A New Ending for an Old Poem

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools…”
– Rudyard Kipling, If

Karen’s ending:
If you can think bigger than what’s best for you alone
And consider the needs and wants of others before your own
If you’re able to function without a computer or cellphone
And in the midst of crises keep an even-tempered tone
If you’re willing to give your life to serve a noble cause
And not expect to be appreciated, thanked, or be “The Boss”
Then you are the woman or the man I want for Pres.
You are the person who might lead us out of this mess.
– Karen


When the Traffic Lights Don’t Work (and we don’t have a leader)

The power was out yesterday and some of the traffic lights weren’t working. But something really cool happened: At each traffic light I witnessed people being courteous to each other, taking turns, allowing those cars stuck on side streets to come into the flow. At one point the driver of the car to the left of me stopped to allow a car on a side street to enter traffic. In order for the car on the side street to enter, I had to stop, too, though – we all had to work together to help the car on the side street get into the flow.  There was no one directing traffic – no one standing in the intersection telling us when to go. But somehow we managed to take care of each other. 

And that’s what America looks like to me right now, too. We don’t have anyone directing traffic. We don’t have a leader who’s trying to help the people on the side streets get into the flow. We don’t have a leader who’s telling us when to stop, and showing us how to take turns and behave ourselves. We’re having to do that for ourselves.

What an incredible opportunity to find out who we are as human beings.

I want a leader who…

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the kind of person I’d like to see running for President of the U.S. of A. Here’re my thoughts, thus far:

  • I do not care what gender this person is, or what religion or non-religion this person practices. I don’t care about this person’s ethnicity, or what generation this person is from, and I don’t care if this person ends sentences and phrases with dangling prepositions.
  • I want a leader who can inspire the people of my nation to be kinder, braver, more honest, more selfless, less hateful, and less bigoted.
  • I want a leader who values education, and has made an effort to keep learning and seek wisdom.
  • I want a leader who is humbled by power, and knows when to use it – and when not to use it.
  • I want a leader who understands that a President is an employee of the people – elected by the people to serve, not be served.
  • I want a leader with a vision for the future that includes peace and prosperity for all.
  • I want a leader who can give us hope.
  • I want a leader who cares about others.
  • I want a leader who believes that good can win.
  • I want a leader who believes that love is power.

Anybody got anything they’d like to add?


Reluctant Heroes and Reluctant Leaders

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
– William Shakespeare

 “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I’ve always enjoyed the “reluctant heroes” and “reluctant leaders” of literature and film, and real life – the people who don’t really seek to be heroes or leaders; who don’t really want to risk their lives; who have some concept of what might happen to them if they step forward and do the right thing, and sigh and take a deep breath, and do it anyway. These aren’t the people who are seeking the limelight. They aren’t looking for glory. They don’t want medals and awards and accolades and power. They’re doing the right thing in spite of their trepidation. They’re doing the right thing simply because they don’t have it in them to NOT try to save someone else’s life, or rescue the puppy, or stand up for what is right and fair, or to lead when there is a need. They are, in my mind, the best kinds of heroes and leaders.

In literature, one of my favorite “reluctant heroes” is Frodo Baggins. Frodo clearly does not want the responsibility of The Ring. He’d much rather have given that responsibility to someone else, and gone home to his quiet life in the Shire. But he realizes that he’s the only one equipped – mentally and emotionally – to take on the responsibility. He’s the only one humble enough. In short, his very reluctance to be the hero is exactly why he’s the best one fit to BE the hero.

In “Are You a Reluctant Leader?” Walt Grassle writes: “…often, reluctant leaders are the best leaders. They lead from a desire to serve, not a desire for power.” And in “The Reluctant Leader” Lainie Heneghan writes: “Adaptability, humility, a capacity to bring others along in their efforts, and a plain old willingness to listen are defining qualities of reluctant leaders.”

In thinking about reluctant leadership, the death of one of my dad’s climbing friends in an avalanche on Mount Rainier comes to mind. Dad’s friend, Willy, had been leading a group of climbers from Evergreen State College up Mount Rainier when an avalanche struck the team.  Willy and another climber were buried under the avalanche. The other team members were able to uncover the snow from the two victims’ bodies, and tried to resuscitate them, but without success. The team’s leader, Willy, was gone, and the remaining members were in a perilous situation – exhausted, traumatized, and in shock. It was then, according to Dad, that Ian, one of the student-members of the climbing team, stepped forward and assumed leadership. As I understand it, this student had been one of the quieter members of the team until that moment – a strong climber who had earlier helped Willy scout out the route to the summit – but not someone who had sought attention for himself. I’m sure that Iain would rather not have been in a situation where he had to assume leadership.  But, as Dad tells it, Ian was an observer and he’d seen there was a need – recognized that someone needed to step forward and give direction to the team – and he had done what he knew needed to be done to get the surviving members of the team safely off the mountain.

I’m guessing the world is full or reluctant heroes and leaders – people quietly making the lives of other people better; people stepping up to the plate when a leader is needed, or a hero; people who recognize that in their neighborhood, or workplace, or political organization they are the ones best equipped to create a positive atmosphere or lead in a positive direction – and then quietly go about doing so. Without fanfare. Without hope of recognition or credit. Just because it’s the right thing to do.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…” – Matthew 20: 25-27

Walt Grassle’s article: http://researchcareersblog.com/2014/12/08/are-you-a-reluctant-leader/#sthash.ifYrR64X.dpbs

Lainie Heneghan’s article: http://www.jmw.com/assets/JMW_Reluctant_Leader.pdf

reluctant heroes

Photo of cannon at Fort Ticonderoga, NY (Karen Molenaar Terrell)




Leadership After Defeat

The greatest glory lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.
– JK Rowling

Our beloved Seahawks lost last night and in the most heart-breaking way. I stood there, mouth open, looking in disbelief at my TV screen. “What the…? Did that really just happen?!”

