“Wall Heroes” …


Wall Heroes - Wikipedia

I used to hang my heroes on my wall …

 When I was young, I proudly displayed pictures of various actors and famous people, first on my bedroom wall at home and later on various dorm room walls.   Being a Boomer, the list included such luminaries as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Milton Berle, although not all at the same time and definitely not for the same reasons.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped posting pictures of those I admired and instead opted for pretty models, exciting products, mystical sayings, and esoteric art.  I wonder why …


A group in our church is reading and discussing America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis , a fascinating but often difficult to read review of our country’s history of racial injustice from colonial times to right now.  I recommend it to anyone who is willing to struggle with complex challenges in our society and who is interested in building a society which more closely lives up to our country’s stated ideals.

In chapter six, Wallis mentions several people, including Clarence Jordon and William Stringfellow, who conducted bold experiments in creating truly multi-cultural communities.  Wallis uses the term “Wall Heroes” to tell us that portraits of these folks who he considers personal heroes and inspiration hang on the wall of his office to provide daily reminders and inspiration about what can be done when one dares to do it.  


Of course, thinking about this immediately lead me to consider what I mean when I use the term “hero”.

At the risk of going against the current trends, while I think many people should be honored and rewarded for the work they do, such as serving in the military, providing emergency response, or just being a policeman or fireman, without calling each of them heroes.  For example, I served in the military as did many others, but in no way qualify as a hero.

Heroes, at least in my mind, are individuals who have made a large contribution to something positive, often while experiencing great sacrifice or risk for doing so.

Heroes are individuals for the most part, to my thinking.  While the hero influences and motivates others to act with or support something, the hero usually goes first and alone, leading the way and setting the example for others.

One notable exception to this is like that represented by Band of Brothers, the book and television series about a highly trained and accomplished military unit during World War 11.  In the interviews with the actual people portrayed in the film, one of the actors cites one of the veterans:

Richard D. Winters: [real life interview with Winters where he quotes Mike Ranney on how Ranney answered a question his grandson once asked him] I treasure my remark to my grandson who asked, Grandpa, were you a hero in the war? Grandpa said, No… but I served in a company of heroes“. (via IMDB)

I highly recommend viewing the excellent film to anyone who wants to more completely understand what some soldiers experienced during this conflict.  


Heroes are not all of one type, nor do they all operate in one environment.   We assign different virtues to heroes in the context in which they are found:  military, political, social, community.  In one place, we look for personal bravery, while in another, restraint and mercy might be more heroic in our eyes.

The montage I chose to illustrate this little post shows five individuals who came readily to mind as I thought about who I might hang on my wall now:

Fred Rogers (upper left):  He gave me a model for being a man that was distinctly different from anything else I was getting, one which included gentleness, inclusion, acceptance, and kindness.

Viktor Frankl (upper right):  He created a theory of human behavior which continues to quietly impact our thinking, so much so that he continues to show up regularly on lists of highly influential authors and people in the business world, as well as psychology.

Abraham Lincoln (center):  Simply one of the most impactful and important presidents of our history, who showed both courage and compassion during one of our most difficult times as a struggling young nation.

George Washington (lower right):  The first in a long line of national chief executives who helped create our country and shape our national heritage.  Being the first president of a brand new country meant going through truly uncharted waters.

Martin Luther King (lower left):  Perhaps the most courageous person on the wall, who dared to confront racially-based hatred at great personal risk and to do so with passion, but a firm non-violent approach during the tumultuous Civil Rights era.


These candidates for my wall were chosen quickly and I continue to ponder whether I should add some lesser-known but equally impactful folks.  I notice several things as I consider my wall:

I have NO women on my wall … (this really hit home as an example of implicit bias)

Most of my heroes are from earlier periods of history and all are dead now …

My social sciences background is showing … no business or cultural leaders on the list

Little controversy would probably exist around any of my “safe” choices …

Maybe I need to consider further and think more deeply about what a hero might look and sound like, within varying contexts in our society and our world.

Some heroes are not well-known or historical names or appreciated fully in their own lives.   Many heroes are not members of the social or cultural majority in their environment.  Heroism may look, feel, and sound very different at one time versus another. 



Revising my list of heroes as I continue to ponder all this in the Heartland ….


