Monthly Archives: August, 2019

The Contrarian

I love to go along and get along and be hidden in a crowd.  However it is somewhat difficult to remain hidden when you are 6 feet and 3 and 1/2 inches tall…and not thin!  There is little that is more peaceful than being a member of a group that you agree with and support and feel little need to question.  But…what to do when you disagree with the majority of the people that you are associated with…including the powerful

I vividly recall when I disagreed with the untimely termination of chancellor Jo Ann Argersinger and and felt compelled to not hide our friendship or to refrain from speaking out on her behalf.  Those were some scary times for Mary Jane and I when I had my job threatened…and I was a full ten years away from retirement.  I felt that she was good for SIUC and that her firing was a spiteful and politically motivated event.  It was strongly intimated to me that a promotion was in my immediate future if I would just not demonstrate visible support for the fallen leader of the campus.  I not only refused to back down, but rather sent a message to the president of the university and the board of trustees that Jo Ann and Peter were my friends and that I did not intend on changing anything regarding my freedom to disagree with bureaucratic authority as long as I did not disrupt the operations of the housekeeping department that I oversaw.

I am of a different mind than many of my lifelong friends and family regarding current political leaders.  I respect their right to their opinion completely!  I have made a practice of not speaking out to hear the sound of my own voice.  I am a believer that silence is golden.  However when I feel strongly regarding an issue I do not feel badly about being the lone voice among the throng.

So often we are afraid to speak out.  We are afraid of rebuttal and snide remarks or of incurring the wrath of our colleagues that disagree with us.  This is an unfulfilling and diminished way to live life!

Whether it is the church or the workplace or the school or our place in society…we should, without fear or favor, speak out when we believe that we have witnessed wrong.

Something that I love about First Presbyterian Church is that it invites a diversity of opinions.  It is governed by an elected board of elders that are referred to as the Session.  These positions are three year terms.

The American War of Independence was fought by 13 colonies against Great Britain’s King George III… by a lot of contrarians!

In Pennsylvania, ‘Shell workers were told that they could either attend the Trump speech on Aug. 13 and get paid as normal, or stay home and lose a day’s pay, the latter of which would have had the effect of causing them to lose overtime pay later in the week.’    Snopes

Although the Shell Plant contends that the policy of no pay for lack of attendance is likened to the option of not attending training events…nevertheless workers that did not clock in at 7 am and stand throughout lunch, but without lunch, were not paid…and the speech that was billed to be about energy…morphed into a political speech that was paid for with taxpayers money…although that is against the law.

Are you a member of a workplace that tells you what your opinion is?

Are you a member of a church that demands that all members expound the truth of the charismatic leader of the movement?

Speaking candidly and being proud of who you are and what you believe and your truth…is huge!  It will enhance your self confidence and enable you to better understand your identity.

The aberration of having sad and little men like presidential advisor Steven Miller and Ken Cuccinelli… advocate the erasure of the renown poem,The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus that is on the Statue of Liberty and, according to, ‘The Trump administration’s top immigration official reworked the famous words on the Statue of Liberty in an interview Tuesday, saying America will only embrace immigrants who can ‘stand on their own two feet’ and ‘not become a public charge.’  In a subsequent interview, Ken Cuccinelli want a step further, saying the poem referred to ‘people coming from Europe.’    CBS News

‘The New Colossus’

By Emma Lazarus

 

‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightening, and her name

Mother of Exiles, From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she

With silent lips.  ‘Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

 

 

I Don’t Think That I Can Do It?

Billy Bump accepts a challenge!

The Jazz Man

So, Billy Bump had wanted desperately to be a foreman in his housekeeping career.  He had began a a janitor and had, through hard work, ascended to a crew leader or what was called a Building Custodian.  Billy reveled in the stable and secure job, with benefits, that he had attained with the university and he was gobsmacked and grateful…and he worried that it would end suddenly…just like it had began!

The assistant director of the physical plant had been coming to his building to speak with him as to whether he would like to become a foreman, which would oversee several positions and crews like the one that Billy currently worked with…or would he like to be the training officer for the entire department?  Dale was a pleasant man and he spoke of his christian faith and a place of mutual interest for Billy and he…Disney World in Orlando…

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Storm

I am sitting on my screened in porch and enjoying watching the rain fall and listening to the thunder peal!  I have always found rain and mild thunderstorms peaceful and serene and they have a magnetic pull on my psyche.  There is something about the implied danger of a thunderstorm and feeling safe while you are in the midst of it.

