Eagle Talk

Time to be Counted

TIME TO BE COUNTED
“Memories: Cuba Remembered”

The recent death of Fidel Castro, what President-elect Trump may mean to Cuban relationships, and the changes within Cuba predicted to take place, have all brought back memories of my Cuban adventures while in college. In 1955, my roommates and I went to Cuba for “College Week in Havana.” Total cost, including airfare, hotel and breakfast, was $200 per person. How could we not go? Havana was exciting, full of energy, beautiful beaches, and lots of rum.

Highlights:

  • One of my roommates putting his cash on 00 at the roulette table and hitting the number. We were all beneficiaries of his success. 
  • After a week’s stay, we managed to climb aboard our Air Cubana Flight. I was still alert enough to question why we were on a Super G Constellation for a flight to Miami. Finally, finding a cabin attendant who spoke English, she informed me were on the non-stop flight to Madrid, at the time the longest non-stop flight being flown by any airline. We managed to deplane and find our flight to Miami. 
  • In 1959, while serving in a Strategic Intelligence Unit, at a request from the Department of Defense, we prepared a then classified study of Fidel Castro. Our conclusions: he is dangerous, is a communist, studied in Soviet Union revolutionary training school, and is building a military/ police dictatorship in Cuba. Our report was criticized and we were told to forget what we had written. Nobody was listening.

So much has happened during the past year. Trump’s election, the defeat a few weeks ago of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Italy, and increasingly rapid changes in technology, driven by companies scrambling to be players in the field of artificial intelligence. Targeting the next big idea is becoming a steady diet for all kinds of reporters, TV commentators and editorial writers. All feed off each other, resulting in an ever increasing frenzy ofspeculation fed out to the public as fact based truths. This explosion of instant communication carries risk through the paucity of true analysis and deeper examination of facts and what lies in the realm of hopeful speculation or fanciful projections from individuals seeking to be perceived as pundits.

You and I know that an individual’s Character is still the most critical component in determining one’s success. Core values of Integrity, Honesty,Trust, Caring, Commitment, Accountability, Love and Community have not lost their power for making the world a better place and bringing change into the lives of billions of individuals. What has changed is the loss of Moral Courage on the part of so many individuals entrusted with leadership positions and having the ability to impact through their decisions the lives of all who look up to them for “Courageous Leadership.” One example from this year’s menu of leadership failures—Wells Fargo Bank, represents all we’re talking about.

Trump’s Presidency has a strong flavor of seeing America turn insular, with a slowly accelerating withdrawal from our position as a Global World Power. His election is a repudiation of the existing “political establishment.” How deep and serious this change may be remains to be seen. The trap, if you wish to call it that, is if the US turns in upon itself.  There exist today many powerful and authoritarian nations who will willingly exploit this opportunity. History has clearly shown this behavior is dangerous, carrying with it the risk for global conflicts. Now is the time for each of us to step up and strive to be the best leaders we can be. The world is crying out for individuals with the Moral Courage to live their values each and every day. You can be a role model for excellence to all around you. Being yourself, being an individual of “Character” and being true to your principals has never been more important.  Keep your awareness high and focus on leadership models that exist, not models you hope for. Do not be misled by either-or stories that oversimplify complex and nuanced situations. Forgive, but remember; how leaders behaved in the past often predicts how they will behave in the future. There is no substitute for excellence. Leadership is about your personal values and the never ending quest for value driven behaviors.

To each of you I send my Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday Season and a Very Merry Christmas. May you and your families be surrounded by love, joy and the gift of Serving Leadership.

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