Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day 2009 Thoughts

Today is MLK day, I spent it catching up on my African American history, overdosing on the Inauguration broadcasts, the rhetoric on the significance of the inauguration of the first Black President and something about what Michelle Obama will wear to inaugural balls. In all of these, I kept searching for why is this really significant to blacks in America, why do blacks talk about this inauguration as the realization of the dream? Why does the rest of the world care about an historic moment in America? The latter question is somewhat easier to answer (I said somewhat), "I have a dream" is a well recognized phrase across the world as is its author and I want to believe that for years the world watched to see if the dream will ever be realized in America and by electing the first black president the dream is fulfilled and the American dream lives on.

The former question was a little harder to crack. Understanding segregation and recognizing racism is tough if you haven't lived through. Yes I have seen the pictures and I've spoken to enough black people who have told me the stories of the time, eventually my answer came from the following text in Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in response to a statement issued by the Alabama Clergymen.

"When you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; ..... when your first name becomes "nigger", your middle name becomes "boy" .......... when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait."

It's true the signs have come down, the N-word became politically incorrect (unless of course you are black then it’s ok) and Lyndon Johnson signed The Voting Rights Acts but that degenerating sense of “nobodiness” lingered on for the most part until November 4th, 2008.

On January 20th, 2009 blacks in America will undoubtedly be celebrating the historic event of the inauguration of the first black president with a reassured sense of being somebody.

Happy MLK Day!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Longest Night

One Easter Sunday, the Alaska Ranger—a fishing boat out of Dutch Harbor—went down in the Bering Sea, 6,000 feet deep and thirty-two degrees cold. Forty-seven people were on board, and nearly half of them would spend hours floating alone in the darkness, in water so frigid it can kill a man in minutes. Forty-two of them would be rescued. Here’s how

I was drawn to Sean Flynn's incredible story of rescue in the Bering Sea partly because my company shares an office building with a fishing company and the Alaska Ranger is owned by a fishing company based in Seattle. Sean Flynn did a great job in this article, I was reading the story on a plane ride back to Seattle but Sean's style put me smack in the middle of the action, I felt the cold and darkness experienced by the survivors and the adrenaline rush experienced by the coast guard.

I'm a firm believer that if you enable smart people by providing clear goals and guidelines they will accomplish exceptional results and this story exemplified that. The decisions made by the coast guard personnels on the scene were sometimes against standard procedure but these decisions were critical in increasing the odds of survival of the distressed crewmen. There is definitely a place for not following the rule if you understand the ultimately objective which in this case was to save life.