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I have not always been brave and a casually observer of storms.  When the derecho rampaged through Southern Illinois in May of 2008…I began observing as a curious interested storm watcher.  I was on campus at the Physical Plant speaking with director Gatton.  He told me that I should go to the basement as the weather reports promised an unusually strong thunder storm. I informed the director that I had seen many strong storms and that I had not feared one yet but rather enjoyed watching them and that I had watched one from the front door of my little house in Elkville and witnessed a storm uproot two large trees from the ground as if they were saplings and lay them over into the street in front of my house!  At that moment I saw the windows in the building move in and out as if they were bellows and the large air conditioner that was outside Building Services move about as if it were a tinker toy!  I decided that I would join the others in the basement.

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My step-father, Earl, was extremely afraid of storms.  When the wind would begin to roar and the lightning illuminate our darkened house…he would call for my mom and I and his chihuahua Cheetah to run to one of his vintage automobiles to attempt to escape the imminent devastation of what was assuredly a tornado!

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Now, Cheetah was a mean little shit…and she offered to bite me almost daily…but when the call for escape from tornado alley came…she was docile as a lamb.

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You know what…I felt safe in the car with Earl driving and looking out of his open drivers side window and, at times, opening his car door to study the foreboding skies.  Earl had fought in Korea.  He had been injured and almost died…but he did not!  He had the same job that Glenn Campbell sang about, he was a lineman for the county.  I went with him to work the day before Christmas and watched him shinny up a electrical pole faster than most folks walk on level ground!

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Storms surround our daily lives.  Wether it be domestic storms or employment storms or health storms…or storms of faith…we all have an ‘Earl’ with us!  We have someone that we know will protect us and help us and who will not let us come to harm.  For me it has been Christ and his guardian angels who have extricated me from so many storms that would have overtaken me…had I not had a bodyguard and a friend and a mentor.

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‘For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’    Psalm 30:5   KJV

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Note: Images are courtesy of Google search.

‘The Righteous Gemstones’

I watched the pilot episode of a new HBO television show entitled The Righteous Gemstones.  The series is about a family named Gemstone that has a mega-church ministry that is extremely wealthy.  The father, portrayed by John Goodman, is the senior pastor accompanied by his two sons, Danny McBride, as the oldest sibling, and the youngest Gemstone preacher played by Adam DeVine.

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The middle child is played by Edi Patterson as the daughter that is marginalized due to her being female in a fundamentalist congregation.

The series is undoubtably a satire of televangelism and the worldly riches that it brings to the preacher/stars of the show!

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There is a very popular doctrine that can be found in many fundamentalist churches that states that if you will follow Jesus…he will make you rich.  This is a keynote teaching for television preachers and televangelists.  Many congregations are taught that if you will pay your ten percent tithe…on your gross pay…not your net…as well as giving generously in the many offerings that are collected…you will become rich!  This teaching is actually a primary financial success plan for many in the fundamentalist movement.

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The Bible does speak of a 10% tithe and it does speak of a generous heart toward the poor and needy.  But, to extrapolate that to all who follow the financial success plan of giving to the wealthy for the automatic financial remuneration from God…is folly!

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I have witnessed senior citizen give of their meager finances, social security, to the extent that they did not have enough to eat…and they were hungry!

When the minister, in whom you trust as the spokesperson for Jesus, is living many times above your standard of living and taking lavish vacations and driving luxury automobiles and living in a McMansion or perhaps a full blown Mansion…you have been fleeced as certain as the faux shepherd who took all of the wool from his sheep and led them to the wolf!

When capitalism becomes so intermingled with christianity that it is difficult to extricate one from the other….we have created a Golem of Christianity!

I watched a series on Netflix last week that was entitled The Family.  It discussed the, basically hidden, group that is behind the National  Prayer Breakfast that occurs each year in Washington D.C.

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The Family which was founded in the’ 1930s by Adam Veride, a Norwegian immigrant and traveling preacher,’ and later headed by Doug Coe is a secretive organization that is comprised of Senators and members of Congress and leaders and elite from all over the globe!

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The Family focuses on expanding their membership of leaders to their interpretation of the gospel of Christ…while basically ignoring the human rights violations and suffering of the millions of people that these leaders are responsible for.

‘Before Coe died in 2017, he helped turn the Family into the invisible star-making machine it is.  He had personal connections to many presidents, from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton.  In 2001, he helped kick off a peace deal between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda by inviting the waring presidents to his home.’    Refinery 29

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The Family has often used the comparison of moral failings in a political leader to King David of the old testament.  Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was a member of the Family and used the reasoning of King Davids moral failings for his affair.  President Trump has been likened to being ‘God’s man’ with the reference to King David on many occasions by the evangelical community.

