As we are working our way through the first month of this new year, we are approaching the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday on Monday, January 15, 2017. This special holiday honors King who was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state laws.
This year, this special holiday finds me reviewing a copy of the United States Constitution. In particular, I am reviewing Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. (Ratified 12/15/1791):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
My review comes at a time when public discourse across America leaves lots and lots to be desired. I am an advocate of the first amendment. I also recognize that I can’t respect the first amendment and disrespect those who may choose to disagree with me. This week I was reminded of that as I viewed a discussion on “Disagreement and Civil Dialogue on American Politics and Civic Culture” which aired on the local Arizona PBS station and was hosted by the Arizona State University on October 12, 2017.
Former U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Tom Daschle (D-SD) took the stage at Katzin Concert Hall to engage in public discourse in the second of the series: “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society” sponsored by School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. Here is my biggest take-away from their discussion: The ability to solve problems from the grass roots up to the Halls of Congress is governed by our ability to communicate.
Communication is a very important soft skill whose importance is often overlooked in business, STEM, and many other work sectors. Communication has a greater impact than any other skill in any organization. As Geraldine Kilbride says [Ref 1], “Communication is the ‘lifeblood’ of every organization. People in organizations typically spend over 75% of their time in an interpersonal situation; thus it is no surprise to find that at the root of a large number of organizational problems is poor communication.”
Communication is critical if any organization expects to become a world class company. Is it a wonder that elected officials in Congress are struggling to communicate with each other? As a part of making America great again, we need to start talking to each other, again.
Given the above, I leave you with a few quotes from three of the world’s greatest communicators:
Selected quotes from James A. Baldwin:
- “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”
- “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
- “There is no reason for you to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand, and until they can understand it, they cannot be released from it.”
Selected quotes from Albert Einstein:
- “The separation of the races is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”
- “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”
- “We cannot despair of humanity, since we ourselves are human beings.”
Selected quotes from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
- “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
- “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
- “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
America, we are better than this! We can do better! We must do better!
- How Important is Communication in Your Life, by Theodore T. Landgraf, April 7, 2015, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-important-communication-your-life-ted-landgraf/