As anyone knows who was watching the game last night, the Seahawks last offensive play was a doozy. Who the heck called THAT one, we all wondered.

Pete Carroll, the head coach, took responsibility for it. And then Russell Wilson, the Seahawks quarterback said HE was to blame. And… it’s kind of refreshing to see the blame game being played out in this way – with two people competing to TAKE the blame, rather than rushing to find someone else to pin it on. That is leadership, isn’t it?

Far too often in my experience the “guys at the top” – the politicians, managers, bigwigs, and Grand Poobahs – are the first ones to try to find someone else to blame when things head south. That whole “buck stops here” thing seems to rarely happen anymore. So it warmed the cockles of my heart when I read this on profootballtalk.nbcsports.com:

“Wilson credited Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler for making a good play and said the (sic) he didn’t question the play call while also pointing the finger at himself for the way things played out.

“’I put the blame on me — I’m the one who threw it,’ Wilson said. ‘It’s something you learn from, it’s something you grow from. I’m proud of our guys about the way that we got down the field there in that situation. We had so many great plays, and we’re right there. We’ll just keep learning and keep growing.’”

Maybe losing the Superbowl when they were so close to winning it is the best thing, in the long-term, that could have happened to the Seahawks as a team last night. I mean, it would have been awesome if they’d won – duh! But the big thing that the Seahawks have always had going for them is their collective character, as a team. They are family. And when family members go through hard times together – support each other, take responsibility for each, encourage and inspire each other – they come out even stronger in the end.

(And we all know that neither Pete Carroll nor Russell Wilson was to blame for that doozy of a call. But aren’t we proud of them for being willing to “take the rap”?)

Winning is great, sure. but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.
– Wilma Rudolph

What happened to that whole “the buck stops here” thing?

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. – Peter Drucker

To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less. – Andre Malraux

…he that is greatest among you shall be your servant… – Matthew 23

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. –Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address


Yeah, I used that Lincoln quote in my last post, too. I keep coming back to Lincoln in my thoughts. Now THERE was a man who knew how to lead. He valued the sacrifices of others, was willing to make sacrifices himself, and was motivated by the desire to keep our nation united and the people who live in it free.  He had the courage to make the tough decisions, and he had the wisdom to know when the time had come to make those decisions.  Lincoln recognized that our nation didn’t belong to him, but that he belonged to it. He understood that he was a servant, and that the nation belonged “of the people, by the people, for the people…”


Soooo… have you all seen the video clip wherein Rep. Neugebauer – one of the legislators who voted to shut down our government – is telling a federal park ranger that SHE should be ashamed for turning people away from the gates to the federal park? – trying to make it sound like the poor ranger  is somehow to blame for this whole government kerfuffle? http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Congressman-Confronts-Park-Ranger-Over-Closed-WWII-Memorial-226209781.html

Thanks to Rep. Neugebauer and his legislative cohorts – that park ranger and 800,000 other federal employees are on unpaid furlough.  It is interesting to note that Rep. Neugebauer – also a federal employee – will continue to receive his salary. Yup. That’s right. He will continue to get paid for not doing his job.

And then there’s this fellow over at FOX news: “Fox Business host Stuart Varney believes that the ongoing government shutdown, while presenting no real threat to the economy, offers an opportunity to ‘punish’ federal workers for ‘living on our backs.'”  http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/10/03/foxs-varney-on-furloughed-federal-employees-i-w/196261


Federal employees include our military men and women, maintenance people, construction workers, secretaries, park and museum workers, librarians, scientists who work to protect our environment, disaster emergency workers – people who work very hard – sometimes at the sacrifice of life and limb – to protect us, inform us, and provide us with services.  And they are most certainly not parasites who “live on our backs.” Federal employees are public servants, not public slaves. They earn their salaries and deserve to be paid for their services – at least as much as our legislators.

Our senators and representatives are also supposed to be public servants.  We elected them to serve us. We are their employers. And when they are no longer serving us – when they are no longer doing their jobs – I’m thinking it is time for them to go.

What are the qualities that you want to see in  a nation’s leaders? Intelligence, responsibility, empathy, compassion, honesty, integrity, selflessness, wisdom – these are all qualities I value in a leader. Mary Baker Eddy describes, in Prose Works, the type of individual I want representing me: “The upright man is guided by a fixed Principle, which destines him to do nothing but what is honorable, and to abhor whatever is base or unworthy; hence we find him ever the sane, – at all times the trusty friend, the affectionate relative, the conscientious man of business, the pious worker, the public-spirited citizen…He assumes no borrowed appearance. He seeks no mask to cover him, for he acts no studied part; but he is indeed what he appears to be, – full of truth, candor, and humanity. In all his pursuits, he knows no path but the fair, open, and direct one, and would much rather fail of success than attain it by reproachable means.”

Finger-pointing, blame-gaming, “passing the buck” – these are not indicative of good leadership.

“The buck stops here,” read a sign on President Truman’s desk. Now THAT’s what real leadership looks like.


“…he that is greatest among you shall be your servant…” – Matthew 23

“Pride and fear are unfit to bear the standard of Truth… ” – Mary Baker Eddy

“Love inspires,  illumines, designates, and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to  speech and action.” – Mary Baker Eddy