Tag Archive: Organizational Leadership


Ivanka and JaredThe growing impact of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in America’s governance is perplexing. Ivanka Trump has a clothing, shoe and handbag line in her name. Ivanka hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant and worked on the TV show, “Born Rich,” among others. But she has never held a public-service position, nor is she a scholar of politics, government or history. Kushner is an unelected person with absolutely no governmental experience.

This is the Trump identity. And the Trump identity will have profound impact upon America and American families, including how we find meaning, satisfaction, and support. I am surprised to see how much experience molded me. Accordingly, experiences have obviously molded the Trump family as well. Yet I cannot understand how the Trump world intertwines with real America.

Ivanka Trump’s 2009 self-help book, “The Trump Card,” is a good example of missing interconnectedness. The Trump Card opens with an implausibly:

In business, as in life, nothing is ever handed to you.” Ivanka quickly adds, “Yes, I’ve had the great good fortune to be born into a life of wealth and privilege, with a name to match,” she writes. “Yes, I’ve had every opportunity, every advantage. And yes, I’ve chosen to build my career on a foundation built by my father and grandfather.”

Still, she insists, she and her brothers didn’t attain their positions in their father’s company “by any kind of birthright or foregone conclusion.”

Right. Several pages later …

Did I have an edge, getting started in business? No question. But get over it. And read on.”

The essential element of the “Trump” identity is missing. I cannot name one Trump family member who professed and succeeded with a “can do attitude.” There’s not been one Trump family member ever discussing of having to work their way from the bottom up. Has Ivanka ever had to choose between eating and medicine, going to work or losing a day’s pay caring for a sick child? When the average American gets sick, we either have to heal ourselves, or more often than not, friends and colleagues guilt us by exclaiming we should not have gotten sick.

After nearly 100 days in office, it is clear the Trump identity will not support any of us. Prior to donating $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families, in the 15 years prior to the veterans’ gift, public records show that Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away — less than a third of the pledged amount — and nothing since 2009. Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008. Compare that to Bill and Melinda Gates who’ve donated $28 billion via their charitable foundation, more than $8 billion to improve global health.

One might claim that using Trump’s foundation was waterboarded during the campaign, that I’m crying over spilt milk. Yeah, the election is over. Got it. These thoughts are presented to neither bitch nor whine, but to reiterate how Trump’s lack of communal roots will impact our world.

Like it or not, America’s future is being crafted by two mid thirty-something adults. Just as the President himself, history will judge both Jared and Ivanka equally as responsible for selling the President’s agenda, including cuts to childhood education, health and safety enforcement; healthcare repeal; immigration isolation; elimination of funds for family planning and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries; and foreign policy.

It is unclear if the current Trump identity, as presented, will be successful for long-term growth. Accordingly, our sustainability defaults to the adults. America’s survival and ability to prosper is dependent upon the thousands of ordinary Americans, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, who can work to end partisanship while simultaneously forging connections in the community in which they reside.

The question is whether we’re up to the challenge.

MSNBC’s Brian Williams opened his Friday’s show with an interesting comment, “… both Trump and Ryan saved the Affordable Care Act.”  To be fair, Williams claimed the quote wasn’t original, that he acquired the verbiage from the Associated Press or another news media organization. Regardless, the statement was perfect.

Regardless of political view, there are many wonderful lessons for all project managers.

First failure was the lack of vision. All projects require vision and the Project Sponsor must be able to effectively communicate that project. Anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) proponents had nearly seven years to prepare for and repeal the ACA. Estimates vary on the exact number of repeal efforts, but the current count is well over 60. So one would figure the American Health Care Act (TrumpCare) would have a solid foundation, with critical review and bipartisan support across both political and healthcare professions.

Unfortunately, TrumpCare was conceived in weeks, created from a high-level 6 page outline. TrumpCare was hidden, where one could neither read nor contribute to policy discussion. The White House failed to sell TrumpCare and Americans rejected the plan. Various news reports indicated the lead Project Sponsor (i.e.,the President and shelf promoted dealmaker) failed to break through Washington’s gridlock in his first major policy initiative. There was no education as to how TrumpCare was better than the ACA. In the end, not many thought it was better.

Second failure has to be project staff and advisors vacationing during project delivery. Prseident’s Trump’s key advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were vacationing while TrumpCare flopped. I simply can’t fathom key leadership would allow their principle advisors to leave during implementation week. Of course one could speculate Kushner and Ivanka Trump knew TrumpCare was destined to die and said “Screw it babe! Let’s get outta Dodge.” If you’re part of management, you have to be present during both good and bad.

