Friday, April 28, 2006

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Some Closing Thoughts

I would like to take the opportunity to publicly thank all those who were involved with the recently completed series on transition from military leadership to business leadership:

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership

Let me begin by thanking Kelly Perdew. It was Kelly’s fine book, “Take Command,” that gave me the idea to take the ten attributes of leadership that make up the structure of his book, and then to ask ten friends of mine to flesh out these components of leadership by sharing their ideas and experiences.

I would like to thank each of these ten writers who contributed their articles and themselves to this series:

Duty - Bill Reagan
Impeccability - Drew Clarke
Passion - Scott St. Germain
Perseverance - Chris Squier
Planning - Chris Crane
Teamwork - John Byington
Loyalty - Phil Anderson
Flexibility - Mark Dahl
Selfless Service - Terry Schwalier
Integrity - Mark Thaller

Response to the series has been very encouraging. I have heard from a number of readers who have shared their own thoughts and experiences. Several people have asked for permission to further disseminate the series – in whole or in part – to their own constituencies and circles of friends.

We have given permission for the series to be made available to the participants at the upcoming National Company Grade Officer (CGO) Professional Development Conference at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. This year’s theme will be “Selfless Service.”

Through the encouragement of those who have been impacted by the series, I have become convinced that the project can be expanded into a book that will be a useful resource to officers who are contemplating making the transition from the military to the business world. There are already many fine resources available, but I sense that there is a real gap in addressing from a case and narrative approach the choices that people face when they leave the military at four discrete points: after an initial 5 year commitment, after 10 years, after 20 years, and at retirement after a full career.

I am envisioning a book that would be developed in four sections - one section to address each of the time frames outlined above. We will gather stories from people who have been faced with the choice to leave or stay at each point along the way, and who have had to confront what a next career would look like and how best to pursue that second career. I envision a healthy balance of stories representing people from all four branches - and maybe a Coast Guard story or two for good measure!

Across the four sections of the book, we will tie it all together by addressing five global questions that everyone must wrestle with as they prepare to transition from the military. These questions and examples of how to answer them will be illustrated through personal stories and cases of men and women who have made the transition at each stage along the way.

We will also address the issues that impact the spouse of the leader in transition.

* * * *

I would like to enlist the help of readers of The White Rhino Report in moving this project forward. For those of you who have made the transition from military leadership to a second career, or who anticipate making that transition in the future, I would welcome your responses to the following questions:

1) If you were to choose 5 key questions that should be addressed globally in each section of the book, what would be your five top questions that individuals facing transition from military leadership should be asking themselves?

2) What suggestions and ideas do you have for moving this book project forward?

Please e-mail your responses and ideas to me at:



Thursday, April 27, 2006

Charles McCarry Paints A Powerful Picture: A Review Of “The Last Supper”

Like the Da Vinci masterpiece from which this book borrows its name, “The Last Supper” contains a fascinating tableau of characters all arrayed around a central hero who comes back from the dead. Paul Christopher represents the second generation of his family to work for The Outfit in a variety of espionage and counterespionage roles. The story revolves around his efforts to uncover the truth behind the death of his father and the disappearance of his mother into the hands of the Nazis.

McCarry is an artist with words, and he paints a picture that is as full of mystery and intrigue as is the enigmatic smile of La Gioconda. He paints with verbal brushstrokes and a palette that employ various hues of terror, tragedy, turmoil, tyranny, subterranean tunneling and multi-layered treachery. The action of the narrative takes us through Nazi Germany, Vienna, Viet Nam, China, the Berkshires and the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

While I always enjoy McCarry’s plots, what causes me to seek out more and more of his titles to read and enjoy is his artful use of language. In this regard, he is the equal of John Le Carre, whose artistry I have long admired. Here are just a few nuggets:

’Do you know about tapestries?' Lori asked, continuing to speak English. She did so with a slight Scottish intonation; Hubbard supposed that she had learned the language form a nanny. Perhaps the nanny had come form Edinburgh. He imagined the poor woman, happy enough with the Buechelers, caring for this lovely child, then caught in Germany by the war: Hubbard often reconstructed whole biographies from the single toe bone of such fossil hints; he was a writer.” (Page 18)

As the action of the book moves to Viet Nam, McCarry’s shares these observations and insights:

“At the edge of the village, lying in an uncovered grave, were the bodies of a dozen men and women; their right hands and their heads had been cut off. Among them was a Catholic priest, a Frenchman who had had a bald head and a peevish sharp face; even in death he seemed sure of his opinions.” (Page 179)

The description of Christopher’s release from prison after ten year’s of incarceration in China is full of captivating detail and metaphoric beauty and poignancy:

“The pilot started the engines and with a deafening stutter the machine rose into the air. Frightened by the noise, birds poured out of the eaves of the monastery, silvery in the morning sunlight like water spilling over a stone. Below him, his ditch, which had seemed so long and deep to him for so many years, grew smaller and thinner and then seemed to close like the lips of a healed cut.” (Page 308)

Finally, McCarry, in full stride as a writer, captures the essence of Christopher’s young love interest, Stephanie, as he settles into his life after prison:

“Stephanie ran with full concentration, striding over the brick sidewalks of Georgetown with her head thrown back and her dark ponytail bouncing. The back of her shirt was soaked with sweat and her legs shone with perspiration. She was not a natural athlete, but it was clear that she had studied the technique of running as she might have studied a foreign language. She earnestly applied the grammar and vocabulary of the sport, wearing the proper equipment, doing stretching exercises before she set out, placing her feet in just the right way, carrying her head and arms correctly, breathing deeply. She didn’t have the accent quite right. It was a charming weakness. She reminded Christopher of the earnest hikers in the forests of Rugen. She reminded him constantly of herself as a child. There was something endearing about her solemnity.” (Page 339)

That is good writing! Jog to the nearest bookstore (or keyboard) and get a copy of “The Last Supper” or any of McCarry’s other offerings.


A Timely Update From The Mountains For Miracles "Base Camp"

Since I published the article on Monday about Mountains for Miracles, there have been some dramatic new developments. I just heard from John Serafini some exciting news that I promised him I would share with readers of The White Rhino Report.

* * * * *

We won the Harvard Business School’s Business Plan competition. Specifically, we won the “pilot/start-up” track of the social enterprise division. Essentially, our track was for non-profit, 501(c)(3) organizations that have already initiated operations.

In addition to receiving $10k of seed capital and an additional $10k of in-kind services (Deloitte & Foley Hoag), winning the competition brings a considerable amount of intrinsic validation to the Mountains for Miracles concept. Having the implicit approval of the Harvard Business School behind us should reduce risk in the eyes of potential corporate sponsors as well as open doors with HBS alumni.

Additionally, I am pleased to report that we have received our initial approval from the IRS for our 501(c)(3) status. With $75k raised to date in cash and in-kind services, I believe we are on the right path. However, any assistance from the readers of your blog in gaining introductions to likely corporate sponsors would be greatly appreciated.

Hope all is well!


PS- received a nice contribution from [several White Rhino Report readers]!

* * * * *
As many of you are aware, the Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition is a prestige annual event that has helped to launch numerous successful companies. This is a tremendous boost to the Mountains for Miracles efforts. As you can see from John’s comments, several readers of this Blog have already used the Link to make a contribution to Mountains for Miracles. I encourage you to consider doing so (see The White Rhino's Favorites Links to the right), and also to make potential corporate sponsors aware of this worthwhile and innovative effort to eradicate cancer in children.


Al Chase

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Adding Some Humanity To Resume Writing – Tips From Dave Teten and Mike Lorelli

Dave Teten’s “Brain Food” Blog is a reliable source of very useful information – often about networking and making useful connections. A recent edition of his newsletter included wisdom from Mike Lorelli, CEO of Latex Foam International.

As an executive recruiter, I receive mountains of resumes – solicited and unsolicited. Anyone in job search mode who wants to have the best chance to partner effectively with a recruiter should learn to see the world through the eyes of the recruiter. The following helpful pointers represent a significant step in that direction.