Images:  All from Wikipedia

Guest Post: “I Quit” by John Perkins


John Perkins was Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm where he advised the World Bank, United Nations, the IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and governments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Since then, his books have sold more than 1 million copies and been printed in over 30 languages.  He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, NPR, A&E, the History Channel, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Der Spiegel, and many other publications. He is a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofits devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit. His new book, The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, can be found on Amazon.


It has been nearly twelve years since the release of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. People have wondered how the publication of that book has affected me and what I am doing to redeem myself and change the EHM system. They have also questioned what they themselves can do to help turn the system around. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is my answer.

In the excerpt below, I had just learned that the president of my company, MAIN, who was my personal mentor, had been fired. I slowed down to reflect on the things my job had entailed. I had to admit that it was about more than oil, profitability, and global empires. It was about real people, real families, and how I had exploited  – enslaved- them. I hope you enjoy this short glimpse into chapter 25 of the book and the events that became my confessions.

I’d like say a special thanks to John E. Smith for his support of my new release and for his willingness to post this on his blog. I hope you’ll connect with me on Twitter and Facebook!

share_02I Quit

In late March 1980, still smarting from the firing [of Bruno Zambotti], I took a sailing vacation in the Virgin Islands. Although I did not think about it when I chose the location, I now know that the region’s history was a factor in helping me make a decision that would start to fulfill my New Year’s resolution.

I entered Leinster Bay, nestled into Saint John Island, a cove where pirate ships had lain in wait for the gold fleet when it passed through this very body of water. I nudged the anchor over the side; the chain rattled down into the crystal clear water and the boat drifted to a stop.

After settling in, I rowed the dinghy ashore and beached it just below the ruins of an old sugar plantation. I sat there next to the water for a long time, trying not to think, concentrating on emptying myself of all emotion. But it did not work.

Late in the afternoon, I struggled up the steep hill and found myself standing on the crumbling walls of this ancient plantation, looking down at my anchored sloop. I watched the sun sink toward the Caribbean. It all seemed very idyllic, yet I knew that the plantation surrounding me had been the scene of untold misery; hundreds of African slaves had died here—forced at gunpoint to build the stately mansion, to plant and harvest the cane, and to operate the equipment that turned raw sugar into the basic ingredient of rum. The tranquility of the place masked its history of brutality.

The sun disappeared behind a mountain-ridged island. A vast magenta arch spread across the sky. The sea began to darken, and I came face-to-face with the shocking fact that I too had been a slaver, that my job at MAIN had not been just about using debt to draw poor countries into the global empire. My inflated forecasts were not merely vehicles for assuring that when my country needed oil we could call in our pound of flesh, and my position as a partner was not simply about enhancing the firm’s profitability. My job was also about people and their families, people akin to the ones who had died to construct the wall I sat on, people I had exploited.

For ten years, I had been the heir of those earlier slavers. Mine had been a more modern approach, subtler—I never had to see the dying bodies, smell the rotting flesh, or hear the screams of agony. But I too had committed sin, and because I could remove myself from it, because I could cut myself off from the personal aspects, the bodies, the flesh, and the screams, perhaps in the final analysis I was the greater sinner.

I turned away from the sea and the bay and the magenta sky. I closed my eyes to the walls that had been built by slaves torn from their African homes. I tried to shut it all out. When I opened my eyes, I was staring at a large gnarled stick, as thick as a baseball bat and twice as long. I leaped up, grabbed the stick, and began slamming it against the stone walls. I beat on those walls until I collapsed from exhaustion. I lay in the grass after that, watching the clouds drift over me.

Eventually I made my way back down to the dinghy. I stood there on the beach, looking out at my sailboat anchored in the azure waters, and I knew what I had to do. I had to take responsibility. I knew that if I ever went back to my former life, to MAIN and all it represented, I would be lost forever. The raises, the pensions, the insurance and perks, the equity… The longer I stayed, the more difficult it was to get out. I could continue to beat myself up as I had beat on those stone walls, or I could escape.

Two days later I returned to Boston. On April 1, 1980, I walked into Paul Priddy’s office and resigned.


