Pulaski

May 14, 2017

IMG_1668As the great- grandson of Polish immigrants who arrived on our shores in the early 1900’s it is natural for me to think of my heritage from that starting point. I often express my thanks for their courage and foresight to start a new life in this country, leaving everything behind. But in my expressions of gratitude I sometimes forget that they were not the only ones to leave Poland and make their mark on this country.

Last week my wife Carol and one of daughters, Laura, went to Boston’s Polish Fest to soak up the Polish-American culture, along with delicious pierogis and kielbasa. As we sat and ate and drank a few Polish beers we noticed a statue behind us of General Casimir Pulaski. I of course have been well-schooled in the heroics of Washington, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, John Paul Jones, and Nathan Hale, but I had paid little attention to the Polish connection to our war of independence.

At the base of the statue the inscription lists the enormous contributions of Pulaski  to the war effort- organizer and commander of the first American cavalry, instrumental in saving American forces at Brandywine, Pennsylvania, key participant in the battles of Egg Harbor, New Jersey and Charleston, South Carolina, and bravely succumbing to injuries in the battle of Savannah, Georgia.

Although not his war, Pulaski left his native country to fight for freedom and independence and like his countryman, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, who helped build many military fortifications, including West Point, was instrumental in winning the war against the British.  Thankfully, Pulaski has not been forgotten as towns, roads and bridges all around this country are named after him. They are a fitting tribute to the heroism of someone who gave his life for an ideal.

In today’s United States we too often forget ideals, grand principles, and governing values and get caught up in defining this nation in terms of wealth, power and success. General Pulaski’s heroism should remind us that freedom and independence are not just words but require deeds and yes, sacrifices. I thank my great grandparents for their deeds and sacrifices, but now I can also thank Casimir Pulaski.

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Branding the USA

March 8, 2017

Americans it is fair to say are brand conscious. Many of us not only know the name of consumer products but we also likely know what the logo looks like, i.e. those golden arches of McDonald’s or the “swoosh” of Nike. Branding becomes important to a company as it is a symbol of a reputation built up over the years. Brands connote excellence, reliability, innovation, creativity and of course market share. Corporations pay a great deal of attention to brand and branding as it is one critical key to profits and growth.

Although we often don’t think of governments and countries having a brand, the concept of a national brand does apply just as it does in the corporate sector. Our brand has in the past been based in freedom, equality, opportunity, tolerance, justice, power and wealth. Now a nation like the United States can’t maintain all aspects of its brand since circumstances change, priorities are reconfigured and most importantly democratic politics can remake a brand.

The United States is currently going through a re-branding process and it is not a pretty sight.President Trump with his 3 am tweets, his choice of advisors and cabinet members, his controversial policies, and his determination to change the rules of politics has changed the American brand, and not for the better.

There is a mountain of evidence that those outside the United States think differently about our brand or at least are confused about what we stand for as a nation. Long time allies are deeply concerned over whether we are a dependable friend, tourists are thinking twice about whether to vacation here, multinational companies are worried about the future of trade and investment, and those new to our country, legal and illegal, are fearful for their futures, if not their lives. It was probably a prank, but the Statue of Liberty went dark for awhile the other day- a symbol of our brand without the promises associated with that beautiful torch.

As any marketing executive will tell you, once you change your brand or worse yet once your brand takes a hit, market share is in trouble. Customers loose confidence; they wonder whether the product of the past is the same today. Branding changes become especially dangerous if the new brand presents a negative image and tells the buyer that all is not well.

President Trump and his minions can be criticized on a number of miscues, false starts and simply stupid policies. But what is most bothersome to me is that they have sullied the American brand and in the process remade this United States into a less attractive country with a less attractive set of values and principles.

Getting back to the old brand of the United States will be difficult and will take a long period of time. Confidence has to be restored, old values and principles have to be re-introduced into the body politics, Lady Liberty’s torch has to shine bright again. Remember when Coca-Cola changed its soda recipe and introduced the New Coke? To say the least it was a disaster. We are going the way of Coca-Cola with a dangerous branding process. Hopefully wiser heads will push the President back to the old United States of America, the country that actually stood for something rather than using the brand to make a buck.

 


Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

July 28, 2016

We all have sung the national anthem hundreds of times in our lifetime. Most of us don’t need to be reminded of the words by looking at a huge electric board at a sporting event; we hold our hand to our heart and belt out our beloved anthem.

But just as a reminder, I want to zero in on the last two lines of the anthem.  We as citizens of this great country pride ourselves on living in the ” land of the free.”  Then the anthem ends with the most powerful claim, the ” home of the brave.”  Too often we accent the ” land of the free” statement at the expense of the ” home of the brave.”

