Hearing Nikki Haley’s resignation didn’t get me to pause. I was preoccupied having to work through lunch. A project plan needed completion, candidate interview evaluations had to written, and prioritization of open-source tools. Afterwards, there was dealing with my father, who requires nearly all-day care, pick-up dry cleaning, maybe grab a quick meal and call it day. Like many employees/parental caregivers of the ‘real world,’ the daily events of ‘Washington’s World,’ have little benefit.
Catching a few minutes of rest, the news scanned from the Hurricane Michael updates to Ms. Haley’s resignation. And by chance, I briefly read the following in the New York Times (NYT).
After nearly eight years in government — six years as governor of South Carolina in addition to her time at the United Nations (U.N.) — her 2018 financial disclosure report shows Ms. Haley has at least $1.5 million in debts, including more than $1 million for her mortgage. I performed a quick net worth check. If the records be true, Nikki Haley’s net worth is 1.6 million.
By Washington standards, she wasn’t rich. And she didn’t steal or embezzle her wealth either.
All thoughts aside, I’ve never had a million dollar mortgage. And without entering politics, I actually hoped to like Nikki Haley. Why? Well, for all the bravado of Washington elites, I somehow picked Haley as the one cabinet official who could relate to the average Joe on the street. Her wedding vows to Michael Haley, an Officer in the National Guard, was conducted in both Sikh and Methodist, Haley defines herself as Christian while attending both Sikh and Methodist services. When asked whether or not she hopes her parents convert to Christianity, Haley responded, “What I hope is that my parents do what’s right for them.”
For me, Haley seemed average.
Reporting indicates Ambassador Haley faced a formal ethics complaint over a series of private jet flights for both her and her husband, possibly funded by businessmen from South Carolina. Likewise, Haley’s influence at U.N. was blunted by a slew of recent Trump policy decisions that many other nations opposed, including recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, cutting aid to Palestinians and announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“But,” a friend countered, “Haley supported Trump.”
“True,” I acknowledged. “So, should such support negate one’s contributions? After all, there are many bosses I absolutely despised but ultimately had to work for. Remember, George Bush said Haley was the diplomatic face of a profoundly undiplomatic presidency. Right now, Haley is probably like anyone of us after a bad day.“
“She might just need a good friend.”
As a Buddhist, I argue that when Haley took office, I sincerely tried to assess her character. Meaning? Meaning, that when the character of a person is not clear, look at that person’s friends. Good friends show up no matter what. True friends support and encourage us, tolerates our shortcomings, accepts unconditionally, and cares no matter what. Trump himself has neither embraced diversity nor never given back.
However, even in this moment, maybe we can learn a few lessons from Haley (regardless of whether she embraced them or not).
First. Diversity is a strength. Not because diversity is easy — but because it’s hard. If one has read many or all of my posts, one thing’s clear — I don’t particularly care for Trump’s vision of America. As such, while Haley agreed to become Trump’s Ambassador to the U.N., she appeared to have somewhat of an independent mind.
Thus, while all of us tend to align ourselves to those like us, it’s especially important to align to those different from us. When everyone shares a common ethnic and religious background, it’s easy to forget how different we all are from one another. In a diversified world, each individual has a unique combination of ideas, personal history and worldview, but within the confines of a company, school, neighborhood or team, there is a natural social pressure to submerge these differences and work fro the common good. Whether at the office, in school or within marriages and families, diversity pushes us to respect each other’s unique individuality and leverage all gifts, not simply just ours.
Second. Give something back. Not everyone needs a legacy. I myself included. I don’t write this blog for notoriety. the Unknown Buddhist will never get a Wikipedia page. But whatever it is in life that you enjoy — whether it be making music, writing a book, building a table, becoming a mentor — do something. You’ll feel good about yourself, plus you give something back to people to use, enjoy or reflect upon.
All of us live in a vast network of living life. If we recognize this, we choose to orient ourselves progressively to others, developing loving kindness to all beings. As Whitman wrote, “When I give I give myself.”
I’ve neither met Ambassador Haley, nor read her book. When she started at the U.N., I envisioned her as authentic, honest, and trustworthy. Only through diversity can we learn to enjoy similar qualities in our friends, whether they be black or white; Christian or Atheist; Republican or Democrat; rich or poor. There’s an understanding that the binding of people in friendship helps each of us realize a more meaningful life. Thus, the language of friendship is not a motto but how its lived. Our meaning, our intent, gives life not only to ourselves but unto others as well.
Once the Buddha’s disciple Ananda asked him about friendship. Ananda knew that having good and encouraging friends was very important for the path. He even wondered whether having good friends is half the path.
“No, Ananda,” the Buddha told him, “having good friends isn’t half of the Holy Life. Having good friends is the whole of the Holy Life.”
Categories: Life Lessons