During the 12 years since the publication of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, the world has changed radically. I am excited to share with you how economic hit men and jackal assassins have spread to the U.S. and the rest of the planet and what we all can do to stop them and to create a better world. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an expanded and updated edition that includes 15 explosive new chapters. It also provides detailed strategies each and every one of us can employ to avert the crises looming before us. To learn more please visit www.johnperkins.org, and join me in moving not just into ‘sustainability’ but also into ‘regenerating’ devastated environments.

What We Seem …

Very Few of Us - morguefile

For all our talk of authenticity and genuiness as positive and desired traits, we often fall rather short of being truly transparent and open.

... and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

While openness creates strong relationships and enhances leadership, we might want to think a little before we become completely open.

I don’t know about you, but I know parts of me that I will never knowingly or willingly share with anyone else, regardless of the relationship or situation.  My thoughts are not consistently charitable or kind, my inclinations can be more emotion-driven than is good for me, and I do not always act in my own best interests … and that’s just the stuff I WILL share.

Caveat:  You may be thinking right now “Why doesn’t he get some help for these afflictions?”, which is a reasonable question to ask, but more complex to answer than you expect.

One of my favorite Tolkien sayings is “All who wander are not lost“.   In the same way, all who keep things private are not hiding something.   

I believe that we must deal with some things completely on our own, without the help of others.    In a paradoxical twist, I also believe this is MOST doable when we are already in the habit of seeking regular help for what ails us cognitively, emotionally, and physically.

Gist of this Post:  

Reflect on what you share and what you keep within yourself …

Adjust what needs adjusting for a healthy balance …

Deal with what you need to, either with another or alone …

By the way, the Tolkien line quoted above is from a fascinating poem in the The Lord of the Rings.  Here’s the complete poem, of which the first line is the title:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.[1]

Setting out my Frodo and Company Trilogy DVDs for the chilly evening ahead in the Heartland ….



Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down? …

Thumbs - MorguefileFast Company just announced their annual list of the 10 Best and Worst Leaders of 2015 …

As you might imagine, this list has some controversial selections, including one prominent presidential candidate and a slew of business folks.   Some are well-known names, while others might have many of us going “Now just who is this person again?“.   

All wield power and influence … and in that respect, I guess all are considered leaders.  


The article does not include any criteria to show how the decisions were made to include or exclude people or how they wound up on one list or the other, so this is worth some thought.

I do not doubt that the staff of Fast Company are well-equipped to make such decisions and the people who I am familiar with are accurately placed on either the Good or Bad list. 

However, I do wonder whether they just got together and contributed their individual favorites or had some type of standardization.   That might introduce some objectivity into the process.


Challenge:  Read the article HERE and respond with your thoughts, either by answering one or more of the questions below or shooting off in new directions:

Whose inclusions on the lists, good or bad, surprises you?

Who did Fast Company miss adding to the lists?

What do you think the criteria should be for being named a Best or Worst Leader?

Bonus Question:  How does that criteria change as we move from the business world to politics to science and technology … or does it?

Wondering about the usefulness of such lists, which proliferate at this time of year, in the Heartland ….


Related Links via Fast Company:

2015 Unicorn Naughty List: “Unicorns” are start-ups valued at one billion dollars or more – NOT your one-man shows, Mom N’ Pop stores, or garage enterprises

2015 Silicon Valley Nice List:  Companies that went the proverbial extra mile, in a business sense.

Image:  Adapted from Morguefile.com

Seasonal Greetings …

Turkey by Kakisky - Morguefile.com… and this is the season of Thanksgiving in America.

Tomorrow in the United States, we gather together to give thanks for freedoms enjoyed, to share fellowship with family and friends, enjoy food and drink, relax in safety and relative comfort, enjoying whatever version of the American Dream we each are working on.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as we say …

Interesting that while we do so, many of us are also engaging in intense discussions about whether to allow others the opportunity to enjoy those same things:   the chance to live in freedom, to be fed, clothed, and sheltered, to be happy, to enjoy life, and all that stuff.

The word “Thanksgiving” is a compound word, with two distinct but very connected parts:  “Thanks” and “Giving“.


…Gratitude or a sense of positive regard for what we have, rather than the manic pursuit of what we do not have, which will begin on either Thursday afternoon, Thursday evening, or Friday morning for many. Continue reading