* * * *

Courtesy of Dave Teten and Mike Lorelli, President and CEO of Latex Foam International, the only U.S.-based Talalay latex foam producer, and largest supplier of latex mattress components and pillows in North America. (Full disclosure: I [Dave Teten] edited the first two bullets.)

13 Little Things About Resumes and Emails

1) Cover Letter File Names: recruiters prefer: Lastname-Firstname-2006-cover-letter.doc

2) Your resume file name: recruiters prefer: Lastname-Firstname-2006-resume.doc

3) NEVER send your resume as “resume.doc.” If a recruiter downloads ten emails, and half the people use “resume.doc.” you are dead (and should be!)

4) Your Subject Line must signal that this is not a spam message.

Use CEO-NJ Fragrance Co- Mike Lorelli to concisely signal your purpose.

5) Don’t put a fax # on your resume. Fax is rarely used, and makes you look like a “trailing-edge” person.

6) Don’t use “PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE,” unless you plan to list prostitution or other NON-PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE.”

7) Don’t complicate things with the name of the parent corporation, or division name, or whether or not the firm is incorporated. List the parent only if it’s a recognized Fortune company and thereby enhances the Division name.

8) Don’t waste space explaining that PepsiCo is “A leading food and beverage conglomerate with operations in 97 countries.” If the company is recognized, save the space.

9) Omit the STATE, if 99% of the readers will know in what state cities like Boston or Atlanta, Indianapolis, Chicago, etc. are. Ditto for Foreign Cities. Paris, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Montreal.

10) Avoid grid- type fill-in-the-box styles. When viewed electronically, you look like a college senior.

11) Resumes are two pages in length. Anything longer signals that you have poor summarization skills. Alexander Haig’s resume is one page, and he accomplished more than I have.

12) Over 50? Don’t make the mistake of leaving off your year of college graduation. You look pretty silly when (100%) of the people figure it out. In fact, do the opposite! On my cover letters I add a “P.S.” that says:

“ps: I am 52, have an MBA from NYU, 1973, and am an active outside director and trustee”

It’s my way of signaling “52 and proud of it!”

13) Have a PERSONAL section at the end of your resume. Show some personality and some color. People prefer to work with humans, not machines.

Below is my section.


Married. Two precious daughters. Author of children’s best-seller, 'Traveling Again, Dad' with profits donated to children’s charities. Have traveled to 44 countries. Avid runner. Active private pilot. Excel at no sport. Member Business Executives for National Security. WPO.

I get a lot of comments on the “Two precious daughters” and “Excel at no sport” lines.

Other useful websites we recommend:
career acceleration, business acceleration, and paid consulting opportunities for industry experts.
how to sign new clients, raise capital, or even find your dream job with online networks

* * * * *

Mike Lorelli’s advice is right on the money. I would add a few more:

1) Do not send your resume to a recruiter in .pdf format. It is a pain to deal with in forwarding to prospective employers. Always send as an MS-Word file.

2) If someone has recommended that you contact the recruiter, identify that referral in the subject line to avoid looking like Spam or an unsolicited resume.

3) Do not use inflated and grandiloquent language and meaningless jargon that make you sound like a desperate used car salesman: “Candidate is a highly skilled world-class multi-tasking self-starter who wants to be your next rainmaker!”

4) Be cautious in crafting an “Objective Statement.” In most cases, they are so generic that they say nothing, or so specific that they rule you out of consideration for positions you may otherwise be qualified for. It would be better to have no "Objective" section than to include a poorly written one.

5) Don’t be boring in your resume or cover letter. Show some life, some spark, some imagination, some color.

6) Include e-mail and cell phone contact information.

7) In your cover letter, do not "preach" or pontificate: "In this rapidly-changing business environment, every company needs a forward-thinking leader. I am your man!" It is a complete turn-off and makes you sounds like Al Sharpton on a bad day!

I enthusiastically concur with Lorelli’s contention about adding personal information to your resume. Let me share a couple of real life anecdotes.

I once worked with a candidate who had on his resume, under “Personal,” the following statement: “Unbeatable in Scrabble!” Every recruiter in the world told him to eliminate that phrase from his resume because it was superfluous and fluffy. I, on the other hand, told him to keep it in there. A few weeks later, I was able to present this candidate, along with a few other candidates, to one of my client companies. The hiring manager called and said to me: “I want to meet the candidate who plays Scrabble.” The initial interview went well, and the hiring manager called me back to say: “We want Mike to come back and meet a few more members of the team. Tell him his final interview will involve playing me in Scrabble. If he wins, he is hired!”

Mike did win, and was hired! The Scrabble added some humor, levity and humanity to a process that too often can be humorless, grueling and dehumanizing. I advise candidates to think of their resume as a “truth in advertising” document, as well as seeing it as a tool for screening out employers you would not want to work for. If you are a multi-faceted person whose family and hobbies are an important part of your life, do you really want to work for a company that would be turned off by your including those facts on your resume?

One of my favorite phrases included in a professional resume comes from my friend, John Byington. At the end of his resume, under “Personal,” John has added the following: “Operator of ships, boats, aircraft, parachutes, scuba . . .my sons’ toys.”

With the simple turn of a phrase, John has sent the strong signal to any prospective employer that he is a three-dimensional human being, and that if they choose to hire John, they are not only hiring an Annapolis grad with a Harvard MBA, they are also hiring Nate and Zach’s Dad!


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Scaling The Heights of Servant Leadership – Mountains For Miracles

On the heels of last week’s fine article by General Terry Schwalier about “Service Above Self,” I thought that the timing was ideal to introduce a project that is close to my own heart. The project is called “Mountains for Miracles.” John Serafini is the Founder and Executive Director of this amazing initiative.

John Serafini and I were introduced a couple of years ago by our mutual friend, Darin Souza. Both John and Darin are West Point graduates currently pursuing their MBA degrees. John is at Harvard and Darin is at Tuck Business School at Dartmouth.

As most readers of The White Rhino Report are aware, I know a lot of people! John Serafini is one of the most interesting and compelling individuals I have met in the past few years. Nothing is too daunting for John. When I first met him, he had just competed in the Army’s “Best Ranger Competition" – a grueling two-day affair that makes the Olympic Decathlon look like a walk in the park. John and his comrade, Paul Staehli, were among the top finishers. On my desk, I have a picture of John and Paul that ran in Sports Illustrated as that magazine offered comprehensive coverage of the Best Ranger Competition. Using the same intrepid approach, John has pursued dual studies at Harvard, both at the Business School and at the Kennedy School of Government. It should not be surprising, then, to learn that when cancer touched a member of John’s family, John chose to respond by making a frontal assault against that dread disease. John has pulled together a remarkable team of men and women who have created a movement and an organization called “Mountains for Miracles.”

I am pleased to make you all aware of this exciting and challenging initiative to raise money for solving the problem of cancer in children.

* * * *

More American children die from cancer than from any other disease. Mountains for Miracles addresses this social concern by combining mountaineering with fundraising to generate the funds and awareness needed to find a cure.

Our inaugural campaign is a record-setting expedition to climb the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents within seven months. We intend to use the catalyst of this exciting expedition as a fundraising platform to reach our goal of $5MM for pediatric oncology research at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & The Jimmy Fund.

Please visit for an overview of our organization, our cause, and our quest to climb the Seven Summits to raise $5MM for the fight against childhood cancers!

Via a partnership with Kintera, our website has the capability to accept online contributions. Please also feel free to forward this email to your respective networks of friends and families - please help us spread the word!

We have recently received a gracious "challenge gift" of $1,000. This donation will be contributed to the Mountains for Miracles organization once this current drive reaches $5,000. Please help us reach this goal!

Click here to donate to Mountains for<> Miracles.

Thank you for your support and contributions!

The Mountains for Miracles Team

John Serafini

Executive Director & Expedition Leader

* * * * *

I just went on-line and made a contribution. The whole process took only a couple of minutes out of my life, but that simple gesture may help to extend the life of a child for many decades.

I have also added Mountains for Miracles to The White Rhino’s Favorite Links From A-Z, so you can link to this site for frequent updates on the progress of the Mountains for Miracles team, and also to make regular contributions.