Third failure. Where was Ivanka Trump during TrumpCare’s development. In January, Ivanka Trump professed a wanton desire to push policies benefiting women and girls. Accordingly, she sought the advice of female executives and media stars and the transition team supposedly courted congressional staff on childcare policies. This was an area Ivanka urged President-elect Donald Trump to prioritize. However, did we read of any single contribution from Ms. Trump during TrumpCare’s formation? Did we hear Ms. Trump promoting the positive benefits of TrumpCare for the working poor, single mothers and children? Maybe Ivanka worked behind the scenes. Still, TrumpCare’s key components were never publicly promoted by either Ryan’s team nor the White House.

Fourth failure. Borrowing Stephen Covey’s second principle from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,”  it’s unclear if anyone began with the end in mind. Did they really understand 20+ million could lose health care as end? Accordingly, TrumpCare would have hit millions of Trump supporters the hardest. And who are those supporters? Older people. People in the west, Midwest, and Appalachia. Technically speaking, political projects are supposed to reward supporters and stick it to enemies — not the other way round.

So what’s the end result? What’s our takeaway?

As someone whose worked in healthcare industry for years, health care policy is extremely complicated. Politicians and project managers over simplifying complexities via grandiose vision fail. There’s always a significant gap between solution and implementation. How well the solution positively impacts your customers is dependent upon the planning. TrumpCare suffered from faulty planning.

Maybe America will benefit in the wake TrumpCare’s failure. Sure the ACA is flawed. Like everything, maintenance is critical. Hopefully leaders from all spectrum of health care will come together and add a little Obama, add smidgen of Ryan, a dab of professional ethics, the heart of clinicians everywhere and the will of all constituents and create something beautiful and wonderful.

We must begin with the end in mind.

img_0007Throughout the day I listened to our Congressional leaders question and answer sessions of Trump’s cabinet candidates. Of all the potential candidates, almost none offered anything indicating how their time in the office would make life better for the average working American. Jeff Sessions and John Kelly offered little, if any, positive proof that the incoming administration has anything more than dreams.

Then again, Trump himself has offered almost zero credibility toward offering anything of value to an unemployed coal miner. And of course, the only thing an unemployed steel worker will get is a “wet dream.”

The direct ability of legislators to offer anything but “stupid” is not uncommon. Michelle Bachmann commented that “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” Sharon Angle suggested rape victims make rape lemonade. Rick Santorum claimed rape victims should make the best of a bad situation. Of course one could compare Romney’s America against Trump version when Romney spewed “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

And while watching today’s low-lights, the New York Times reported another Trump nougat.

President-elect Donald J. Trump demanded on Tuesday that Congress immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass another health law quickly thereafter, issuing a nearly impossible request: replace a health law that took nearly two years to pass with one Republicans would have only weeks to shape.

“We have to get to business,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.”

Today’s statement is counter to thoughts Trump expounded in a 60 Minutes interview,.

Stahl: And there’s going to be a period if you repeal it and before you replace it, when millions of people could lose – no?

Trump: No, we’re going to do it simultaneously. It’ll be just fine. We’re not going to have, like, a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. And we’ll know. And it’ll be great healthcare for much less money. So it’ll be better healthcare, much better, for less money. Not a bad combination.

Basically, Trump has no healthcare plan. All of his comments were campaign devices.

Many of the above congressional leaders ever offered real relief to the working man, Trump included. And correct me if I’m wrong, but prior to running for election, I never saw Trump having a beer with a laid off steel worker in upstate New York. Nor has one seen Ivanka Trump in a blighted Ohio coal community helping families make ends meet. Better still, has Kushner ever presented a multibillion dollar rehab project in a decimated downtown coal community?

A blogger on “The Loins Roar” captured my thoughts perfectly.

At the end of the day Trump supporters want someone willing to break the rules. I agree that if humanity will survive, we need to think outside the box regarding our current system. But if you think Trump symbolizes something outside the box, you are confusing intentions. He is the box itself. We need someone humble and compassionate enough to think about all of us. That’s the outside-the-box thinking we need. A severe narcissist is incapable of breaking rules for anyone but himself. And that’s my question for Trump supporters: of the thousands of well-documented times that Trump has broken rules or acted like a phony, when did it ever benefit anyone but himself.