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A christian methodology or dogma or doctrine that focus on the elite or the leaders of a country or organization and gives little thought to the suffering of the millions of citizens or followers of these corrupt leaders…is an aberration…and not…Christianity!

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Note: Photos courtesy of Google search.

Listening To Respond…Or Listening To Understand?

Have you ever been asked a question and encouraged by the questioner to speak from your heart and to be open and candid…only to have the seeker of knowledge not only misunderstand what you were saying but also to immediately correct your heartfelt and seldom shared remarks?

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I am a reluctant speaker both publicly and in group settings, I have noticed that, although, I ruminate and worry about comments that I have made, most people could not tell you what you said in the first place.

The art of listening to understand is easy to talk about and difficult to put into practice.  The primary component of this seldom used skill is to, when listening, the ability to take yourself and your preconceived notions and bias out of the experience.  If I want to understand what is in another human beings heart…I must accept what they say to me as their truth.

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Empathy is a virtue!  I have found that if I listen to my friend as they are speaking with me…it is possible to feel the emotions that they are conveying and the hurt that they are holding in their heart.

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So many times we feel that we have the fix for the ailments of our neighbors.  We know that we have heard their story before and that we have already developed the remedy that is similar to a form or a template that will function as ‘one size fits all!’

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We know that if our sick colleague will just allow us to dispense the medicine to ameliorate their aliment…all we be well..!  When is reality…the person who is speaking to us is looking for a someone that really sees them….

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‘Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him, and he sat down, and taught them.

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.  But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers?  hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord.  And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’    John 8: 1 – 11   KJV

I wonder what Jesus was writing?

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Note: Images are courtesy of Google.

‘This Could Be The Start Of Something Big!’

‘This Could Be The Start Of Something’ (generally known as ‘This Could Be The Start Of  Something Big’) is a popular song by Steve Allen, published in 1956′

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‘Originally, the song was written as part of the score for the 1954 television musical production of the Bachelor.’

‘In 1956, ‘This Could Be The Start Of Something’ replaced the original opening theme to Allen’s NBC talk show, Tonight Starring Steve Allen, until Allen left the show in 1957 to be replaced by Jack Paar.’    Wikipedia

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Jonathon and I strolled the beautiful Campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale this morning.  The Campus was resplendent in all of late summer beauty!  Band students were carrying their instruments and their bass drums and young women were bringing their flags, for cheering, and walking to the same area that I have seen them congregate at for the past 41 years!

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Dr. John Dunn is our Interim Chancellor and he is a good man and a great leader!  I had the privilege of working with him in the last decade before Western Michigan University had the wisdom to make him their president…while we languished!

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Chancellor Dunn’s magnetic personality and real interest in everyone in the university community…is a significant assets to our school!

Matt is the Chancellor’s chief of staff and he is a wonderful and open person!  Each occasion that I speak with Matt…I know that my University is in good hands!

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The Grounds staff has been working their fingers to the bone and their handiwork is apparent everywhere you cast your eyes!

Building Services have the floors shining and the classrooms glistening and the indoor facilities ready for the honored members of our community…our students!

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The academic programs and disciplines of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…are unparalleled!  Would you like to be a part of a community that feels like family?

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Would you like to be a member of a family where the office staff and the housekeeping staff and the faculty and the chancellor care about you on an individual basis?  If so…join the University that epitomizes the old Steve Allen song, ‘This Could Be The Start Of Something Big!’

Criticism Hurts!

I was visiting with some wonderful people the other day and the subject of leadership and how to demonstrate it…came up.  It has been my humble honor to have known many leaders in my nearly 62 years.  I have witnessed the poorest of leadership patterns…as well as those that were inspirational!

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Leadership has always fascinated me!  Having been a christian for 50 years and working alongside pastors and religious leaders for the majority of that time…I have witnessed the corrosive effect that a poor leader can have on the lives of the people that they are attempting to lead.

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On the contrary I have also seen, first hand, the deleterious effect that pithy criticisms that are aimed at a leader can have on that leaders morale and effectiveness in their ministry.

From the time that I became a crew leader in my position at Building Services at Southern Illinois University@ Carbondale…I was the recipient of, some, unfounded criticism of my efforts or my job performance…or whether or not I seemed friendly enough on a given day.  In fact…if we are honest…none of us enjoy criticism…even when it is constructive and necessary!

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Certainly management is not church and church is not secular management…but there are simalarities that apply.

Leaders both in the work-place and in the house of worship need counselors that will work with them and help them to understand when they are on the right path…and when they have strayed into the weeds…or the ditch!