Monday, April 24, 2006

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part X: “Integrity” by Mark Thaller

I have been privileged to call Mark Thaller a friend for several years now. Mark is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned two engineering degrees – a rare feat! He served as an officer in the Pacific Fleet, earned an MBA from Wharton, and was chosen as a Kauffman Fellow. Mark’s leadership roles in the private sector have taken him to the worlds of venture capital, nuclear technology, homeland security and telecommunications. Mark is also a Triathlete and the very embodiment of “multi-tasker”!

* * * *

INTEGRITY by Mark Thaller

When Al asked me to be a contributing author to the White Rhino blog and to comment upon Kelly Perdew’s thesis for Take Command I was immediately drawn to the topic of Integrity. Al provided me the purported privilege of choosing from among all 10 topics. I honestly think he knew what topics we were each likely to choose. Very shrewd, but it certainly made it easier to persuade each of us to write an article. I feel privileged to have been included with the other 9 co-authors and hope that this final article does justice to each of my esteemed colleagues.

Integrity may be the most easily over-emphasized (and hence controversial) of the ten principles since its interpretation is so subjective. Many people superficially define integrity akin to honesty or truthfulness. These are admirable traits but, to be frank, have little to do with integrity. Some of our most admired leaders, including esteemed Presidents, elder statesmen and business icons, fully understood that in some situations the ends must, in fact, justify the means. On this issue can these individuals claim to be honest, truthful and/or trustworthy? Of course not! The context and perspective of these traits is subjective and must be viewed from multiple perspectives. However, history has judged these sorts of individuals to have the highest degree of integrity. It is from this historical perspective that a more definitive notion of integrity is formed. I would suggest that integrity is most closely aligned with a code of life-long values. Said differently:

Integrity is the behavior typified that upon one’s dying breath there are:
a) no regrets
b) imminently proud of one’s life, and
c) upon full disclosure of our past actions history will judge us to have benefited humankind.

As citizens of the human race we are all measured by an individualized yardstick called “integrity”. By definition none of us will ever measure up while everybody is subconsciously doing our best (to varying degrees of effort) to meet this ever-changing standard. This definition of integrity better describes what our fallen comrades may have felt when making the ultimate sacrifice and is what all of us should be considering when addressing tough decisions. In this regard few decisions are really hard but are instead potentially embarrassing, humiliating, and/or financially costly. However, none of these decisions are difficult if one keeps the issue of integrity close at heart.

Although the notion of integrity involves a constantly changing benchmark it sometimes coincides with honesty. As a young man hoping to attend either Annapolis or West Point, I was very aware of the concept of integrity and its relationship with honesty. I had fairly high math scores on the SAT and was considered very likely to gain entry to MIT. When asked during the interview process “why is MIT your first choice” I confidently replied that: “MIT is a fantastic 3rd choice, but my top two choices are Navy and Army”. I knew that by saying this I would likely fail to gain admittance to MIT, an admittedly great institution. However, I also had a strong desire to remain true to what was critically important to me at the time. In this context I am guilty of practicing very poor negotiating skills while exercising the highest degree of honesty and integrity.

In most instances the issue of honesty and integrity are a bit gray and involve judgment. These instances occur on a daily basis among business and military leaders alike. An example I clearly recall from my early days in the Nuclear Submarine Force involved an underwater collision. The details are not relevant and remain classified. What is important is how the Navy handled the situation in the aftermath. As the Officer of the Deck I was fully responsible for the safety of the submarine and crew. I was also acutely aware of each and every detail involving this collision. In this regard so, too, were others that I had informed (including the Commanding Officer) about depth, speed, location, context and rules of engagement. Upon being issued a Letter of Reprimand I could have further elevated the situation to my personal betterment in the short term. However, the better decision in this instance was to accept what may have been inappropriate punishment with the embarrassing subtleties of the incident forever hidden. Was this honest? Perhaps not. Was this the best course for the Navy, my fellow officers and, in hindsight for myself? Absolutely! The critical benchmark on this and other issues of potential controversy would be to ask myself if, on my deathbed this afternoon, would I regret these particular actions and/or would I do anything differently? In this particular issue my response is “no”. Hence, I would suggest that on this particular issue I remained true to my personal context of integrity.

Of course no dialogue is complete without an example of something dark, sinister and foreboding. I have been doing independent work in Iraq on behalf of our government and various American and Iraq clients since 2003. Much of this activity occurred in a pseudo-covert fashion, without government endorsement outside the Green Zone and involved a wide cast of interesting characters. During this period I was frequently confronted with opportunities to involve myself with other former military officers doing business in Iraq. In nearly every instance these international entrepreneurs were behaving with questionable integrity. However, in their defense, the laws of the land (in Iraq) were practically non-existent, so why should such purported laws be followed? In contrast, I was in the country on questionable legal basis associating with admittedly unethical (and downright scary) characters while the American entrepreneurs were either serving as Reservists and/or attached to various government contracts. Hence, who was I to cast a stone? In short, the entire Iraq scenario must be evaluated from a very personal perspective. As one of the very few living in Iraq outside the Green Zone - and at my own expense - I chose to govern my actions with the understanding that I may be killed at any time. It was with this understanding that I took great care to ensure that I would regret nothing upon taking my “last breath”.

In closing the issue of integrity is subjectively personal. Each of us will someday be faced with the frank realization that our life may end within months, days or even minutes… and that the opportunity to make amends for past errors in judgment is forever lost. I believe that many, if not most, people subconsciously adhere (in varying degrees, of course) to this creed of integrity, but I also sincerely believe that those of military background have a head start. My co-authors also share this belief and as leaders we are hopefully conveying some of these leadership traits to our non-military colleagues.

Go Navy! Beat Army! (Sorry, Kelly. Somebody had to say it!).

* * * *

Thank you, Mark.

Isn't inter-serivce rivalry a wondrous thing to behold!

This concludes our series. I will make some concluding comments later this week on the series and responses I have received to the articles.


Friday, April 21, 2006

“The March” by E.L. Doctorow – A Review

I agree with the reviewer from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who called Doctorow “a national treasure.” From the time when I had read the first few pages of “Ragtime,” I have been a huge fan of his writing. Doctorow has a way of evoking an era that reminds me of another of my favorite authors: Charles Dickens. Both authors write with gritty and amusing details about characters, places and events that allow me to imagine sights, sounds and smells as if I had been transported back to the time and scene of the action. Dickens and Doctorow are both gifted and elegant wordsmiths who take fictional characters and weave them into historical settings in such a way as to throw new light on familiar history.

In “The March,” Doctorow drags us through the mud, slime, blood, ash, smoke, detritus and chaos that defined Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” He also invites us to view the action and trek through the eyes of a variety of participant observers – slaves, plantation owners, generals, privates, surgeons, amputees, heroes, traitors, survivors and victims of the juggernaut that was Sherman’s Army on the march. The overall result was that for the first time, I feel as if I have some understanding of what this significant chapter in the Civil War saga was all about.

I never really felt I had a grasp on the Battle of Gettysburg until I had walked the battlefield several times and had stood on Little Roundtop and imagined Chamberlain’s forces laying their lives onthe line in protecting the Union flank. Having been led by Doctorow through the pages of “The March,” I feel as if I have walked the virtual battlefield. One need not be a “Civil War buff” to enjoy this brilliant bit of writing. One need only bring to the table an appreciation for good literature and keen insight into human interactions under immense pressure.

Doctorow describes the burning of Columbia, South Carolina:

"It seemed to him an exemplary justice come to this state that had led the South to war. Earlier in the day he had seen a company of Union soldiers who had been among the hundreds imprisoned right here in the city’s insane asylum. The condition they were in appalled him. Filthy, foul-smelling, their skin scabrous, they were hollow-eyes creatures shambling to parade in a pathetic imitation of soldiering. You saw the structures of them through the skin, the bony residue of their half-human life, and you didn’t want to look at them. The capital city of the Confederacy had treated these soldiers not as prisoners of war but as dogs in a cage. General Sherman had seen these men and had wept and now all he could think of was the Southern belles he had kissed.” (Pages 184-185)

As the March – and the War – neared their end, Sherman muses in Faulkneresque run-on loquacity about the meaning of it all:

“Though this march is done, and well accomplished, I think of it now, God help me, with longing – not for its blood and death but for the bestowal of meaning to the very ground trod upon, how it made every field and swamp and river and road into something of moral consequence, whereas now, as the march dissolves so does the meaning, the army strewing itself into the isolated intentions of diffuse private life, and the terrain thereby left blank and also diffuse, and ineffable, a thing once again, and victoriously, without reason, and, whether diurnally lit and darkened, or sere or fruitful, or raging or calm, completely insensible and without any purpose of its own."