Trump’s policies will provide little for those in the greatest of need.

trump-222While Donald Trump has been appointing and the media has been analyzing Trump’s Twitter account posts, the rest of his fan base has been waiting for news about lost jobs. As most of us know, the coal and steel industry has seen tumultuous decades. But saying President Obama and Hillary Clinton were ultimately responsible for every man’s lot in life is simply overstating the world’s economic engine.

Much of the damage occurred long before either Clinton and Obama graced our presence. For instance, experts say the notion of bringing Pittsburgh back to its post-World War II heyday, with large mills supplying tens of thousands of jobs, isn’t going to happen. By 1982, 133,000 steel workers in the area had been laid off. By January 1983, the job losses in the steel industry contributed to a 17.1 percent unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh area.

In upstate New York, the Lackawanna Steel Company was founded in 1840 and existed as an independent company until 1922. In 1922, Bethlehem Steel bought Lackawanna and operated the facility until operations ceased in 1982. Bethlehem filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Ala in all, Lackawanna once employed approximately 20,000.

Inexpensive steel imports and the failure of management to innovate, embrace technology, and improve labor conditions contributed to Bethlehem’s demise.

In a strange reversal of Trump’s fan base, critics in that era claimed protectionist steel trade policies created a lack of competitiveness as American steel producers like Bethlehem were shielded from foreign competition by quotas, voluntary export restraints, minimum price undertakings, and anti-dumping and countervailing duty. These   measures were in effect for 30 years preceding Bethlehem Steel’s collapse.

To return steel and coal industries back to the days of yesteryear, Trump has to overcome several problems.

First problem that few, if any, have discussed is that steel foundries are gone. To put it bluntly, there is no infrastructure to rebuild. The former Bethlehem steel plant is now the site of the Sands Casino and the former Lackawanna Steel Company site is a wind farm.

Secondly, manufacturing jobs haven’t disappeared just because of trade deals, cheap imports and foreign tariffs. Today’s manufacturers use everything from robots to product-tracking systems to trim costs and increase efficiency and quality. That often means fewer jobs than companies needed to do the same work years ago.

Third, it’s well known coal helped drive the steel industry. Yet today, there’s easier coal to get than those in the Appalachian mines. Once mines have closed they don’t reopen when cheaper alternatives exist. For instance, fracking technology has made natural gas an abundantly cheap form of power.

Globalization and opening of world markets; a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing, creating massive over-capacity in its steel plants; a subsequent boom in cheap Chinese exports and a collapse in the global steel price will not be rectified by Trump in 48 months.

Whether or those manufacturing jobs could have been saved doesn’t matter. They aren’t coming back, at least not most of them. How do we know? Because in recent years, factories have been coming back, but jobs haven’t. Factories built today are heavily automated, employing a small fraction of the workers they would have a generation ago.

For those older among us who hold liberal and progressive political views, let’s not forget we survived Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. It wasn’t pleasant but we survived. We will survive Trump. This is not to say that the policies of past presidents weren’t flawed, and that they did not make any lasting impact. They were and they did. Still, we survived. We will survive Trump. As of today, we don’t really know what will happen under Trump because nothing he has said so far means much. He seems not to have much commitment to his own words.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to a question as she testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in WashingtonLast week I actually listened to the Benghazi hearing. Then, I went watched the fiasco. After eleven hours, I sat for a moment and ponder a most interesting question: “What if the interviewee was either Donald Trump, Ben Carson or Chris Christie?”

Whether you believe Hillary Rodham Clinton or not, commentator Eugene Robinson echoed it correctly when he said Clinton must have been mindful of the old adage that you never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. Clinton was very presidential. I just cannot see any other Republican candidate looking so presidential.

Chris Christie claimed Clinton was “unaccountable” because she left the Benghazi compound’s security arrangements to be handled by lower-ranking professional. Yet “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson noted Christie gave a similar explanation to exonerate himself in the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Overdosing on his Miss World pageant sound bites, Donald Trump claimed he could unify the world …. A pseudonym for “All I want is for world peace.” Ok, actually he said he could unify congress. A former CIA analyst stated, “What was learned was irrelevant. What was relevant wasn’t discussed.

And here’s why I agree.

Rep. Trey Gowdy told Clinton he understood that people in both parties suggest that this investigation was about her; further stating this investigation was about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil. That argument comes across condescending ten minutes into the hearing.

For example, while the Benghazi committee has spent $4.7 million for three hearings, the deaths of two-dozen from a bombed a hospital operated by the charity Doctors Without Borders, in Kunduz, Afghanistan appears particularly uninteresting. Congressional leaders have spent little time investigating why some 30 Americans are being held hostage overseas today. The 2009 suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in Afghanistan did not merit this kind of scrutiny. That was when seven Americans working for the CIA were killed when a man who was supposed to be an informant, invited by American agents to be the base, turned out to be a radical jihadi, a suicide bomber who blew himself up.

