Thursday, February 01, 2007


Last week my boss gave me a ticket to a motivational conference. Normally I’d have avoided such an event but after looking at the speakers I noticed that a few of them would be worth putting up with all the rest no matter how corny. So in order to hear John Smoltz, Rudy Giuliani and Colin Powell I had to sit through Zig Ziglar, Michael Eisner and a few other glorified sales pitches for real estate investing software and the latest stock inventing strategy.
After Michael Eisner bored us all to tears Zig Ziglar had the task of waking everybody back up. His performance was just a high energy mix of jokes, personal anecdotes, and deliberate placement of all the required motivational catch phrases, synergy, actualize, step outside your comfort zone, etc, etc ad nauseam. But then he really had to annoy me by taking the lecture in a different direction. I guess he thought it would be motivational but I went on a diatribe about how “evolution is a sick joke” and “you were intelligently designed”. I guess from Zig’s perspective it is impossible to be motivated unless you believe in a Baptist interpretation of creation and you are capable of ignoring all the evidence that evolution happened and is happening. I was sitting next to a friend who is Catholic and in front of me were a few people who, by their dress, I suspected were Muslim. Zig seems to have needlessly gone out on a limb to offend a large group of the audience.
Perhaps the problem here is that Zig confuses religiosity and spirituality. In Zig’s view they seem to be the same thing but in many ways they are drastically difference. I think it is very rare that somebody’s spirituality lines up I lock step with their religion. I would argue that even atheists have a hope that the future will be better and they strive to make this world a better place while they are here. I think this is a very spiritual response. One doesn’t have to deny Evolution in order to be spiritual.
I enjoyed Larry King’s comments and Rudy Giuliani’s remarks but the keynote speaker for me was Gen. Colin Powell. It was very interesting to hear the firsthand stories of his transition from the cold war to peace with Russia. He told of a meeting with Gorbachev in the late eighties when he went to Moscow planning on being very combative and defensive. After sitting with his arms crossed and refusing to believe that glasnosts and perestroika were anything more than elaborate strategies to catch the US off guard, Gorbachev leaned across the table and said in English, “General, I’m afraid you are just going to have to find another enemy.” To hear a commander of our army give praise to a former enemy for his part in breaking down the iron curtain took guts and a great amount of intellectual honesty. Most Republicans just blindly repeat the mantra “Ronald Reagan single handedly ended the cold war.” Ronny did play a major part in forcing the Soviet’s hand. However, with a less sympathetic adversary Ronny’s tactics could have caused a drastically different result. I really enjoyed this man of war’s transformation to a man of peace.
Just a side note: I left the conference with the realization of just how screwed up the American election system is. I agree more with the politics of Giuliani and Powell than I have with anybody that has tried to be President in the last 20 years. However I doubt that either of them will ever get a nomination. They are too balanced and moderate. Under the current system you have to court the extremes of the party in order to get the votes needed in the primaries. Then once you’ve locked in the nomination you spend the next could months trying to convince the other side that you’re really a moderate. Meanwhile the true moderates who didn’t play a deception game in the primaries are reduced to campaign fund raising speeches.

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