"And why is Grant so solemn today upon our great achievement except he knows this unmeaning inhuman planet will need our warring imprint to give it value, and that our civil war, the devastating manufacture of the bones of our sons, is but a war after a war, a war before a war.”
(Pages 358-359)

While you are in a Doctorow mood, I can also recommend his other works that I have feasted upon and digested: Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, The Waterworks, and City of God.


A Very Different Take On West Point – Loyalty, Excellence, Sacrifice: A Salute To Maggie Dixon

This article comes from the a weekly West Pont e-mail newsletter, entitled “Gray Matter,” written by J. Phoenix, Esquire. I found the story so moving and compelling that I felt I needed to share it with readers of The White Rhino Report.

* * * *

She had spent only half a year of her young life coaching women'sbasketball at West Point, but it was a memorable six-and-a-half months. This assistant coach from DePaul came to the Academy as one of several candidates for head coach, and not the first choice at that. But she had a certain spark that induced Director of Intercollegiate Athletics KevinAnderson to take a chance on an animated young woman who had graduated from the University of San Diego in 1999 with hopes of playing in the Women's National Basketball Association but turned to coaching at the suggestion of her big brother Jaimie, now head coach of the Pittsburghmen's basketball team.

At a school noted for discipline, Maggie Dixon could be a disciplinarian on the court and off. She was the field general of the team that she inherited just weeks before the season began. But at a school not noted for nurturing, she also could be a big sister to her team, convincing them that if they could deal with Beast Barracks and the demands of the plebe system at West Point, they could do great things on the basketball court as well. Her quarters were always open to her team members, and she was there for them 24/7. To back her up, she chose a man twice her age, Dave Magarity, a former long-time men's head coach from nearby Marist. Together, this contrasting coaching duo eventually took the Army women's team to the top, but things did not start off that well.

Near the halfway mark of the season, Army had posted an unimpressive 5-7mark. Encouraging her team to hold their heads high and do their best, she went to the Cadet Mess Hall to speak to the Corps and encourage them to come to the games and cheer on her team. Most had other things on their mind than women's basketball. But as Maggie spurred the team on towards the 20-11 record that would win the Patriot League regular season title, the Corps began to listen to this dynamic young woman only a half dozen years their senior. By the time of the post-season Patriot League tournament, more cadets turned out to cheer, and when Army's women beat Holy Cross in the finals to win the tournament and a first-ever appearance in the NCAA post-season March Madness, the cadets hoisted her on their shoulders and carried her around the Christl Arena basketball court. At a later appearance in the Cadet Mess Hall, she received a standing ovation.

A loss to powerhouse Tennessee in the NCAA opening round did nothing to defuse the excitement. Army had a winning coach who turned an average program into a thing of beauty without having had time to unpack her bags or do any recruiting. Army now had another coach who could get the best out of a team by understanding, guts, and sheer leadership. Then, on 5 April 2006, Maggie Dixon collapsed at a friend's house at West Point and was evacuated to Westchester Medical Center. The prognosis was not good. Both her family and her team gathered to say their goodbyes, and Maggie died on 6 April without having regained consciousness.

The following day, a Memorial Service was held at the Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity at West Point. An autopsy revealed that Maggie died of an irregular heart beat caused by a previously undiagnosed enlarged heart.

On 11 April 2006, a funeral service was held at St. Charles Borremeo
Roman Catholic Church in California, with the women of Army's Patriot League Championship basketball team in attendance. Then, at the completion of the service, as Maggie's coffin was borne down the aisle,the team stood at attention in cadet uniform as their coach passed enroute back to the East Coast. Her parents had been childhood sweethearts in Throgs Neck, the Bronx, before moving to California in 1966. Now, after LTG Lennox offered a plot at the West Point Cemetery as an exception to policy, the family agreed that Maggie would make another cross-country trip back to New York. A burial service open to the public was held at 11 am on Good Friday, 14 April 2006. Again the women's basketball team stood at attention, along with Maggie's family and several hundred others wishing to pay their last respects. After Father Edson Wood completed the burial service, the team filed by, kissed the coffin, and said their final good byes.

As the mourners departed the historic cemetery where Scott, Thayer, Custer, Buford, Goethals, Michie, Bunker, Blaik and others rest in hallowed ground with younger graduates who gave their lives in more recent wars, rain began to fall. Maggie was home.

After her stunning first season as head coach, it was inevitable that Coach Dixon would be courted by other schools proffering more lucrative contracts than the Academy could hope to match. But Maggie had told the Superintendent that she would stay the course at West Point. And she did just that.

Well done, Maggie.

Be thou at peace.

Your humble servant, J. Phoenix, Esquire

* * * *

For those interested in subscribing to this free newsletter about current events and history of West Point, may sign up to receive all future issues directly at:

Al Chase

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part IX: “Selfless Service” by Terry Schwalier

As I conceived of this series, addressing the transition from military leadership to business leadership, I wanted to be sure that all four branches of the military were represented in the articles that would be written. I also wanted to ensure that we would cover a broad range of military leadership experience – all the way from those who had left the military as junior officers (JMO’s) to those who had attained the status of general officer or “flag officer.” With today’s article about “Service Above Self,” we complete the cycle on both counts. Terry Schwalier represents the U.S. Air Force, and had responsibilities as a Brigadier General when he retired from the Air Force to enter the business world.

There is a nice tie-in between General Schwalier’s approach to describing “Selfless Service,” and that of Kelly Perdew’s approach to this topic. In “Take Command,” Kelly leads off Chapter Nine – “Selfless Service: Give Back” – with a discussion of his experience as a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In the article below, General Schwalier evokes the person and life of Jesus Christ as one example of “Selfless Service.” In each case, Kelly and Terry have demonstrated the validity and courage of applying the values of personal faith to the challenges of public leadership responsibilities.

* * * *

In the mid-90’s, then Air Force Chief of Staff Ron Fogleman identified Service above Self as one of the Air Force’s three core values. He called it the “price of admission” in becoming an Air Force member. By codifying Service above Self as a core value in a national cultural environment that seemed to emphasize self above all else, General Fogleman reminded us of what young men and women volunteering to join America’s profession of arms have committed to do.
Daily fatality counts in the War on Terror underscore the seriousness of that commitment.

Service above Self has, of course, a much broader application. Role models come from all walks of life. Our history is filled with meaningful examples. I’ll mention a few that have had a profound and personal impact…men and women whose focus was on making things better for others - men and women who have lived a truly meaningful life.

In chronological order, I start with my parents - two people who sacrificed to give me opportunities. My mom worked a second job so I could take the lessons and have the equipment to learn the lessons of growing up. Both gave me the gift of their time and patient wisdom. I still reflect on the answer my dad gave to my childhood question, “Why did you join the Air Force?” “Because it’s the big league” was a perfect response to a 10-year-old – and one that has deepened in meaning as the years have passed.

My wife Dianne comes next. In our 37 years together, Dianne, above all others on this earth, has shown me the honor, and the significance, of being a servant. Her countless hours of caring for the welfare and growth of her family over these many years have resulted in a husband, children and grandchildren who adore her. Her “I can always sleep later” attitude when helping others continues to humble us. Proverbs 31 describes her well. We respect her.
Referring to Proverbs and what the books of the Old Testament foretell, introduces my next Service above Self role model: Jesus Christ. In considering the meaning of the Easter celebration this past week, I am again assured that there is no better role model of Service above Self - no better example to follow.

