By Andy Weddington
Friday, 15 April 2011
"If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain."
After promotion to major, shiny gold oak leafs barely a week old, a colonel not in my chain of command summoned me to his office. Following a spirited handshake, back slap, and offer of congratulations, and some other small talk that does not come to mind nor necessarily matter, he passed along something he felt important and suggested I never forget it.
In so many words he said, "Well, Major, major is a big step--it's a great rank. But let me tell you, majors are notorious for having great big generous hearts and wanting to please everyone. Pleasing everyone is impossible. You can't do it. Now colonels, on the other hand, have itty bitty hard hearts--grown from the heartaches of trying to please everyone while a major and even lieutenant colonel. And though colonels often come across as hating everyone they really don't. It's just colonels could care less about pleasing anyone--and sometimes that includes generals. Always do what is right and you'll have no trouble sleeping."
And that was that. He didn't offer any personal experiences or talk anymore business. And I soon departed--with plenty to think about.
Not that I had not always adhered to that line of thought and personal conduct--raised to always do what was right, regardless how painful--but he knew challenging situations inevitably come along with more rank and greater responsibilities.
He was promoted to and succeeded as a colonel for a reason and was giving me something to think about that may one day prove invaluable. Maybe. There was something about his body language, seriousness in his eyes, and tone of voice that was compelling. See and hear him clearly I still do. Had his words not been delivered in person their impact would not have been the same. He made an impression; an indelible one.
The colonel didn't need a crystal ball or deck of cards--he undoubtedly spoke from experience.
I did not forget.
Some fifteen years later, wearing the eagles of colonel and amidst some sensitive duties with challenging circumstances, his mentoring moment came to mind. And to the chagrin and unhappiness of some, including generals, I did what was right. The acid test? Sleep. And reassurance from some fellow colonels.
Last week's nonsense in Washington over a budget (and debt) that should have been resolved months ago, and the nth hour over-dramatic threats to shut down government, triggered memories of that office call with the colonel.
Though making generalizations when speaking of groups of people is hardly fair and something I consciously avoid, and while analyzing the complex problem for simple analogy, it struck me the whole bickering lot of them were and are like newly promoted majors--void the benefit of wise counsel from a seasoned colonel. They try to please everyone--and please no one. And make a mess. Have they ever.
Politicians--the "majors" of America.
Who are the "colonels"? And where are they?
Might they be businessmen? Some think so. After all, ours is a capitalist land and they know a little something about the bottom line; of which everything--nationally and globally--is relevant.
One wildly successful businessman, a sort of joker and certainly a character, is now in the gun sights of mainstream media because he's hinting at a run for the presidency. He's criticizing and questioning our country's ranking "major"--who's pleasing few; as the polls--the pol's crystal ball and deck of cards--tell, and sometimes foretell.
The businessman--the "colonel"--has some experience with big business, budgets, and appreciates that success, measured in net, comes at the expense of not pleasing everyone. Certainly there are some that believe his is an itty bitty hard heart and he hates everyone--at least when it comes to the deal. Maybe. Maybe not. But personal net worth nearing $3 billion says a little something about credibility--otherwise he'd be summarily dismissed as a lunatic; now he's just eccentric. And "majors" might want to pay attention; carefully.
The "major's" supporters say it's going to take $1 billion or more for their campaign--a seat at the table; $250 million plus more than for election.
To which the logical--the sane--say, "What? Hold on. Wait a minute. If doing his job--the people's work, why more money--vice much less...much, much less--to win reelection? It doesn't make sense."
And the itty bitty hard-hearted "colonels"--one in particular for the time being who, ironically, was born on Flag Day (an omen--in the cards?)--say they can rescue America, from herself, and restore her strength by doing what is right--what is right for America; here and abroad.
Who's to say he and they can't?
What's America's fate?
Forget the crystal ball and cards.
Neither spades, clubs, nor diamonds.
And certainly not hearts.
And a lot of words, guts, courage, stamina, perseverance, and a face--that can smile and laugh and endear and look serious and stare down an opponent and bluff and take a punch and take a punch and take a punch and take a punch.
That combo, with an extra-heavy dose of bluff, worked last time.
For the game, after all, is stud poker.
And there's no seat at the table for wimps.
The absence of big-hearted "majors" is wishful thinking.
Who's in? So far, one--entitled but not to a second term. "Colonels" are "exploring." There's a lot of cards to be played. Watch for "aces" up the sleeve, and elsewhere.
1. Thinking about Churchill's opening opinion and our representative government is interesting. Entertaining, too. Depressing when considering most in Congress are over 40.
2. When a lieutenant and captain, I did not understand colonels. When a major, I watched and listened to lieutenant colonels and colonels--still not fully understanding colonels. When a lieutenant colonel, colonels were still puzzling at times but made more and more sense. When a colonel, I understood colonels; most of them.