I remember years ago reading an interview with George Will (at least I think it was George Will) where he was asked how he came up with columns on a regular basis. His response, to paraphrase was, if you can’t find 3 things that make you angry every week, you are not paying attention.
Now, there are a couple things I have generally tried to avoid in this space…politics, and venting when I’m angry. Well, last night I read an article online, about Mitt Romney, and it made me angry.
First off, full disclosure…I have three school age daughters. One of them was sexually harassed by other students in her 6th grade class while attending a local religious school. It took a lawyer making a phone call to the principal before the issue was addressed.
Another daughter was physically attacked by student at one of the Ithaca middle schools (our daughter was not her first victim). The case went through family court, involved orders of protection, and eventually led to us moving out of Ithaca to get our kids in a different school district.
So, bullying in school is a bit of a touchy subject for me. And it seems, according to almost anyone paying attention, it is becoming, especially now that cyber-bullying has been added to the mix, a problem that is becoming more and more out of control.
That was why Romney’s “apology” for his actions in prep school seemed so completely tone deaf. If you have not read the story yet, he and some friends pinned down another student and cut off his hair. Romney’s response was that he at times engaged in “pranks and hijinks” and sometimes they went too far. Put your politics aside for a minute, and picture 5 people doing that to your kid or grand kid. Listening to them cry and scream in fear. Are you thinking “boys will be boys” or assault?
Now, most of us I’m sure have said and done things that we deeply regret. And what a person did in 1965 as a teenager…how much does that have to do with whether or not they are qualified to be president? Probably not too much.
Of course, for Romney, the issue is complicated, first by the fact he is running for president, and second by the fact that the person he attacked was gay. But I would have loved to see him take ownership of what he did regardless of the political fallout. Don’t qualify your statements with ifs. “if I did it…” Don’t wait for the pollsters to figure out what we want to hear you say on the topic. If you regret what you’ve done, and your actions have eaten at you for years, tell us that (your friends who remember the incident vividly admit it has bothered them)…we are pretty forgiving. And if you really don’t think what you did was a big deal, don’t say, you don’t remember the incident.
Real leadership is about looking out for, not taking advantage of those weaker. It is about taking responsibility when we act in ways that hurt others.