Over the years, friends, mentors, and heroes have also helped shape the meaning of Service above Self for me. During my early years as an Air Force officer, I watched the conduct of our Prisoners of War in North Vietnam…men such as John Stockdale, Robbie Risner, Bud Day and John McCain…men who continued to serve in the face of torture and death. In each case, yielding to their captors’ demands would have made things easier. In each case, these men chose the harder road. Their actions exemplified Service above Self.

Throughout my Air Force career, I was blessed with bosses who well understood the Service above Self core value. Men who focused and acted based on what they understood Service above Self to be…not on what they thought would get them promoted. In 1985 at Torrejon Air Base in Spain, I served a wing commander, John Fryer, who understood the importance of mentoring as a way of serving. Although mentoring took time out of busy days and activities that were measured and compared in terms of that day’s operational readiness, John was giving beyond himself to serve the future. He continues to do that today as the superintendent of schools in a major Florida city. And I continue to be grateful for his example.

A few years after codifying Service above Self, General Ron Fogleman, lived out that core value. In July 1997, following events and reactions that occurred during the first six months of a new Secretary of Defense’s tenure, General Fogleman, as an unprecedented move in the Air Force’s 50-year history, announced his retirement a year before the completion of his expected tenure. In explaining his actions, Fogleman wrote "My values and sense of loyalty to our soldiers, sailors, Marines and especially our airmen led me to the conclusion that I may be out of step with the times and some of the thinking of the establishment. This puts me in an awkward position. If I were to continue to serve as chief of staff of the Air Force and speak out, I could be seen as a divisive force and not a team player. I do not want the Air Force to suffer for my judgment and convictions." Clearly, General Fogleman understood Service above Self…and lived his conviction.
I began this blog input on Service above Self by suggesting that the daily fatality count in America’s War on Terror underscores the seriousness of the selfless commitment our young men and women make when volunteering to enter our Nation’s armed forces. I’ll end with two more role model examples from this continuing battle against terrorism. The first centers on my 1968/1969 roommate from the US Air Force Academy, PK Carlton.

During the 911 attack on the pentagon, PK – a lieutenant general and the Air Force’s Surgeon General at the time - was at a senior staff meeting in the building. His immediate reaction was to go directly to the area of intrusion, assess the initial medical response, and begin saving lives. PK, along with a small medical team who had joined him, entered the furthermost reaches of the destruction to find and help the victims…and stayed until walls and ceilings weakened by the explosions began to fail. On later learning of PK’s actions, I was not surprised. That was who PK Carlton is. It’s also why I have been blessed to have him as a friend -- and a Service above Self role model.

The second involves a story told by my son, Erik, who is finishing up his fourth year of medical school at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD. In this past year, I’ve learned that a fourth year medical student’s life evolves around “rotations” where he spends 4-6 weeks learning from, and being observed by, attending physicians providing patient care. Many of these “rotations” have involved dealing with injured young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. My son and I talk frequently about his encounters…and rarely with dry eyes as he describes – again and again – how impassioned these young men and women are to “get back to the fight” or to “get back to their unit.”

In the confusion of politics and political maneuvering, these are young Americans who, clearly, understand the significance…and the potential cost…of Service above Self.

We can dearly learn from them.

Terry Schwalier, Brig Gen, USAF (retired)

* * * *
Thank you, Terry.

In giving us his list of those whose approach to Service above Self he admires, Terry mentions John McCain and other Prisoners of War. There is a book that I recommend enthusiastically that enlarges upon the prisoner of war experience of John McCain, et al. “The Nightingale’s Song,” by Robert Timberg, is one of the finest books I have read that blends military and political themes. It follows the careers of McCain, Bud McFarlane, Ollie North, John Poindexter and James Webb through their labyrinthine journeys from Annapolis to Viet Nam to the Reagan White House to the Iran Contra scandal. It is compelling reading.

* * * *

This series will conclude next week with . . . .

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part X: “Integrity” by Mark Thaller

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Thoughts And Iraq

I have just returned from New Hampshire, where I spent a glorious day worshipping and visiting with family members, including my two adorable grandchildren. On my drive back down to the Boston area, I was reflecting on what a joy it was to be able to spend time in worship on this special day among special people, and then to enjoy a wonderful meal in which we celebrated the Resurrection of the Lord. He is Risen indeed! Then, we spent the afternoon calling absent family members and leisurely watching the children play. It does not get much better than that!

On my drive back south, I also thought about the thousands of men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the globe who are thousands of miles way from their families on this Easter Sunday. A few days ago, one of those men, Captain Michael Cooper, wrote me an update on what life is like for him and his troops these days. Mike is on his second deployment to Iraq, and I offer his thoughts as a way of directing your thoughts and prayers on this day towards Mike and those like him who are far from home and family.

* * * *

Wanted to drop a little note to everyone and let you all know I’m doing fine. Been busy working 12 hr days in the operations center. 90% of the time its business as usual (which is good), however the other 10% is pretty crazy. Today was one of those pretty crazy days, however for the 1 minute it took the us to possibly save someo'nes life made it all worth it. I don’t get to go on patrols like I did the first time, but I do get to help those that do, for example, by coordinating for air assets to move those critically wounded in some kind of attack. We have been lucky so far in my unit…knock on wood…lets just hope it stays that way.

Not sure what the news is saying back home, but to clear things up we are progressing over here each day. We are getting closer and closer to turning over Iraq to its security forces (ISF). This probably won’t happen in the next year, but eventually it will. We are conducting combined patrols with the ISF and the locals are gaining more and more confidence in their abilities. Of course they prefer U.S. patrols in their neighborhoods (and who wouldn’t), but feel good about their own security forces. I don’t want it to sound like everything is good over here because it’s not. Soldiers are still dying and we are still fighting a war in which many people seem to forget. For all of those that have, just remind them that we could be fighting this war on our own turf and lose. Instead the American Soldiers are fighting it over here and are winning.

As far as my personal time goes I have been busy actually reading a couple different books. Found some interesting ones and haven’t been able to put them down (courtesy of Al Chase). Aside from reading, in an attempt to impress my wife when I get home I have been working out every so often. I don’t know if it’s helping any but I will continue to try. I figure this is my last chance to look good seeing as how I am alcohol and Taco Bell free for an entire year. The most dangerous is of course the combination of both! I try to keep in touch the parents and the wife but like any other adult male my communication skills are sub par. Not too much changes though when you work the same hours every day with the same people in the same building, but for some reason women just don’t understand that! I should be home for my two-week leave in July and will mostly likely hang out in Texas the entire time. Can’t wait for that of course. We should be out of here a couple months later in November, maybe even before Thanksgiving but I’m not holding my breath. Unfortunately I will miss out on NFL opening day with Dallas visiting Jacksonville. I’m sure Hunter and Tyler will attend to boo Terrell Owens, maybe even mom and dad. Hopefully I can catch a game or two in December.

Well its 2045 (8:45 pm for you non-military types like my wife) and I’m going to lay down and actually “read” for a little bit. I hope everyone is doing well and thank you all for your prayers. Can’t wait to see everyone again and have a beer or two or eight!


* * * *
Just a day later, I go this addition update from Michael:

Just finished up with 'Medici Effect' and just got through reading about Level 5 Leadership in 'Good to Great.' Really have enjoyed both books. Plan on reading 'Medici Effect' again just because I found it so interesting.

Things over here are starting to heat up along with the weather. We have had 98 IED attacks since we took over back in Jan in our area of operations! That’s pretty crazy isn’t it? So far we have been very fortunate. Let me tell you, the M1114 series HMMWV is one of the best pieces of equipment the Army has right now. Those vehicles have saved more lives and I hope that everyone involved in constructing them is aware of that.

I plan on writing General Motors, once I get a good point of contact for the M1114 HMMWV, just to let them know how much the Soldiers over here depend on that vehicle. I bet they don't hear that enough.

Michael, a 2002 graduate of West Point, is a fine example of the kind of leaders we can be proud of who are wearing the American uniform in Iraq. Please continue to keep him and the others in your prayers.


