Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 23 Edition

Literature, Democracy, Freedom

"In the opening chapter of his new book, Churchill & Orwell, Tom Ricks explains why he has picked these two great men for his subject: “In this period, when so many of their peers gave up democracy as a failure, neither man lost sight of the value of the individual in the world, and all that means: the right to dissent from the majority, the right even to be persistently wrong, the right to distrust the power of the majority.”

Ricks’ new book is not in the path of his normal line, which has involved an examination of the American military and, for the most part, its performance under the enormous pressures of combat. Instead, he has chosen to highlight two of the major literary figures of the 20th century, Winston Churchill and George Orwell. Churchill, of course, is famous as a statesman, but he also won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Orwell might well have won a Nobel Prize as well, but he died shortly after publication of his masterpiece, 1984.

The politics of the two men, not to mention their social backgrounds, could not have been more different. For much of his political life, Churchill stood with the Conservatives and he was a member of one of Britain’s great noble families. Orwell, on the other hand, stood on the left, and at times the far left, throughout his political career. He did attend Eton, but as a scholarship student. In his attitude toward class, he certainly regarded himself as anything but a member of Britain’s elite.

How does Ricks manage to bring Churchill and Orwell together, when they appear to be such poles apart? To many observers, their only apparent connection is they were both writers. But Ricks zeroes in on the fact that both were great defenders of human freedom, although Churchill perhaps less so when it came to the assorted peoples that populated the various overseas holdings of the great British Empire. But the crucial point here is that in the dark days of the 1930s and 1940s, when in every respect freedom was under massive assault from both the right and the left, the two men stood tall."

Women, Divorce, Justice

"Over the years, Muslim women in India have complained of living in perpetual fear of being thrown out of their matrimonial homes in a matter of seconds because a Muslim man, if he chooses, can end years of marriage just by saying the word "talaq" (divorce) three times.
A campaign to end the practice of unilateral instant "triple talaq" began in India several decades ago.

But it picked up steam last year when a 35-year-old mother-of-two approached the Supreme Court seeking justice.

Shayara Bano's petition, filed in February 2016, said she was visiting her parents' home in the northern state of Uttarakhand for medical treatment when she received her so-called talaqnama - a letter from her husband telling her that he was divorcing her.

Her attempts to reach her husband of 15 years, who lives in the city of Allahabad, were unsuccessful. She was also denied access to her children."

Personal Development, Integrity

"If you ask company executives to reveal their “core values,” integrity is always one of their first answers, says Joel C. Peterson, chairman of the board of JetBlue Airways and a Stanford University professor of management. The single most important ingredient to business success is trust, Peterson says, and trust starts with integrity.

Entrepreneur and angel investor Amy Rees Anderson borrows from C.S. Lewis’s famous quote, defining integrity as “doing the right thing all the time, even when no one is looking—especially when no one is looking.”

Anderson offers many examples of acting without integrity: CEOs who overstate their projected earnings because they don’t want to be replaced by their boards of directors. Competitors who lie to customers to seal a deal. Customer service reps covering up mistakes because they fear clients will leave. There’s no shortage of high-profile major lapses, too: Bernie Madoff’s long-standing operation of a Ponzi scheme considered to be the largest financial fraud in U.S. history, Michael Milken’s conviction for violating U.S. securities laws after being the one-time toast of Wall Street, and Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Do what is right; let the consequences follow.”

But what does a person acting with integrity look like? Positive examples may be harder to find. Anderson, who lectures on entrepreneurship at the University of Utah, believes “there aren’t enough of us saying that sometimes it’s better to lose than to lose your integrity.” A plaque in Anderson’s office reinforces her philosophy: “Do what is right; let the consequences follow.”"

Justice, Myths, Slavery

"As a scholar of slavery at the University of Texas at Austin, I welcome the public debates and connections the American people are making with history. However, they still have many misconceptions about slavery, as evidenced by the conflict at the University of Tennessee.

I’ve spent my career dispelling myths about “the peculiar institution.” The goal in my courses is not to victimize one group and celebrate another. Instead, we trace the history of slavery in all its forms to make sense of the origins of wealth inequality and the roots of discrimination today. The history of slavery provides vital context to contemporary conversations and counters the distorted facts, internet hoaxes and poor scholarship I caution my students against."

Family, Activities

"My family will tell you that when I see a bug in the house, I scream. So, when our friends suggested a camping trip along the Delaware Water Gap two years ago, it was not exactly a natural fit. But how could I say no to my then seven-year-old daughter, Lena, a city kid who was thrilled with the idea of sleeping in a tent and roasting S’mores around a campfire? Even my then three-year-old daughter Annika, usually averse to dirt and bugs, was game.

In the spirit of adventure, we packed the car and headed to a New Jersey campsite with a river view where, once in the woods, my kids magically transformed into wilder, more industrious versions of themselves. Lena, who typically protests when asked to set the table, eagerly hooked together tent poles and gathered kindling with a smile. Annika, meanwhile, let loose chasing fireflies (though still not quite touching them) with the older kids. The weekend went so well that we did it again the following summer. And the one after that.

As we approach our third annual camping trip, I realize we’ve made lots of rookie mistakes. We’ve mismanaged our food supply, forgotten essential clothes, and spent one night in a downpour inside a leaking tent. With this in mind, I asked the experts how they prep for a family camping trip."

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