9-11 and 10 Years On: Your Leadership and History

9-11 and 10 Years On: Reflections on Leadership and History

  • First, let’s do a couple of points from popular culture. Top hit song from 1951: Too Young by Nat King Cole. 2001: Hanging by a Moment by Lighthouse. Top movie from 1951: A Streetcar Named Desire. 2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Fad from 1951: Gilbert’s Chemistry Sets. 2001: Bratz Dolls.
  • I mentioned having looked at 35-40 newspapers from December 7, 1951. Another thing covered by the newspapers in late 1951 was the irony of U.S. President Harry Truman having finalized the peace treaty with Japan only twelve weeks before the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
  • Time magazine in late 1951 featured an article on Japan since Pearl Harbor. Many residents of Japan, the article noted, were increasingly resentful of “American occupation” of their island. (U.S. military forces were still overseeing Japan as a result of Allied victory in World War II in 1945)
  • If you have followers at work, and that means you’re a leader at work by my definition, then I encourage you to start at least a few casual conversations about what people think the 10th anniversary means. Don’t worry if there’s disagreement; that’s just part of it. It’s a good thing to have people give at least a little thought as to what the 10th anniversary of 9-11 holds for them. It’s part of self-government.
  • I think we overdo it on avoiding discussions that might produce disagreement. Unity has become a fantasy pursuit, the holy grail of personal and work life. To be candid, I think unity is much more of a mirage than we care to admit. The better issue is how to navigate and negotiate through disagreement and an acceptable level of disunity.
  • This exercise at work is a way to help build culture in your organization. Not all forms of organizational culture pertain to organizational events. It can also involve the larger external events shared by people who work together.
  • You’ve got to pay attention to major anniversaries in your organization, in your family, in your individual life, and in your community. A common point of reflection and remembrance is part of the fabric that holds people together. These points don’t happen by themselves. You have to decide to remember. Not to decide is the same thing as setting fire to your history. It will burn quickly, the ashes scattering to the wind, and in a frighteningly short time, no one will know who or what was there. Then, you have the equivalent of it and them never having existed at all.
  • Don’t assume that you shouldn’t remember the anniversaries of sorrows, trials, and tragedies. They’re just as important as the good times, the good days in life. Indeed, your deepest imprints can likely be traced back to the hard times. Good stuff leaves a light mark.
  • Reflect for a moment on my point about the marriage of math and history. I divided it into three parts–the things we’ve let slip away in our memory of a particular event; the things we’ve held on to in that memory; and the things that have slipped away but which ought to be regained. It’s this third part where a leader will find the tremendous power of history. Restoring lost yet important points of an event-memory can re-inspire, re-energize, and re-direct the work that you and your follower seek to do.
  • It’s sobering to think of all that Americans experienced from 1941 to 1951. Honestly, it starts to make our own decade since 2001 feel a little less overwhelming than we tend to realize. History has a way of doing that.
  • I will be developing a module and session on United Flight 93 that was crashed by several passengers in rural Pennsylvania. In many ways this looks a lot like the Battles of Lexington and Concord of April 1775 with ordinary people deciding to answer the call of alarm.
  • Remember my comment on the presence of Twitter, Facebook, and hand-held phone cameras? One thing that I think would have happened if those things had been present in 2001 is that the U.S. military would have been presented directly with the decision of whether or not to fire missiles into at least one of the passenger airliners.
  • Note the difference between the role of prayer at the official commemoration in 1951 contrasted with New York City’s formal ceremony planned for 9-11. As of this writing, my understanding is that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has refused to allow religious leaders of any sort—and prayer, too—to be part of the ceremony. Shameful, a sign of a poor leader and poor leadership. His excuse is that there isn’t enough room at the site for religious leaders. Sure.
  • Without question, then-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani demonstrated outstanding leadership in the aftermath of 9-11. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of leadership in a crisis environment. Maybe I should have a module on this.
  • In case you’re wondering, when I describe 9-11, I refer to radical Islamic terrorists as having attacked the U.S. Another appropriate term might be jihadi terrorists. I also refer to the ensuing global conflict in the same way that the U.S. military referred to it until 2009 (Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT).
  • So, what do you think we’ve lost and need to regain in the ten years since 9-11? What needs to be restored to our reflections on the event?
  • In my research I encountered a few nut-jobs on the internet who insisted that the 1951 commemoration of Pearl Harbor was non-existent. Their point in saying that is to emphasize that we who wish to remember 9-11 are war-mongers, dupes of the national security machine. The record from December 7, 1951 is what I told you on the video. The nut-jobs are flat wrong, either purposely or from sheer ignorance. There was a lot of recognition of the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in 1951. For some people, historical truth doesn’t exist or it can be shoved aside in the pursuit of a contemporary opinion. I hope you recognize that I’ll always tell you straightforwardly what I find historically.