Saturday, November 06, 2010

Service: What's prestige have to do with it?

I just attended a training program for volunteer board members of a local non-profit. The organization has links to a national institution that offered the training.

The training covered a lot of ground: fund-raising, PR, volunteer recruitment, organizational vision, goals etc.

The topics were a familiar litany spiced with anecdotes and some refreshing, useful ideas.

Suddenly, in the middle of the presentation, a sentence stood out as odd — even troubling. It may hide a lesson, but I'm left to discover it for myself.

The sentence appeared in big, bold yellow letters at the bottom of a Power Point page. The trainer underscored it when she read it.

Success of the board relies on the program’s
ability to make it prestigious to serve.

My first reaction was to question whether I was in the right room.

Then I pondered the key word.

“Prestigious?” “Prestigious?”

I rolled it over in my mind.

Could a meaning of “prestigious” have escaped me?

Does the success of a group rely on the prestige associated with belonging to it?

Put another way, can a program be successful without generating prestige? Without bestowing prestige on those responsible for it?

Could the author of this Power Point “point’ have been reading too many Mercedes Benz ads?

“You’re a success. You deserve the prestige of a Mercedes.”

And what does the program sacrifice to "make it prestigious to serve"? The price of a Mercedes? Expensive retreats? Five-star meals?

Maybe I’m too old to understand all this. Could it be too late in life for me to be concerned about assuming prestige? If I have it (and I seriously doubt I do), I don’t want to know about it. It’s not relevant.

Maybe in my ego-formative youth, the trainer’s sentence would have been meaningful. The woman sitting next to me was young. I checked perceptions with her after meeting. The line hadn’t bothered her at all. It just seemed to state the obvious: “Success of the board relies on the program’s ability to make it prestigious to serve.”

What was obvious to her, escaped me. I even consider prestige off-putting, a barrier to be surmounted. It’s not good for anybody. Not those impressed by it; not those who seek it or have it. The last thing I want is to be on a board full of people who join it for prestige. Or overseeing a program that measures its success by making board positions "prestigious."

Things have become pretty simple for me. I want to use my remaining time to do the best I can for others.

So I came up with my own tag line for the bottom of the page is:

Success of the board relies on the program’s ability to inspire the best in its members, making their service worthwhile.

“Worthwhile” is light years from “prestige.”

Could I have come so far?

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Not-so-nice "Make Nice" speeches

There comes a “make nice” time in every concession/victory speech when the candidate, slimed and pilloried by negative television ads, actually thanks the opposing, equally slimed and pilloried candidate, for running a “hard-fought” or “competitive” or “strong” race.

The obligatory “best wishes” to the opponent and family is another speech staple. The children of the candidates stand nearby taking it all in.

No one mentions the need to get out the mops, sponges, sanitizer and deodorant spray. The need for the family to take deep-cleaning showers.

No one even winks knowingly. The candidates speak with seeming sincerity, with straight faces. Winners sometimes even display a tinge of sadness for losers.

And is that relief we occasionally detect in words of defeat?

So, fellow, confused voters (and proximate, gaping children), we are left with these questions:

Are we to believe that we have witnessed two months of some black-and-white, cinema-verité nightmare fantasy? That upon waking with the votes counted, we can dismiss it as a bad dream? That these two candidates actually didn’t mean all that mean, slash-and-burn stuff and were, Zombie-like, stalking and being stalked in a fabricated world of horror?

Or perhaps it was a game now “in the books”: trash talk, injuries on the field, late hits, face-mask penalties, “unnecessary roughness” were just part of spirited, wholesome competition. And really, didn’t the media’s “truth meters” set it all right, like an honest referee?

Or have we just elected (and defeated) total hypocrites who have taken us for fools?

The loser likely regrets a) how nasty it was, or b) that it wasn’t ramped up to be worse (“If just been able to crack my opponents computer code or caught a spouse having an affair.”).

The winner, free of regret and second guessing, is ready to rule — and govern our lives.

How comforting.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Poll this! Investigate that!

Among the many troubling aspects of this election have been the over-the-top negative ads and the news analyses that transform polling results into reality.

If these ads are so effective, why isn’t Coors running negative ads about Bud? Or Cherrios slamming Wheaties?

Maybe corporations know that tearing down the competition only turns off consumers. Do I really need to drink beer? Especially since they started the beer-belly wars?

And given a choice between “The Breakfast of Steroid-Using ‘Chumpions’” and “the Little Round Nothings,” I’ll opt for eggs.

The corporations obviously see this as destructive of the marketplace. So why don’t the geniuses running the political campaigns see negative ads as destructive of democrary?

Then there are the pundits who pontificate on the results of elections that haven’t been held. If they can do that, why don’t they tell us about what’s going to happen after the election of 2012? Why weren’t they telling us about the “rise” of the Tea Party on election eve in 2008?

I suppose that last one is an honest question. The folks who brought us this recession (and are profiting mightily from it) must have known that the lumpen would be pissed. An obvious strategy was to capture the anger and put it to work to keep shifting the money to the rich.

Tell me again: what does extending tax breaks for the wealthy have to do with cutting the deficit?

And remind me: why should insurance companies NOT be required to cover folks with pre-existing conditions?

The media need to stop spending money on talking heads and hire (or rehire) investigative reporters.

The sleuths might start with this timely query: Just who is really financing the Tea Party? And why? And how about the sequel: what do they have up their sleeves for 2012? Whatever it is, you can bet it is in the works NOW!

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