I get the love of freedom part of the anthem since it defines our core value, and what separates us from so many other countries and peoples. But I do worry that many Americans don’t really respect and appreciate the ” home of the brave” charge made in the anthem.

Being brave is not just for the members of the armed forces, our police and fire officers, EMTs, and those under the radar agents who risk their lives gathering information in foreign lands. No living in the “land of the brave” means that all of us take an oath by singing this anthem to be brave, to stand up to terror, to refuse to be intimidated by those who threaten our domestic tranquility, to stand up for what we believe even in the face of danger.

We have heard a great deal of fear-mongering in the last few weeks that would suggest Americans need to take cover and protect their families and homes from some sort of civil war or internal collapse. Maybe I missed it but I didn’t hear the reminder that we as Americans live in the “land of the brave.”  If we are to believe in the national anthem and sing it with gusto, then we need to show our bravery and not succumb to those who would suggest we cower in the face of violence and external threats.

So next time we sing the national anthem, let’s put the emphasis on ” land of the brave” and more importantly live our lives as brave Americans.

 


Polling and President Donald Trump???

February 23, 2016

I just looked at the recent poll numbers comparing the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who appears to be well on his way to capture the Republican gold ring. To my surprise Hillary is on average in February polls about 3-4 percentage points ahead of The Donald, not 13 or 14 percentage points but 3 to 4 percent.My goodness, 3-4% is in the margin of error. Wow!!!

You would think that with all that bluster, vulgarity, narcissism, phony promises, policy voids and intolerance Trump would be a shoe-in to lose to Clinton. And yet he marches on saying the same platitudes to boisterous crowds who love it when he is politically incorrect or even racist. While Clinton fights for every female, youthful and Hispanic vote, Trump  befuddles the pundits with his rising popularity.

Bernie Sanders, who most experts agree will have a difficult time gaining the nomination, does better than Hillary with an average of about 7 percentage points in front of Trump. But of course should Bernie rise to the top he will always be thought of that socialist from Vermont who would transform this country into Denmark.

Now for those of you who in your hearts believe that the Trump bandwagon will come to a crashing halt somewhere before or during the convention and certainly will collapse when he has to face the public in a series of debates against a tough campaigner like Hillary Clinton, such an outcome is real and to quote Lincoln ” the last best hope.”

But should Hillary face more email controversies, tax avoidance concerns, greedy speechifying reports out of Wall Street or ol’ Bill being ol’ Bill on the campaign trail, then the current closeness of the race is not some bad dream. As many have said before me – Trump could win, and promptly turn this country into a failed reality television show.

Somewhere along the line Hillary will have to get her act together and start convincing voters that she is not dishonest, self-serving, and friends with Wall Street not Main Street. So far she has done a miserable job of being the sane and populist answer to the Know Nothing candidate, Donald Trump.

If Hillary fails at this task then we could have a president with bad hair and a first lady who barely speaks English.


Always Vigilant

December 15, 2015

There’s a lot of talk these days about how to defeat ISIS and keep America safe. I for one am not one of those people who buys into the argument that what we need to do is send thousands of our soldiers to Syria and Iraq in a modern day crusade to destroy radical Islam at is core. Whether politicians like to admit it, everyday ISIS is losing territory and seeing its top leadership killed off. Sure ISIS remains a major international terrorist threat with the capability to recruit new suicide bombers, but this is going to be a long war won incrementally, not with one major attack on the capital city of the caliphate, Raqqa.

What I am more concerned about is the growing level of fear within American society and the fear-mongering of our leaders. Rather than educate the citizens of this country on how to develop their skills at spotting a threat or alerting the authorities to suspicious behavior, what is happening is the beginning of a bunker mentality mixed with old-fashioned bigotry and stockpiling guns. You don’t defeat ISIS by destroying their capital, buying your kids Kevlar backpacks, attacking innocent Muslims, or staying at home rather than enjoying life in a free country.

ISIS will be defeated when we show resolve as a nation to protect the homeland; when we don’t stand idly by when we see something that just doesn’t seem right; when we fail to understand that just because someone dresses differently or prays differently they somehow become the enemy; and when we forget that as citizens we have the responsibility to always remain vigilant.

There is not a sane person who doesn’t know fear; in fact fear is a good thing as it keeps us from falling prey to danger. But fear that overcomes one’s daily life, fear that generates hatred, fear that follows blindly those with easy answers, this is the fear that is frankly un-American. True American patriots are not flag wavers or bombastic blowhards. True American patriots become involved in protecting their community, taking reasonable precautionary measures, and never falling prey to those who promise a solution without any answers. In short American patriots always remain vigilant.