Are you familiar with the term the borrowed view? This is a technique where a distant view is incorporated into the garden setting and becomes part of the design. (My 2013 Photo – Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo – illustrates the concept.) Though I am the eternal optimist, I’m not happy! Come and sit a spell on one of the benches along Main Street and let’s talk about the ‘State of Things’ on the City Council. I’ve been looking for and found a distant view (in our case, a voice) to appeal to the better natures of the Council who allow business to be conducted in an angry and disrespectful manner. I have enlisted the help of the 43rd President of the United States to plead my case for a new commitment and direction in this matter.
I skipped church this past Sunday to continue reading Three Days in January – Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission. My SON (in-law), the Rector of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, who has a great sense of humor, tells me there is a fiery burning lake waiting for me when I stay home and probably means it, but I had to read on. I have come to the conclusion that General Eisenhower’s leadership is needed to inspire Rocky Mount’s City Council to take action against bad manners and bullying. Fortuitously, there is a renewed public interest in Eisenhower, and he was available for consultation.
Here are a few words of wisdom provided by General Eisenhower and a caution from the citizens of Rocky Mount who are disappointed in the lack of leadership that indulges an angry and divisive environment in its chambers. Eisenhower was magnanimous in his view that most people in government were at heart public servants, and while their immediate goals and philosophies might differ, their dedication to the cause of America was usually honorable. Ike said, “A man will respect you and perhaps even like you if you differ with him on issues and on principle. But if you ever challenge his motives, he will never forgive you. Nor should he.”
The City Council surely realizes that misconduct on the part of any Councilman casts a deeper judgment on the entire character of the Council. This contentious atmosphere reinforces the notion that decisions are being made for callous, personal and political gain, in order to retain control over the process and constituencies.
Two major themes of Ike’s life and presidency were his leadership and collaboration. I encourage the Council members to ask themselves how they wish the history of Rocky Mount to judge their leadership role or lack thereof. The first question on everyone’s mind should be, will the decisions under consideration be good for Rocky Mount or is there an underlying personal agenda here that has no place in the debate? At the expense of reputation and respect, am I willing to have my vote influenced by intimidation and fear rather than good conscience?
Ike said, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault, not leadership.” He was a lifelong strategist and problem solver, who treated conflict as a management issue, not a crusade against a wicked and dangerous enemy. He advocated overcoming differences with “intellect and decent purpose.” This approach will be sorely needed in the days ahead as the Human Relations Committee of the City Council entertains the fate of our Confederate Monument.
Ike warned that ….. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought. A disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist unless we are willing to do something about it.
We will spend more time with General Eisenhower in Part 2 another time.