Summer Reading

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What did you read this summer?

Aside from the hundreds of texts, emails, newsfeeds, and magazine articles, it is sometimes difficult to make the time to read a full book. During the summer, when the days are longer and the time away more plentiful, many of us can make that happen, but what do we choose? 

 

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Several months ago, I happened to hear an NPR interview with author and correspondent Thomas Ricks. Ricks, who won a Pulitzer for his coverage of the Iraqi war, is well-respected and thorough in his research, and compelling in his writing. He was being interviewed by Terri Gross about his new book Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom.  In an age where clear-minded and effective leadership seems to be lacking, Ricks’ book examined two leaders who approached a single, difficult problem in world history from two opposite political camps, yet essentially reached the same conclusion because of their ability to be both vulnerable and strong-willed in their convictions.  Their time on the world stage overlapped, and while they likely did not know each other personally, their work and writings contributed more to contemporary thought on the governance of people than many who have come before or since.  From his afterward Ricks writes:

When they were confronted with a crucial moment in history, Churchill and Orwell responded first by seeking the facts of the matter. Then they acted on their beliefs…  They responded with courage and clear-sightedness. If there is anything we can take away from them it is the wisdom in employing this two-step process, especially in times of mind-bending crisis: work diligently to discover the facts of the matter, and then use your principles to respond.
— Thomas Ricks
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As I read those words, and the remainder of the book, I realized that the lessons Ricks brings to the reader didn’t only apply to the historic crossroads of the early twentieth century, but to nearly every challenge one faces, from great matters of state to family squabbles and everything in between, including how to go about building a team that will help govern and grow Coraopolis. 

In this time between our primary and general election, I have continued to meet more and more residents, former residents, business owners, and visitors who have a genuine heart for Coroapolis, and a desire to see our good growth and reputation continue. Many of you have raised your hand when asked, willing to step forward and serve as needed. And even more of you have offered your hopes, dreams, concerns, compliments and complaints. If you’ve managed only to communicate in ways that are either wholly negative or wholly foolish, I will not have responded personally, as rants are generally not conversation starters.  But even the rants – along with all the other real conversations I’ve had – have taught me that a real passion exists here to make Coraopolis the envy of our neighbors.  I’ve also learned that the most significant leadership of Coraopolis will come from those who can do what Churchill and Orwell modeled: seek the facts of every situation, accept them even if it means a changing a previously held belief, and responding with strong, moral conviction for the good of all.

Ricks continues with a parallel that is eerily prophetic to today’s headlines: 

As we deal with terrorism, global warming, domestic inequality, and racism, and also with panicky politicians and demagogic leaders, we would do well to remember how these two men reacted to their own times.
— Thomas Ricks

Whether we know it or not, we all react to the events of our lives from a deep well of beliefs, prejudices, joys, pains, drives and hopes. We all have that formula in common.  To move forward together we will first need to recognize that as truth. I want to live among those who can nod at that, and work toward learning about the other truths we have in common.  Make no mistake: this is as important in Coraopolis of 2018 as it was in Great Britain of the 1940’s.

As always: your good and thoughtful comments welcome here.