time there were no engines to push the barges back up the Mississippi.

This was a great discussion as we stood at the base of the bronze statue of Major General Jackson. He led our troops to victory at the Battle of New Orleans. This was really a full circle for my son and I’s study of Andrew Jackson. Last year at this same time we were at the battlefield where the Battle of New Orleans took place. Then, a month ago we were at The Hermitage in Nashville Tennessee, and now back in New Orleans.

img_4723We love spending time learning about different cultures and history. My son even got to see his dad be a man of his word. A man walked up and told me he liked my shoes. I bit and he wanted to bet me $10 he could answer some questions about my shoes. Long story short, I lost – I knew I would. I paid him the $10 for the shoe shine. I paid him because I had given him my word. My son commented that others would have got mad, but he knew I wouldn’t because I had given him my word up front. About as high a claim you can get from your son, don’t you think? And…I got my shoes shined and waterproofed.

We immersed ourselves in the Who Dat Nation. We watched locals making cigars in the cigar factories. We took in the local architecture and culture of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. We had breakfast at Cafe′ Du Monde – a French Market that has been in business since the early 1960s. We walked and talked to the many artists in Jackson Square.

All of us come from different zip codes ad cultures. My son and I were so blessed to have had this experience for a second year in a row for one reason to learn so much and the second to spend quality time together. I hope that opportunities like this one helps my son to understand about the different ways that people live and do things. This hopefully translates to Heath understanding that there is no single way or right way to do the same things.

Amazingly, Forbes tells us in “5 Top Reasons You Should Travel With Your Kids” that from 2008 to 2012 parents traveling domestically with their children has declined from 31% to 26%. Here are the five reasons that we should travel with our kids:

  1. Make them citizens of the world.
  2. Get them to eat weird stuff.
  3. Expose their brains to diverse languages.
  4. Build their confidence and independence.
  5. Increase their tolerance to discomfort.

We need to make sure our children and students have the opportunity so they understand there is a world that exists outside their own.

“Old Hickory” Leadership

General Jackson’s Home At The Hermitage

Our family had the opportunity to visit The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s farm and home, near Nashville, Tennessee, this past week. We love going to historical sites of past presidents and this one of our seventh president was awesome. General Jackson’s, as we learned he wanted to be referred as, home is very well preserved and cared for. Our tour guide, Stewart, was incredible and very knowledgeable. To be on the farm where General Jackson worked, stand outside the room where he met with other presidents, and be next to the bed where he died was awe inspiring and caused a great deal of reflection about the leadership of this great American.

Some praise his strength and audacity. My son and I had learned about his great military leadership prowess this time last year when we walked the grounds of the Battle of New Orleans where General Jackson led the defeat of the British and soaked up all the history. We learned how his servant leadership, dedication to his troops, and toughness gain him the affectionate title “Old Hickory”. Others see our seventh President as having been vengeful and self-obsessed. To admirers he stands as a shining symbol of American accomplishment, the ultimate individualist and patriot.

Andrew Jackson, the President, believed republican government should be simple, frugal, and accessible. As President he was very accessible and was know as the people’s President. By 1835, President Jackson had reduced the national debt to a mere $33,733.05 and would eventually pay it off, making him the only president to ever accomplish that feat. He was an ardent supporter of state’s rights, and individual liberty fostered political and governmental change, including many prominent and lasting national policies. Many believe it was his stubbornness and tenacity to keep fighting for what he believed was right that made him a great leader. There was a lot that happened in our great country under the many leadership roles that Jackson held during his lifetime. We can agree and disagree on his decisions and policies, but it is important to reflect on the General’s leadership influence and learn from our history.

Thanksgiving Blessing

Posted in Community, Culture, Democracy, Global Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership, Thanksgiving, Visionary Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 22, 2018

I was at an event this week when a person made a comment that she was thankful to be in a country that had a holiday for giving thanks. Hers did not. This was really cool, but then, as you know I always do, I got to thinking. I began to wonder how many in our country 🇺🇸 really reflect on, really understand, or really give thanks for the things the original Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower to form the Plymouth Plantation were giving thanks for. Or, do we reflect on and give thanks for things that George Washington put in his Thanksgiving Proclamation letter to Congress he wrote on October 3, 1789? Or, do we consider being thankful for those things which caused Lincoln to establish the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving, setting the precedent that remains to this day. Coincidentally, Lincoln’s proclamation of a national holiday was on October 3, 1863, exactly 74 years after George Washington’s Proclamation.

Back to the first Thanksgiving. To really understand the “first Thanksgiving” you must go to the journals of William Bradford, governor of the original Plymouth Plantation and a champion making sure the group on the Mayflower made the trip. In the early 1600’s the Church Of England, under King James I, was persecuting anyone who did not recognize the state’s absolute civil and spiritual authority. In other words, if you varied any from the beliefs of The Church Of England, you were in trouble. So, a group of separatists said “Screw this!” ( I’m paraphrasing here) and fled to Holland. Somehow, I imagine that if I would have been around in the early 1600’s, I would have been leading the “Screw this!” movement. Sorry, back to my story. Those forty Pilgrims, led by William Bradford, joined others 11 years later to make a group comprised of 102 individuals who set sail on the Mayflower on August 1, 1620.

Now, this part of the story I’m sure you know. It was not a pleasure cruise. And, when they finally did arrive in November, it was cold and there was no one there to greet them. The story we are always told in school is that the Native Americans helped them and then they all got together a year later and gave thanks. Now, the Native Americans did help, but that’s not the only thing the Pilgrims were giving thanks for. They had actually experimented with different forms of government and found one that didn’t work and one that did.

The Mayflower Compact, written by William Bradford, established behaviors for the group of 40 Pilgrims. An important part of it was that your religious beliefs did not matter – you could believe and worship how you saw fit. Also, in the Compact it stated that everything produced went into a common store. This is where the experiment began. They had formed a commune. This was collectivism. Nobody had any more than anybody else, nobody had any less, but that did not lead to prosperity. It never does.

In finding that this did not work, Bradford and the Pilgrims had discovered in less than a year that communism/socialism does not work. Its amazing to me, others kept trying. Anyway, Bradford then broke up the plantation into individual plots for everyone and the rest is history. Mass production ensued, the Native Americans played an important role in helping to teach these new Americans how to raise crops efficiently, and trading posts were set up and the Pilgrims were able to pay their debts to England and Holland for the trip.

Bottom-line: the Thanksgiving was for all of the above, including finding a form of government that worked. And, the Pilgrims were able to thank God in any way they saw fit, which was the reason for the trip to start with.

Of course, we also know this successful experiment led to more immigration into the New World. Then, ultimately helped shaped our United States form of government. Then Congress asked George Washington to write a proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789. Here is a transcript of the proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation.

Whereas 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–and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

 Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

~ G Washington

As you can see, we have a lot to be thankful for. I am proud we have this holiday to give thanks in any way we see fit, to worship in any way we see fit, and have a democratic form of government. On this day of Thanksgiving, when I read President Washington’s proclamation, I am thankful to our forefathers for having the audacity, and asking God’s will and help, in “establish[ing] constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us” (Washington, 1789). I am also thankful for the Pilgrims and William Bradford for taking the risk in order to form an experimental community that would later inform our form of government and teach us that no form of socialism works.

We truly do have a lot to be thankful for. I do pray and ask that all nations in the world take heed and practice what George Washington so eloquently put in his Thanksgiving Proclamation when he said, “to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord” (Washington, 1789). My thanksgiving wish is for all nations and each and every one of us to go out and be a Thanksgiving blessing to all people.