The hearing only served to embarrass Republican lawmakers in search of a political crusade. In recent days, some prominent Republicans have even admitted as much. The Republicans are expected to issue a report. May it be the final chapter of a wasteful and counterproductive exercise that accomplished nothing.

Thus, I am left with my opening question. Basically, how presidential would Trump, Carson or Christie be were it them?

imageI spent this past week in Orlando, Florida. Ironically, the American Counseling Association was holding its annual convention here. During my stay, I befriended several counseling professors from a few universities. Although summarized, the following stories were garnered after a few drinks, with names and schools being omitted.

Story One – A Paid Vacation
“I came here for the conference,” the dean said. “I’ve been here three days and have yet to attend one conference seminar. I’ve been at Disney World the whole time.”

“Why haven’t you attended anything?” I queried.

“Well,” she exclaimed. “Others use the conference as vacation for years. So I got tired of it and decided to do it myself. The heck with them.”

“So the university paid for everything: hotel, airfare, car rental, dinning, gasoline and tolls?”

“Yes.”

“Man! Gotta love the cost of education,” I noted.

Story Two – The Grant
“My school has given me the best grant ever,” he pronounced.

“And that would be?” I inquired.

“I received a grant to watch gay pornography and report on possible counseling techniques to counter pornography.”

“Seuiously?”

“Yes. Seriously.” After a brief pause, “Guess what?”

“What,” shaking my head.

“In truth, I am a gay man.”

“So you’re a gay man. And you reccveived a grant from the university to watch gay porn?”

“Yes,” he laughed.

Story Three – The Email Spy
“I came to give a speech on data privacy.”

“Important topic,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “And if you run across anyone needing a software that can read emails, let me know. I built one.”

“You built one?”

“Yes.”

“How does it work?” I asked.

“Well, I own a private security company on the side. I funneled university computer technology student interns to work at my company. Students built the software that I sold back to the university and then to the government. The software tracks and records all emails sent by students or university staff.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah,” he said. “If you send an email through the university system … to Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail … whatever … If I turn the software on, I can copy, track it and read it. And you’d never be the wiser”

“And if the students and faculty ever find out, I’ll bet they’ll be pretty pissed.”

“Oh yeah,” he said.

Somewhere along the line I thought education was to better students, professors were leaders. But apparently, in some cases, it’s all about having students pay for stupid shit.

Quotation-Augusten-Burroughs-yourself-trying-killing-Meetville-Quotes-231260Thousands of protesters condemning police violence marched through St. Louis on Saturday, during a weekend of demonstrations organized after the fatal shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer in a suburb. One protester clutched a sign, ‘Stop Killing Our Children.’

Protester Ellen Davidson of New York City, a community college administrator making her second trip to the St. Louis said, “It’s important for this country to stand with this communityThis community is under siege. … The eyes of the world are watching.

Seriously, I wish New Yorkers would come to St. Louis and help build a couple of homes on the North side. Yet, they’re willing to march. Still unless one considers our own inhumanity as weapons, neither St. Louis City nor Ferguson are under siege. Consider for a moment, some thoughts from Ferguson Police Officer Sgt. Harry Dilworth:

Sgt. Dilworth had been at Fort Leonard Wood fulfilling his duties as an Army reservist when Michael Brown died. During the  ensuing months, Dilworth’s wife wished he were back in Iraq or Afghanistan.

She thinks I would be safer there,” he said.

His teeth clenched as he drove past a protester holding a sign that read “Stop Killing Us.

We are not killing you, you are killing yourselves,” he said, his voice rising inside his police SUV. “This is a systematic problem that’s been going on for years. I want to tell them to wake up! And look at exactly what the problem really is! Look at the statistics. The number of officer-involved shootings is relatively low. I stand a better chance of being killed by you.”

Lost in all the ‘protest mentality‘ media and protest leaders have shoveled down our throats, is that St. Louis Police are investigating a double shooting in downtown St. Louis Friday that left one person dead and another wounded. Police say, 27-year-old Quinnell Stanciel, was pronounced dead at the scene while the second victim was rushed to an area hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm.