Friday, April 14, 2006

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part VIII: “Flexibility” by Mark Dahl

As I began to think about those I would ask to join me in writing for this series on successful transition from military leadership to business leadership, I knew that I wanted Mark Dahl to be one of the ten leaders who would share his experiences. Mark and I met a couple of years ago through the kindness of our mutual friend, Tom Glass. Mark has been a Top Gun pilot, and in addition to his responsibilities in the realm of financial management, Mark travels widely on behalf of his training and consulting practice, “TopGun Communications." When I asked him which of the ten principles of leadership he would like to address, Mark jumped on “flexibility” as the one the he finds particularly important.

* * * *

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part VIII: “Flexibility” by Mark Dahl

Take Command, by Kelly Perdew
Chapter Eight, “Flexibility: The Person with the Most Varied Responses Wins”

Twenty-four years ago, a newly minted Ltjg. walked into a fleet squadron ready room for the first time. On-board the venerable warship USS Midway, with a long list of questions and a far shorter list of answers, he had no idea what this experience would mean or how successful it would be. One thing was certain; he was now in the big leagues. Surrounded by veteran aviators of all shapes and sizes with varied backgrounds to match, there were questions from minute one as to whether he should even be there…whether he was good enough to be on this playing field.

As I look back on that day in 1982, Subic Bay, The Philippines, I reflect on what a life-changing event was put into motion that morning. I walked into that room a child and left nearly three years later having experienced things I could have only dreamt of. Kelly Perdew has done a great job of capturing that military experience and what it means to crafting success in life. All ten of his principles strike a chord with me, but the one I was most taken by is “Flexibility”. The US military model thrives on – nay, requires - that its members “live to adapt and adapt to live”. Different from the old Soviet bloc and its disciples, where actions “at the point” are controlled from a central command, we are taught to understand and adhere to a set of rules of engagement and be prepared to make the tough call, on the fly, when needed. In the aviation world we call it an envelope, the edges of which are written in blood. Inside this envelope, success is predictable, even likely. But as one pushes the edge, it becomes grayer and more unknown. MBA’s call it “thinking outside the box.” Whatever visual you use, it is at its most central core---Flexibility. As I launch off the pointy end of the carrier and point my nose at the bad guys at 700 knots, to a large degree I have no idea what I am about to encounter. Sure, I’ve briefed this evolution for three hours prior. I’ve thought about it in my quiet moments a thousand times, but in all reality, I am screaming toward my “date with destiny” carrying a big package of unknowns. Who will I face…how many…what weapon loads? What about the airborne conditions…weather, sun angle, my airplane itself? All of this will evolve as I press forward. And what of my opponent? How rested is he? How experienced…how motivated…how committed? I can prepare, and I have. I can be the best trained and most professional of my peers. In the end, how well I use that package, adapt and turn it into performance will determine whether I get to come home and do this again tomorrow. That is the ultimate goal.

Kelly talks about his experiences as both a military officer and a businessman with the same degree of passion and insight. This is the case because they are in so many ways the same. The concept of flexibility is so central to success in both. As officers in the service, we are ultimately problem solvers. Our ability to juggle our daily issues and consistently “get it done” is all that matters to those we follow and lead. Up and down the chain of command, the success of the mission clearly rests on the components of the process handling their tasks without question or hesitation. Lives depend on it. Business may not be quite as dramatic, but there is relative significance none-the-less. Flexibility also takes shape in that very chain of command itself. In the 3 years of my fleet squadron experience, I served under three CO/XO combinations. Each command had it’s own ideas and agenda for how the squadron should be run. In their eyes, they had waited upwards of 13-15 years to get this job. That is…. a job that was only going to last 18 months, so I can’t blame them for finally doing things their way. The resulting effect on all in the chain of command, however, was usually profound. Clearly the ability for all involved to adapt and produce was essential to the sanctity of the overall mission. No one cared about your personal view on the changes at hand…it was all about getting the job done.

Kelly writes of how he applied the concept of Standard Operating Procedures to his successful venture of the Layoff Lounge, that “…if followed by each city director, would guarantee that the event ran smoothly”. That was his standard…his envelope, and until someone had the experience to adjust it, to push it, it was to be followed implicitly. In a nutshell, that is the military experience and the concept of flexibility. It is, as Kelly writes, what the Army excelled at - providing a standardized model to complete missions. What it does not mean, however, is that the military creates robots or mindless followers of orders, as the outside world often perceives. On the contrary, they are focused, committed, highly trained and incredibly creative. The combination of those elements gives rise to the concept of flexibility…an ability to adjust and adapt to the evolving situation, yet never losing sight of the mission at hand. That is, in the end, the job we do and ultimately what makes the military leader such an asset in the non-military world.

* * * *

Thank you, Mark.

This series will continue next week with . . . .

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part IX: “Selfless Service” by Terry Schwalier


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Donny Deutsch Comes As Advertised – A Review of “Often Wrong, Never In Doubt”

Fasten your seat belts! This will not be a normal book review. It took me 200 pages to figure out why I was having such schizophrenic reactions to this book. After reading a chapter, I would find myself thinking: “What an interesting guy Donny Deutsch seems to be; I’d like to meet him.”

And then I would read a chapter that would leave me muttering to myself: “What a jerk! I can’t believe what he just said!” I would plow ahead in the book and begin to think: “What a fascinating organization he has built. I would love to help them recruit the kind of innovative thinkers and risk takers they seem to value.” And then I ran across a string of pages full of profanity and several paragraphs of Deutsch describing his sexual fantasies in the office. Finally, I threw up my hands and said to myself: “What is going on here! Surely, Deutsch is savvy enough to know that he is going to turn off some people with his outrageous revelations and observations. And even if he were not, he has a co-writer who should be able to alert him when he has crossed a line. And what about the editors at Harper Collins? Why are they allowing such outrageous material in a 'business book'?”

The epiphany came as I read on Page 206 Deutsch’s quotation of a character from the TV show “thirtysomething”:

“’What I do,’ he said, ‘is strictly chemical. It is reactive. I cause reactions.’”

His invitation to peer behind the Wizard’s curtain continues with these words:

“My individual brand and the company’s have mimicked my age in life. My personal brand for years was the brash, upstart Ad Guy of the Generation, the Bad Boy. It has stuck with me and now I can’t get rid of it. Tomorrow I could take over Omnicom (the largest advertising holding company in the world), wear three-piece suits and be the most serious businessman in the industry, and I’d still be seen as the Bad Boy. I’d like to lose that, but I’m not sure I will. I accept the challenge.” (Page 219)

With those pithy words, Donny Deutsch the author helped me to understand Donny Deutsch the “advertising world’s Bad Boy.” As a reader, I had been reacting – reeling from chapter to chapter, responding to the strings that the puppet master was pulling. As Deutsch and Peter Knobler, his collaborator on this project, developed the book, they used it to “advertise” the various facets of Donny’s personality and persona. So, he comes across as a protean and complex individual – one moment disarmingly self-disclosing, the next moment brash and outrageous, and the next instant, incredibly sensitive, kind and giving.

I applaud Harper Collins for their courage in following Donny’s lead and stepping out of their comfort zone and publishing an author who does not allow himself to be conformed to anyone else’s mold or set of expectations. Deutsch has been enormously successful in building a top-ranked advertising organization – and empire. Two things impressed me in a positive way as my mental Polaroid image of Deutsch finally took on full color and clarity. First, he risks, and because he risks, he wins more often than he loses. Second, he values his people, and places them in positions to win.

One side note - I applaud his use of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry as a case study:
“The two best-defined brands in major league baseball are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. You can tell them apart from a distance. The Yankees stand for the winning combination of quality and wealth. The Red Sox, you know that they stand for: They hate the Yankees. That hatred is what drives them and it is exactly that hatred that got them to the Promised Land. Starting with the Curse of the Bambino and moving through Bill Buckner’s legs to Pedro Martinez’s Yankee “daddies,” the Red Sox had more motivation to win than any other team in baseball."

"And how smart they were to personify this hatred. The new Red Sox owners, after losing a bidding war for a prized Cuban pitcher, actually called their rivals “the evil empire.” In one memorable phrase – like any good advertising campaign – they used national politics and popular culture to define the Yankees as a combination of the Cold War-era Soviet Union and Darth Vader! What better enemy?”
(Pages 222-223)

All I can say to the previous quotation is: “Amen and Amen!”