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Now, a leader is neither a robot or a cyborg or in possession of a button to shut off their human emotions.  We still are all carbon based and have yet to achieve artificial intelligence.  I have been present when university chancellors were consumed by gratuitous political infighting and if you will check the calendar you will count 11 of them since 1996.

During the years that I was a manager/administrator of the housekeeping department at the university…I felt personal responsibility for the failure or termination of anyone in my organization!  Upon investigation I would order a terminated student to be put back to work if  I discovered that they had not been properly trained.  I personally trained countless full time staff and students when I had doubts regarding their training or proper motivation.

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Having upwards of 350 – 400 members of our group and reviewing each of their evaluations…and touring all of their work areas and visiting with them…I considered them all members of my family and I felt a personal failure when any of them did not succeed…until I was certain that I had done all that I humanly could do to facilitate their success!

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Please do not misunderstand me…I have terminated many people over a period of 30 years.  Always the well-being of the group is of paramount importance over the security of an individual.  It is the most difficult task that a leader has to do!

Having been a follower for the majority of my life and on more occasions than I wanted to…been asked to lead…I can assure you that I prefer following…it is much easier!

 

 

Note: Photos of leaders are courtesy of Google.

Back To School

Back to school caught up with me this year…but then again I am almost 62.  I was at my dentist yesterday getting a wisdom tooth filled, that is right a wisdom tooth…as I can not afford to loose what little wisdom that I have obtained, when she told me that today was the first day of school for her children.  I thought…what…this could not be…summer just started!

The beginning of school meant for me that the three times per week automobile trips to Pounds Hollow creek…were over for the season.  It meant that the staying out after dark to catch fire flies…had ended.  But…that was somewhat later…for the first grade….it was a totally new adventure!

I vividly recall my first day of first grade in 1962 at Hillcrest School in Eldorado, Illinois.  My mom and dad and I had recently moved from the Chicago suburbs to a ghost house on Illinois Avenue that was just across the street from the football field of Eldorado High School, that years later I would attend.  My cousin Brenda walked me to school and she was in the 8th grade.  It was so hot in the classroom.  With all of the windows open…it still felt like an oven and the fans that were meant to alleviate our suffering felt like blast furnaces!

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Photo by Nizam Abdul Latheef on Pexels.com

My first pleasant memory was Janie and Debbie greeting me…and I thought that perhaps I could do this school thing!

We studied a little while and then there was recess…and then we studied a little more…and there was lunch…and then two more recesses doing the afternoon…and cold milk to boot!

Mrs. Kittinger was our teacher and I thought that she was beautiful!  She was so nice to me that I soon forgot how badly I missed my mom!

I loved shopping for school supplies!  The notebooks and pencils and large erasers and the box of 64 Crayola Crayons….was a delight!  Also, each week we received the Weekly Reader!

Several of my classmates asked me if I had attended kindergarten and I did not know what that was…but I did not remember attending such a strange named function.

On the playground there were monkey bars and merry-go-rounds and teeter-toters or see saws…and you wanted to get on with a person who was roughly the same weight as you were.

I felt safe…I felt secure…I felt that I was in the professional hands of a society and a system and good people that knew what they were doing and who would take care of me and teach me what I needed to know.

I rode the school bus with Illinois Senator Dale Fowler…who was a consistently nice person and rather quiet….at that time.

I rode the teeter totter with Jackie Brooks…who daily held me in the air…and laughed.

The hot temperatures soon yielded to the on-coming fall and the leaves landed on the ground and the holiday season approached.  It snowed more…in those days…in Eldorado…than it seems to now.  We made snowmen and threw snow balls and made snow angels and relished being children in a small Southern Illinois community!

President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963…and the world seemed changed.  My mom wept so much that I thought that he must be a member of our family.  Things were different…life had taken a turn…and we did not know what road that we were on.

Dick Van Dyke was on television as well as Gunsmoke and Andy Griffith.  The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits were two of my favorite programs.

Television and the movies consisted of good hearted and peaceful interactions among  human beings and even the scary movies were not really scary.  There was Mary Poppins and Elvis films…and movies that hinted at scandal and avarice and lust and greed…but it was up to the viewer to fill in the blanks.

That first grade Christmas I attended the Lion’s Club Christmas movie at the Orpheum Theatre and afterward received a large Christmas basket that was chock-full of holiday delights!

Danger at school never crossed my mind….it should be that way again.

 

‘Never Judge People By Their Appearance’

I just watched the most lovely video on Facebook depicting a well dressed and serious man waiting to interviewed for a position in a law firm.  As the gentleman waits, somewhat impatiently, for the interviewer to come out and invite him into his office he has the distinct appearance of someone who is nervous and who wants to make a good impression.