And this past Monday, Jonathan Saddler, 24, and James Lane, 22, were killed in a shoot out in downtown St. Louis. Police said the shooting was drug-related, and officers recovered suspected marijuana and heroin at the shooting scene. Police said the surviving victims were not cooperating with the investigation.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve yet to see any St. Louis-Ferguson protester hold a sign for Saddler, Lane or Stanciel. Maybe their lives didn’t matter? Or is it only Brown’s life that mattered?

Why don’t protesters don’t hold such signs at the scenes of murders, such as the recent killings just noted? The real crime, as Officer Dilworth noted is, “We are not killing you, you are killing yourselves.”  We’re killing ourselves … and we’re doing squat … except yelling. If the eyes of the world are watching, all they see is riots and looting.

Paraphrasing from The American President, to the Protesters the Unknown Buddhist says:

We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about change you’d better come with more than a burning flag, quotes on a placard and shouting ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.’ If you want to talk about character and America, peace and change, fine. If you want to have real dialogue, fine. Tell us where and when, and even I’ll show up. This is a time for serious people and your fifteen minutes are up.

imageIf news reports prove accurate, Burger King will ‘whopper’ decisions from Canada to save taxes as Turner Network slashes jobs from increased NBA production costs.

If there’s one key lesson corporate America should learn from Ferguson, MO it’s that we tend not to think of employees as assets. Corporate leaders will profess an undying love for all, but this characterization is devoid of reality. In truth, corporate America will confirm employees cannot be owned, taxed, depreciated, or disposed of as machines or other tangible assets. Thus, employees are disposable.

Evidence of management stupidity has both surrounded and astounded me. Unbeknown to many, much corporate stupidity occurs in dimly lit board rooms by men of little integrity, courage or information.

While waiting patiently to speak to the Board of Directors of a major hospital system on governance controls, a hospital CEO stated he found an ingenious way to reduce payroll expenses. With a sense of arrogance and conceit, he announced:

I had accounting summarize the number of hospital personnel by residential zip-code. I concluded that for every employee residing in a low income area, we can pay them less, for their cost of living is less. Thus, we should not pay them anymore than they need. They shouldn’t get rich off of us

Horrified someone actually thought of this, my repugnancy grew as Board members unanimously confirmed this was a fantastic strategy.

Another moment occurred during a hospital takeover. An ignorant hospital CEO was meeting with his executive staff when he queried the Information Technology Director.

You know,” the CEO stated. “When the buyout is complete, you’ll have two data analysts.
Yes,” the IT Director confirmed.
Well, get rid one.
But…
Now.” the CEO interrupted.. “I want him gone today.
But,” the IT Director countered. “I don’t know what he does yet?
Now!” yelled the CEO.
Yes sir.

The lesson is clear – cut expenses, increase profit. If you don’t, management is likely to find someone who will. What’s strange is we’re willing to blow multimillion dollars on overhyped sports warriors. For instance, NBA players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng signed two-year contracts in what is believed to be an effort to reach free agency just after the new NBA profit sharing deal comes to fruition. Rams management was stupid enough to pay Quarterback Sam Bradford over $60 million in signing bonus during the past four years – for what?

Being one of the thousands receiving pink slips, you’re no longer considered valuable, loved or part of the team. Employee morale parties and team building exercises are show and tell fodder. And should one presume such activities contribute to the moral fiber of work, I dare ask, “In accepting the multimillion dollar contracts, does anyone really believe sports gladiators really gives a spit for the working family of said town?

Having been speared by corporate greed, this Buddhist heart says we spend far more time worrying and fretting about such fears than what’s required to confront and deal with them. To those on the corporate fast track, most of you are heading straight toward major car-wrecks. You may be a master of procedures or technology, but you need to learn the nuances of coverage, liability and valuing things with no price tags, like arms and legs, time and companionship.

All of us must do what leadership cannot – focus on eternal things, the things that matter to God, focus on love. That’s what has lasting value.

Sound Bites

imageNote from journal:

“Rioting continues for third day, black residents with rioters, mostly young, directing fury at government and vehicles. The injury toll continues to mount as several hundred policemen moved to control riots. Only a small number of injured are white. There is widespread feeling that repercussions could be great. Police comdr, sees no end – i.e., the battle between police and rioters. As activists were repressed or saw friends beaten or killed, some took up arms and became insurgents.”

The diary entry noted is decades old and obviously not about Ferguson, Missouri.

What I witnessed decades ago is about the social history of how people built homes, education systems and a country. The streets upon which I walked are not unlike Ferguson, Missouri. Similarly, citizens believed in a fight for freedom. As such, newspaper articles will be written and awards won. But is that where all this ends?