I found the book to be a worthwhile read, so I am pleased to recommend it – but with this caveat: “Fasten your seat belt!”

Often Wrong, But Never In Doubt: Unleash The Business Rebel In You by Donny Deutsch with Peter Knobler.

The Morning After The Red Sox Home Opener – Some Reflections From Red Sox Nation

I did not have the chance to attend yesterday’s Home Opener at Fenway Park, but I was there in spirit. It is much too early to come down with a case of Premature Pennant Fever, but I like the look of the team that Theo and his posse have put together. There are lots of new faces peering out from under those familiar Red Sox caps and a dozen strange new names that Terry Francona can pencil into his line-up cards, but the same old excitement and magic still emanates from the oldest, smallest and most beloved park in the Major Leagues.

Prior to the Home Opener, the Red Sox announced the signing of David Ortiz to a four- year extension. He is almost guaranteed to finish his career in a Red Sox uniform. Anyone who is a regular reader of The White Rhino Report knows how much I admire Big Papi. I have written about him in the past on several occasions. Some of David’s comments at Monday’s press conference were instructive and encouraging in this age of the “rent-a-player.”

Here is the gist of what Big Papi said in response to questions about why he would eschew free agency and lock himself into a long-term deal with the Red Sox:

“I love it here in Boston. This is my home, and this is my house and I need to protect my house. I spend time with fans here in town, and I know that it has been painful for the fans these past few years to see some of their favorite players leave town. I want to give some good news to Red Sox Nation. I think people around New England will take it as good news that I plan to play here for as long as possible. I like playing with these guys, and I am pretty sure they like playing with me. Mr. Henry and Mr. Lucchino and Mr. Warner and Theo have put together something special here, and I am very happy to be part of it.”

Dan Shaughnessy, in his column in this morning’s Boston Globe, described some of the pre-game activities that happened at Fenway on Tuesday afternoon:

“Then 5-year-old Jimmy Fund patient Jordan Leandre was wheeled onto the field by Ortiz, and melted the crowd (and both rows of ballplayers) with a stirring rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ -- punctuated by the customary flyover of A-10 jets from Bradley Air National Guard Base in Connecticut.”

There is a “back story” that needs to be told. Jordan Leandre suffers from bone cancer and has had a series of difficult surgeries and procedures over the past several years. He and Ortiz have developed a special friendship. Apparently, at the end of last season, Jordan was quite ill, and Big Papi made Jordan promise him that he would be well enough on Opening Day to sing the National Anthem. I don’t know if Ortiz’s part of the bargain was a promise to hit a homerun, but that was precisely the Hollywood scenario that unfolded yesterday. A couple of hours after Ortiz had wheeled Jordan onto the field, Vinnie Chulk, the Blue Jays’ relief pitcher, served up an offering in the slugger’s “wheelhouse,” and Ortiz quickly deposited the baseball in the Right Field Box Seats – in the general direction of the Jimmy Fund billboard that has graced Fenway Park since the days of Ted Williams and Tom Yawkey, and only a few blocks from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Ortiz’s partner in offering new life and hope to a young and courageous Red Sox fan.

This is going to be a fun season!

Papi, thanks for the memories, and for the promise and commitment to provide many more years of joy to your fellow citizens of Red Sox Nation. You weren't born here, but you are one of us to the very core of your being!

Go Sox!


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Arts Are Alive And Well! An Enchanted Evening In Newton

I flew into Boston on Friday after spending more than a week in Virginia visiting with family. My first priority was to get to Newton in time for the Newton South High School AcaFest – an annual gathering of collegiate a cappella groups from the Boston area. I made it just in time, and was treated to a memorable evening. Newton South has its own a cappella group, the NewTones. They host this annual event as a fund-raiser for The VH1 Save The Music Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental musical education in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as a part of each child’s complete education.

As you are probably painfully aware, many shortsighted politicians and even educators have eliminated or severely reduced musical education from the budgets of many of our public schools. As someone who benefited immensely from music training – at home and in school – I am an enthusiastic supporter of the arts as part of a balanced academic curriculum. It is a false dichotomy to be forced to choose between the hard sciences on one extreme and the liberal and creative arts on the other. Despite the growing evidence of the validity of the so-called “Mozart Effect,” (see link below), our leaders continue to make uninformed and unenlightened budgetary choices that will handicap emerging generations.

While a cappella music is not at the top of my list of favorite vocal musical genres, I find it a nice change of pace from time to time. So, I arrived in Newton ready to have a pleasant, de-compressing evening after a long day of flying from Virginia to Boston via Detroit! I was blown away with the quality and originality of the music I heard. Four groups performed. The host group, The NewTones from Newton South High School, is a very good choral group, singing with close harmony, rhythm and a nice assortment of solo performers. A group from Boston called “Element” sang some wonderful numbers, including an Earth, Wind and Fire number and a terrific version of a Three Dog Night tune I had heard live many years ago at a TDG concert in Rochester, Minnesota!

For me, the real highlight of the evening came with the sets performed by two college groups – SQ from Tufts and VoiceMale from Brandeis.

SQ has a CD with a cut called “Flicks” that was nominated for a CARA (The Contemporary A Cappella Society of America) award for the best mixed collegiate song. After the concert, I had a fascinating conversion with one of the members of SQ, who subsequently encouraged me to by a copy of their CD. I have not been able to stop listening to it. The arrangements are brilliant - even haunting - in their syncopated and perpetually modulating and pulsating bursts of energy, sonority and beauty.

VoiceMale also has a CARA award winning CD, which I will buy as soon as I am able to order it. This group demonstrated both great musicianship and showmanship. The joy they exuded was infectious, and the multi-generational audience responded with enthusiasm.

If you are a resident of the Boston area, I can enthusiastically encourage you to seek out each of these four groups. Below are links to VoiceMale and SQ Websites, with performances dates and information about ordering their CD’s.



Thursday, April 06, 2006

Spike Lee Nails It With "Inside Man"

While in Virginia visiting with family, I took the time to see Spike Lee's latest release - "Inside Man." Wow! What a pleasure it is to be able to observe an artist at work as he matures, broadens and finds an audience without compromising his artisitc integrity. With "Inside Man," Lee boldly steps outside the genre ghetto to which he had heretofore confined himself and crosses over to produce a movie full of NYC attitude and plenty of entertainment value.
As a director, Lee manages to coax from Denzel Washington, Jody Foster and Christopher Plummer some of their best work in a long while. As the plot twists and turns, nuggets of social commentary are dropped like so many breadcrumbs from the hands of Hansel and Gretel. Cell phone abusers, anti-Arab racists, New York cabbies, violent video game makers and players, corrupt politicians and an egregiously disingenuous banker posing as a humanitarian all fall victim to Lee's deft scalpel. The well crafted screen play reminds me of some of the best of David Mamet's work.
This is a movie I am certain to see again, because I am sure that I missed some of those nuggets that Lee dropped as he lead us through the woods.
Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Mini-Review: "Dark Justice" by Jack Higgins

I continue to plow through Jack Higgins titles at a fairly brisk pace. His novels of intrigue and espionage are like an open bag of potato chips; you just can't eat one! With "Dark Justice," Higgins addresses the post-9/11 world of anti-terrorism - both in the U.S. and in the U.K. In each nation, the response to heightened threats of terrorism has been to create a shadow counter-terrorism team - one reporting soley to the U.S. President, the other reporting to the Prime Minister.