When the interviewer appears he is also in a suit and tie and offers his hand in greeting and he has Down syndrome.  The interviewer is not only very friendly but is almost theatrical in his invitation to the interviewee to enter his office…where there are movie memorabilia on the conference table.  The interviewee ask if someone is going to join them to which he is told no.  The interviewer inquires as to why the person is seeking the position which is a lesser job than what he currently holds at another law firm?  He replies that the firm that he is with is only interested in making money…while he wants to help people.

The interviewer asks the interviewee if he likes a, vey nice, post modern painting that is on the wall of the office?  He replies that he does and the non-typical executive informs him that he is the painter and that there are several of them throughout the firm.

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Suddenly, a stern looking managerial figure enters and asks the interviewer what he is doing…and admonishes him that he has to quit ‘role playing’ with people seeking positions with the firm and get back to his pastry and beverage cart.

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The stern administrator asks the young man why he wanted to interview the candidate…and he replied that he had noticed that he was seeking a position with their firm that paid less than what he was currently making…and that he had understood that this man wanted to help people…and that it was not just about money.

As the gruff man sits down he begins to read the very detailed and cogent questions that the interviewer had written down for the interviewer…and he asks the young man to sit by him and continue the interview…as he is impressed with the questions.

As the interview concluded the candidate was asked by the inspired young man…what was his goal in five years?  He answered that he wanted to be working in the firm’s Pro Bono department with the young interviewer…

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I had the significant honor and great pleasure of hiring many intellectually and physically challenged individuals during my years at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale.  The joy of working with these wonderful professionals and learning from them…was the epitome of my career!

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On numerous occasions I pointed out to both chancellors and presidents that they, perhaps, were not seeing the forest for the trees…as there were many talented individuals in both the civil service and administrative professional staff…that could help them extricate the knots from the primary problems that faced them….the recruitment and retention of students.

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The video ends with the young man and the man that he was initially interviewing…interviewing another candidate…and the young professional telling the interviewee that he had been with the firm for almost fifteen years and that he, ‘knew a thing or two about what was going on.’

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Humility Is Compelling

I had a pastor in the early 90s’ whose name was John Somers.  The first thing that I noticed when I met John was that he was a humble man.  John was a man who thought of others more than he thought of himself.  He was the kind of leader that drew people to him…to work with him and help him.

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‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.’   Proverbs 11:2

In 1978 I was interviewed for a position in Building Services in the Physical Plant at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale by a humble leader, Mr. George O’Hara.  Mr. O’Hara not only made me feel at ease and comfortable during the interview but I soon understood the humble nature of this manager of hundreds of people.  I left the meeting feeling that Mr. O’Hara cared about me and that I had a good chance of becoming a member of the university community!

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A gentleman and a man of humility taught english during my high school years.  Mr. Delmar Feazel was an english teacher and a minister.  I never heard him raise his voice and I never witnessed him speak to anyone in anger.

Former SIUC Chancellor Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger had a unique and compelling humility that was unlike any that I have observed in university leadership.  Jo Ann had the natural ability to cause each person that she interacted with…feel that they were of paramount importance to her and to the mission of SIUC!  During a rally of support for her prior to her untimely termination…I saw students and faculty and staff and all members of the skilled crafts and janitors and grounds workers standing in line to express their support for her and their sadness at her firing!

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Jo Ann would walk out into the middle of a field to shake hands with a grounds worker and to express how important that they were both to her and to the University!

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There is a dynamism to humble leaders!  First of all…they are rare!  Second they attract people to their cause like bees to the honeycomb!  In a society where everyone tells us how great that they are…and how they have all of the answers…we have become jaded and our ears have stopped up and our eyes have glossed over!

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We hunger for someone to have the singularity of purpose and the purity of intent to understand that they need others to help them and we listen for their call!

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I am a friend of former Southern Illinois University President Dr. Glenn Poshard.  I was privileged to counsel with Glenn on numerous occasions.  I enjoyed his company immensely because he was not haughty or proud, although he had been a five term United States Congressman and had almost been elected Governor of Illinois.  Glenn was always looking for another way to help people.  He began his career at SIUC as a civil service employee in the Physical Plant…and he never forgot where he came from!  The university president told me on one occasion that I was the humblest person that he had ever met…and I thought I wish that were true…but I still strive to be worthy of his high compliment!

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Souther Illinois University @ Carbondale is opening wide its doors of opportunity and growth and happiness and joy!  Let all of us, both inside the university community… and outside in the wider Southern Illinois Community… welcome each and every student that graces us with their presence!  They are not the fortunate ones to be with us…we are the fortunate ones…to be chosen by them!

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