Most Ferguson, MO rioters believe the establishment is maintaining control via “at all costs” mentality. In maintaining that form of social control, it’s necessary to arrest, even shoot, those who refuse the dictates of old white men. Thus, the resistance welling up from a lifetime of oppressive conditions is demonized.

In truth, my diary note was written in a hotel room near Soweto, South Africa, not Ferguson, MO. But what lessons can Soweto provide Ferguson?

  • If the eradication of economic injustices is not achieved within the lifetime of those that experienced it, Ferguson, MO as well as other cities will continue to be plagued by racial tensions;
  • African-Americans must somehow learn to respond as an organized political movement, not a mob;
  • If the lives of millions of the poorest aren’t improved, racial tension and violence will provide yet another example of a failed revolution; and
  • The American public doesn’t adjust to rapid changes, whether it be in accusation or outrage.

Al Sharpton provided an enlightening quote after his return from South Africa decades earlier:

“Because ultimately history is going to judge you by what you achieve. That’s what stimulated me there (South Africa): that it’s more important to affect the lives of people and their agendas than to be caught up with sound bites or style or any of that.”

Many, myself included, now consider Sharpton nothing more than an agitator.

As a Buddhist, the challenge is to tell a story that produces results. It’s about goals, not about the loudest way to vent. The worst error is talking about nonviolence while being violent, for violence surrounds us every day; the very violence in which I, you, we, are complicit.

Life is not a sound bite. Unfortunately, almost everything coming from Ferguson and Clayton are sound bites.

An NPR Driveway Moment

Driveway MomentsThe annual rite of passage has adorned my radio because our local NPR affiliate, is performing another “Radio Held Hostage” week, (loosely translated … pledge drive).

NPR is great for telling you how “free” radio isn’t free.  Various stories of wealth and grandeur pull at listener pursestrings, hoping some listener will call and pledge. One frequent tactic is the overly used “Driveway Moment.”  If you’re unfamiliar with the pitch, here’s what a “Driveway Moment” is about. Quoting NPR:

Maybe it’s happened to you as it has to countless others. . . . You’re driving home, listening to a story on NPR. Suddenly, you find yourself in your driveway (or parking space or parking garage). Rather than turn the radio off, you stay in your car to hear the piece to the end. It’s a Driveway Moment.”

I’ll admit, I am an NPR contributor. Somehow, year after year, after year, after year, they manage to secure some form of contribution from my pocket book.

Still outside of the Diane Rehm Show, call-in radio programming seem deceased and the remaining NPR programming is stale. Click and Clack retired long ago, yet NPR continues to cycle out-of-date material as “entertainment.” Talk of The Nation died a horrible death and was replaced by a boring, less than stellar “Here & Now” and This American Life has been known to recycle material as well.

In truth, almost all NPR programming changes were specifically targeted to reduce programming costs. Facing continued year-to-year multimillion dollar deficits, management has shed direction, cut personnel and offered buyouts. Yet, NPR has retained some of the most overly priced talent possibly.  At last report, Steve Inskeep, co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” still rakes in more than $334,560 yearly. Renee Montagne, co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” swallows $321,919 while Robert Siegel, cohost of “All Things Considered,” clears $321,860. You get the idea … the list goes on and on.

This leads me to my own personal NPR “Driveway Moment.” One day prior to the latest pledge drive, I learned Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep has begun a journey along the U.S.-Mexico border — from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Ah … Why? What the hell for? To the casual listener, Inskeep is taking is a vacation. Hell, I could pay my Uncle Guido some gas money and hotel and he’d be in heaven.

To counterpoint, NPR will claim that as part of some project, a team of NPR correspondents is pursuing stories about people, goods and culture crossing that border. Still as a man who has to clutch every buck owned, my “Driveway Moment” was understanding that NPR, who pays the likes of Inskeep and others, salaries in excess of $300,000, to do what my old man did for years: pack the kids in station wagon and drive.

What’s interesting about my “Driveway Moment” is that all of us deal with money everyday. Even as a Buddhist, there’s not a day where we don’t actually have contact with money. So you would think that money would be a really important for NPR and for us. Yet, like many, NPR seems to separate themselves from the ethics and consciousness.

In truth, Buddha didn’t have a credit card. But that doesn’t mean we can live without credit either. If you think you can, try traveling 50% of the time for business without a credit card. However, like a good steward of faith, we must be vigilant and actually be careful about that which has been entrusted.

If Inskeep had come to my father and asked to pursue a US – Mexico border trip, my father would have said, “Have a hell of a vacation. Oh … send some pictures.”

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