The plot ingredients for "Dark Justice" include a former IRA terrorist who now works for the Prime Minister in combatting terror, a Russian oil mogol who is a friend of Putin, a failed assassination attempt on the American President, and internal conflict within the Prime Minister's shadow team about the moral dilemma of operating "above the law" in order to have a fighting chance to thwart the terrorists.
As always, Higgins adds his own special blend of spices - well-drawn characters and unanticipated plot twists that makes this "bag of potato chips" delicious, crunchy and satisfying.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Understanding Turkey's Soul: "Snow" by Orhan Pamuk

My friend, Inga Keithly, has not known me for very long, but she knows me well. So, she was right on target when she handed me a book and said:
"You will really appreciate this author's work."
Thus was I introduced to the writings of Orhan Pamuk. In the midst of my reading "Snow," I was carrying it with me in downtown Boston. A passerby saw the book and remarked:
"You are reading a book about my country. In Turkey, Orhan Pamuk is regarded as one of our finest writers. He has written many works in Turkish; this is one of his few works written in English."
John Updike, who knows a thing or two about good writing, had this to say about "Snow" and Pamuk:
"A major work . . . conscience-ridden and carefully wrought, tonic in its scope, candor and humor . . . with suspense at every dimpled vortex . . . Pamuk [is Turkey's] most likely candidate for the Nobel Prize."
This political novel is set in rural Turkey, yet transcends its geographic setting to shine rays of poetic insight into universal human emotions and experiences. The protagonist, Ka, is a poet, an ex-patriot Turk who has been living in Germany and returns to his homeland to investigate the mysterious suicide of several young women in the Turkish backwater town of Kars. While in Germany, Ka's poetry muse had deserted him, but amidst the perpetual snowstorm that blanketed Kars during his stay there, poems once again came to him - seeming to crystalize in his mind like the unique snowflakes that enveloped him and his surroundings. Once back in Germany, Ka organized his new poems according to the hexagonal structure of a snowflake - a taxonomy that arranged the poems along axes that he called "Reason," "Memory" and "Imagination."
I found Pamuk's syle quiet and subtle. I see many similarities between "The Kite Runner," and "Snow." For me, as a reader educated primarily on the canon of The West, reading the more interior-focused works of writers from Asia is an acquired taste, but one well worth acquiring. An analogy hit me the other day as I was grabbing a bite to eat at the Jaffa Cafe on Gloucester Street in Boston's Back Bay. I ordered a plate of falafel, hummus and baba ghanoush - and enjoyed it immensely. It was only after I had placed my order that I saw that this item on the menu was listed as a "vegetarian's delight." I am a classic carnivore (actually, a card-carrying omnivore!), and love my red meat, so it stunned me to know I had ordered and enjoyed a "vegetarian" meal. The tastiness of the ingredients had allowed me to transcend labels and expand the horizons of my tastebuds. Works like "Kite Runner" from Afghanistan and "Snow" from Turkey have accomplished the same broadening effect on my literary tastes.
A recurring theme in "Snow" is the national inferiority complex with which many Turks wrestle - at home and in exile - as they live with the shameful legacy of the Armenian Massacre that lies as an unhealed and oozing national wound just beneath the surface of daily life. A parallel source of struggle, shame and strife is the role of women and girls in society - a very visible symbol of the question of the degree to which Western values will determine the future of Turkey and other developing nations in the Middle East and Asia.
"Did they pity you? Did their hearts go out to you because you were a miserable Turk, a lonely destitute political exile, the sort of Turkish nobody that drunken German youths beat up just for the fun of it?" (Page 231)
As the narrative unfolds, these national issues are personified in the characters whose lives swirl like eddying curtains of snowflakes drifting to earth. Ka is briefly reunited with the beautiful Ipek, who vacillates between being accessible and inaccessible to Ka. Ipek's sister, Kadife, plays out on a literal stage the struggle that many women of her generation find so difficult - the choice between tradition and conformity on the one hand and individuality and rebellion on the other hand.
Pamuk does a remarkable job of blending and balancing political commentary, artistic insight and interpersonal intrigue in this moving tale. I agree with the assessment of Margaret Atwood, writing about "Snow" in the New York Times Book Review:
"Not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times. [Pamuk is] narrating his country into being."
I plan to read other Orhan Pamuk titles and am pleased to recommend this work to discriminating readers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part VII: “Loyalty” by Dr. Phil Anderson

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part VII: “Loyalty” by Dr. Phil Anderson

Dr. Phil Anderson served with distinction in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is one of only six USMC officers I am aware of who earned a Ph. D. while on active duty. After retiring as a Colonel from the USMC, Phil ran the Homeland Security practice for CSIS (The Center for Strategic and International Studies), a Washington-based think tank. Dr. Anderson was often called up to advise Gov. Tom Ridge as he formed the Department of Homeland Security. Phil was hired by Pat Russo, CEO of Lucent Technologies (see today’s press releases about the merger with Alcatel) to serve as Lucent’s Vice President for Washington Operations. I was delighted when, in the midst of a very hectic schedule, Phil agreed to participate in this series and share his perspective on loyalty.
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By Dr. Philip Anderson

I would suggest, and will attempt to support my assertion, that among Kelly Perdew's 10 leadership principles, "Loyalty" is by far the most important and all encompassing on the list. Not to discount the importance of the other principles - or the views of the distinguished group of leaders who have been asked to write on the other nine - simply to suggest that "Loyalty" is fundamentally at the core of all things. It is a virtue not unlike "Integrity" or "Selflessness" - and applied appropriately, is the biggest differentiator for leaders everywhere.

Perdew addresses "Loyalty" in terms of "Up, down, and across organizations"...sorry, nothing new there. I have read that in one form or another in lots of business management text books....typically just academic mumbo jumbo with no practical basis.

From my perspective, to understand the principle of "Loyalty" and to apply it properly, one must begin with some context - analogous to, but not directly related to organizations. Most everyone who was raised in the Christian tradition, remembers the reference to faith, hope and love....with the greatest being love...from Corinthians. Many of us were married after hearing those was one of the readings at my wedding 15 years ago. I remember standing there in my dress whites in the Camp Smith Chapel (Hawaii), wondering what I was getting myself into.
Going back to the field some weeks later, I was struck with the parallels to my service: my my leaders to do the right thing. Hope....believing in my Corps...with all my heart. And Love...the most important of these. Loving...caring for...shepherding my troops. Loyalty.
Becoming a father also reinforced this perspective for me...can there be a greater love than that a father or a mother has for their children? We love our parents...we love our siblings...but we would surely die for our children...Loyalty
If I were to rewrite the Perdew phrase in order of priority, it would read, "Loyalty down, across...and then up." As a commander and more recently in the business world, I have made loyalty to my subordinates a guiding principle. It is the first thing I think about when facing any challenge as it is so key to building the key to success. In the Marine Corps, the team is everything...we learned or were forced to understand that there are no individuals...just the team...sorry, it's not an "Army of One" has to be a band of brothers...a life and death team made up of warriors....not like high paid athletes or high powered business executives ... individuals who will switch teams for more money. Warriors never abandon their brother warriors...never ever switch teams. Loyalty.

As a young Lieutenant, I thought that Marines fought for the flag...for God and Mom and apple pie...but as a Colonel, I had learned well that they fight only for each other...and for the team. There are hundreds of war stories that bear this out...most recently out of Iraq. I read another just this morning. "With his platoon commander down and losing life by the second on a violent street in Ramadi, Iraq, Sgt. Eric Smith did what just about any good Marine Platoon Sergeant would do - he ran through hell to get him." Having been a Platoon Commander, I remember looking up to my Platoon Sergeant as a father figure...and even though the Lieutenant was in charge, every Platoon Sergeant that was worth his salt was just that...a father. Loyalty.

Tying this all together, when I look back at my military career...I realize that the most successful operational leaders were those who took care of their troops....who shepherded them...who loved and protected them as a father would care for his children. There were always a few, however - but not many, who succeeded on their ability to suck up to their put "loyalty up" at the top of the list. In my experience this always failed in an operational environment where success or failure was determined on the blood and sweat of the troops. In the business world, the trend is almost always loyalty up, across...and then down. What is reassuring to me, though, is that in business nothing speaks louder than success...all the sucking up and rah rah for the company don't add up to a hill of beans if you fail to make top and bottom line objectives.

So you want to win the battle, or at the least, fight the best fight, then love your troops as you would love your very own children. You want to be successful in business...make a lot of money, then be loyal to your subordinates first and foremost. My two cents...

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Thank you, Phil
This series will continue next week with . . . .
10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part VIII: “Flexibility” by Mark Dahl