More Jackson County Opinions...

JUNE 9, 2004


By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
June 9, 2004

But is he smart?
OK, so he’s dedicated and honest. That’s all well and good. But does he have enough sense to come in out of the rain? Does his elevator go all the way to the top? Is he playing with a full deck? Is he one brick short of a load?
Two out of three ain’t bad, is it? I consider myself somewhat dedicated and reasonably honest (That ain’t too good, is it?), but when it comes to intelligence, I was that child left behind. And that is why I’ve never run for political office.
Dedication, honesty and intelligence are admirable attributes in politicians — and in all of us. And they range all over the board. Our scorecard of 1 to 10 doesn’t begin to cover ‘em. Zero to 100 would be much better.
Dedication to a worthy cause, honesty as the best policy, and the smarts to achieve the objective — that’s what we’d like to see in our public officials. And it’s not a bad goal for all the rest of us.
No doubt about it, all three are necessary. One without the other two won’t get it done. (Not the right way, anyway.) We’ve graded our leaders and would-be leaders on their dedication and honesty. Now let’s test their I.Q.
I know, some of you are wondering why a professed idiot would presume to write about intelligence. My authority does not come from a great mind, but from 80 years of following and observing smart and stupid leaders and storing these observations in a shoebox, which he pulls down off the shelf occasionally to refresh his flawed memory. Like now.
Make no mistake; intelligence is an important characteristic of a real leader. However, we need to understand that intelligence and education are not necessarily one and the same.
There are many dictionary definitions of a professional leader, be he a teacher, preacher, lawyer, doctor or merchant. I’m leaving out thief, but including politician. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dedicated, dishonest, intelligent thieves out there, but we don’t want (or shouldn’t want) any of them in public office.
Here’s one definition of what it means to be a professional leader: “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.”
I don’t buy that. One doesn’t magically become a real leader by becoming educated. You know some people without any degrees who are better leaders in some fields than some other people with a string of PhDs.
But don’t misunderstand. Learning is very much worth having, and it can make you a better leader. Congratulations to anyone who earns a string of PhDs. But they merely get you ready to be a leader; they don’t guarantee you are going to become one.
This may not be relevant here, but neither is it a matter of age. There are young leaders and there are old leaders.
Whatever his age, the real leader is always a student. Continuing education is his only option. No matter how far he’s gone in school, he can’t drop out. He has to go through the nitty-gritty of study, training and discipline that will better equip him to serve his constituents.
He needs to be curious about everything and everybody. What people do, and why, fascinate him. He must have the eye, the ear, the nose, the instinct to know what’s relevant, what’s important, and, most of all, what’s just interesting for some reason. To do that, he must keep abreast of the media, both liberal and conservative, and especially those that criticize him and disagree with his policies. It bothers me that some leaders say they don’t read the newspapers.
A real leader gives the impression that he is an informed authority. He doesn’t always have to go to the book for the answers. He knows that some nut, not necessarily a leader, may have written the book. He may have written the book himself. He has the answers on the tip of his tongue. He just knows. If he does have to look up the answers, he does so beforehand, before the face-to-face confrontation. How? By anticipating the questions. By doing his homework. By paying attention to details. By keeping up with what’s going on in the world. By reading the newspapers.
Although a highly intelligent, deep thinking individual, simplicity is his trademark. He doesn’t use a big word when a little one will do — unless the big word does a better job of communicating.
A real leader doesn’t parade his knowledge; he shares it. He knows that his knowledge or insight is not the greatest gift he can give to another person. He is aware that he gives her far more when he just listens to what she is trying to say about herself and her problems. He has learned that people respond more to how he feels about them than to what he says to them.
Finally, a real leader understands that responsibility for change does not rest on his narrow shoulders. Ultimately, he recognizes the fact that he cannot be a leader all by himself. Exuding confidence, knowing he is good, dedicated, honest and intelligent, he also knows he is weak. In the end he knows that he needs that multitude of simple, ordinary, run-of-the-mill followers to be a successful leader.
Virgil Adams is a former owner-editor of the Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index


By: Oscar Weinmeister
The Commerce News
June 9, 2004

Living Up To ‘Indian Names’
Politically correct disclaimer: “Native Americans” are indirectly referred to below as “Indians.” The best way to refer generally to “Native Americans” is by using the correct tribal name, like “Cherokee,” or “Navajo.” Most Native Americans I’ve met refer to themselves as either “American Indian” or more often “Indian.”
Moving right along, I just got back from vacation with my family, my brother’s family, my parents, my uncle and my grandmother, where for a change, we didn’t do much. It was nice, since on past retreats we would usually get up early and scramble so that we could all have adventures we would remember for the rest of our lives.
It was on a few of these past vacations, a fishing trip to Colorado and a trip to western Montana where some fishing occurred, that we came up with “Indian names” for family members. Indian names, in our rendering, describe something unique or at least interesting about the person who earns them.
For instance, on that fishing trip to Colorado and based on many comparable experiences, I earned the name “Camps In The Rain.” In Montana, where we saw some rams, Dad earned the name “Crazy Horns.” I think that name had something to do with making everyone go on adventures while we’re on vacation.
These names have stuck for some reason over the last decade or so, but people can earn new names to replace or complement their existing ones. My wife Amy has been known as “The Professor” for years, mainly because she (compulsively) shares allegedly-scientific information, solicited or not, about the environs of most of the places we visit.
This trip however, she cemented her reputation as the “Nap Nazi,” since we all know not to jeopardize or even jokingly threaten the sanctity of daytime sleep time for either of her two sons. “Nap Nazi” is apropos certainly, but to me, her sweetie, she’ll forever be “The Professor.”
As a kid, your Indian name tends to change more frequently. Lately, we’ve been calling our 3-year-old son Jack “Cries A Lot,” but he didn’t cry so much last week, so we might have to trash that one. Until this recent beach trip, one of his names was “Still Pees In His Pants,” but we’re happy to report that after hanging around with his slightly older cousin for a week, he’s got a new Indian Name, “Finally Pees In The Potty.”
Unfortunately, 9-month-old Turner has a couple Indian names also. “Crawls on his Belly” isn’t so bad, but we’re hoping “Poops In The Tub” doesn’t have much staying power. I guess we could focus on the positive and call him “Sleeps All Night.”
One person who’s managed all these years to avoid getting labeled with an Indian name is my mom. She’s always along, participating in the naming process, and enjoying the fun, but she’s somehow squeaked by. Noting our oversight, we spent time this week trying to come up with a fitting description, but nothing clicked. We tried “Patience Of Job” since she’s put up with Crazy Horns and his two sons, and I can’t even remember the other suggestions.
Coming home this weekend, though, I was thinking about names. Besides the fact that Mom and I are always talking about good books, she’s always been there for us in an easy way and without exception. She’s also a good listener and a good dispenser of life-related advice, better than anyone I’ve known, and she has forgiven without strings some pretty appalling behavior from her sons. She is, in many ways, the definition of unconditional love. So, for an Indian name, I feel pretty comfortable thinking of my mother as uniquely “Close To God.”

Oscar Weinmeister is the assistant administrator of BJC Medical Center. He lives in Commerce.
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