Independence Day – July 4th – The Special Meaning of This Day

by Hank Boerner

Happy Birthday, USA Independence!

Every year by order of the U.S. Congress we set aside this day to celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 by the courageous leaders of the 13 original states along the Eastern seaboard of this continent.

This was an action taken by the Second Continental Congress of the 13 “United States of America” gathered in Philadelphia — [a]n unanimous decision by “the Founding Fathers.”

The First Continental Congress had met in Philadelphia in September and October 1774 to arrange for a mutual resistance to British rule.

The first skirmish would be in April 1776 at Lexington and Concord and the War of American Independence was on.

In May 1776 the Second [meeting of the] Congress would instruct the individual states to start putting new constitutions together for self-rule.

Meeting in Philadelphia in July (2nd to 4th), the Congress would declare American Independence and adopt the Declaration.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” the Declaration’s text boldly states,”that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain un-alienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The text noted that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their Just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…56 representatives from the various states would sign their names.

Some of course familiar: John Hancock. Thomas Jefferson. Robert Morris. Benjamin Franklin. William Floyd. Richard Stockton. Samuel Adams. John Adams. Roger Sherman…and many more.

The first major battle of the war would be in what is now Brooklyn, Long Island, New York (Kings County), the Battle of Long Island — with masses of British army and naval forces coming close to defeating the small Revolutionary American Army, and the long and brutal War of Independence (from the rule of England) would ensue, continuing until 1781.

Early in the war, the Delegates of the States assembled (November 15, 1777) to agree to a “confederation” of the 13 states and to a “Perpetual Union” between the states.

The War of the Independence of America would end at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781. The Treaty of Paris would finally end the war in September 1783.

On March 1, 1781, the members of the American Congress would agree to “ratify” The [1777 drafted] Articles of Confederation (13 in all), to officially create these “United States of America.” The powers of the Congress are spelled out in these pages.

And then came one of the most momentous of documents of humankind: The adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America, with Articles hammered out and set before the assembled Congress on September 17, 1787 and on March 4, 1789 the Constitution was formally adopted in the new nation’s capital, New York City.

Along with certain Amendments (which we know as the Declaration of Independence) — Amendment #1 being that Congress will make no law regarding [establishment of] religion; nor prohibit free exercise of religion; or abridge freedom of speech; or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble; or to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.

These are echoes of the 1776 grievances embodied in the Declaration of Independence firmly “amended” to the Constitution. Over the years the first 10 have been expanded to 27, the last adopted May 7, 1992 (dealing with Congress establishing compensation for the members).

How bold/courageous/inspiring:  “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…”

When I was in grade school, after World War Two ended and the peacetime returned to the United States, the State of New York assembled many of the important documents that explained the long, arduous steps to American (and state) freedom, and took these around the Empire State by train.

The railroad cars that I visited in my hometown station had facsimiles of state charters, minutes of the legislature over the years, letters of leaders (like Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman), and the New York State ratification of the Constitution of the United States on July 26, 1788 — with the first 10 amendments which were suggested by the state (not included in the Constitution but also as the first of the amendments).

We youngsters were shown the Federalist Papers; the original draft of the Pledge of Allegiance (1892); documents relating to the Freedom of Religion (the Flushing Remonstrance); the transcript of the Trial of printer John Peter Zenger (1734 – helping to establish the principle of Freedom of the Press in New York City); the newspaper published in 1849 in Seneca Falls, NY by Amelia BloomerThe Lily — the first to be owned, edited and published by a woman…lending support to the fight for equality in voting by women); the document from the legislature in March 1799 — AN ACT FOR THE GRADUAL ABOLITION OF SLAVERY, taking effect the following July 4th, 1800!

And more: the documents establishing Freedom of Education (in New York State); others advancing Science and Manufacturing (which included establishing Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); Freedom of Labor (establishment of Civil Service Law; 1945 anti-discrimination law signed by Republican Governor Thomas Dewey, who would stand for election as President of the United States two times).

The idea for the New York State Freedom Train began in November 1947, when the National Freedom Train came to Albany, the state capital city. The National Train was on tour with its collection of important documents and in the city for one day only.

The state librarian was so impressed that the office began assembling the collection of Freedom Documents that would be put on a bright blue and gold, 6-car state train and taken all over New York State beginning in January 1949 (three cars were full of the documents). As I said, we school age children were taken for our “official tour,” and reading the many documents was something quite impressive and that I remember to this day.

How many children in America — or adults! — are exposed to these important documents that are related in so many ways to the Declaration of Independence, whose signing we celebrate today with fireworks displays?

How many families would go visit the assemblage of such documents – or on a national of state basis – in these busy times?

Maybe…we need another Freedom Train (where rail lines still exist) to help to tell the story of American Freedom, and the part that each of the original 13 states played in establishing these great United States of America.

Happy Birthday, America!

# # #

Postscript from Hank Boerner – July 6, 2017 – the Washington Post on July 5th:

“Some Trump supporters thought NPR tweeted propaganda. It was the Declaration of Independence.”

The story:  As it its tradition on July 4th, the staff of NPR’s “Morning Edition” program tweeted out the Declaration of Independence, Since 144 character is a challenge, this took 113 consecutive posts for the entire text. Then the blowback began, explains Post writer Amy B. Wang. Quite a few people took issue with the “propaganda,” thinking it was about President Trump.

Hmmmm….very interesting!  The parts that attracted real blowback included…

…He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.”

,,,”A Prince who character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unit to the ruler of a free people.”

Was this about Trump?  NO — King George III of England was the subject of the Founding Fathers’ complaints in the Declaration!  The Post writer points out that the text and purpose of the Declaration would likely be recognizable by those who have applied for U.S. citizenship — since questions about the document are on the naturalization test.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a list of study materials in case you or someone you know might be interested.

But a lot of people seem to be un-familiar with our foundational documents (that’s why I took the documents as the theme of my commentary on America’s Birthday).

The Post had four thousand-;plus of Tweety-bird responses to the story and NPR staff said “the tweets were shared by thousands of people and generated a lively conversation.”

My post above is based on facts — the actual document (our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution with our Bill of Rights — and I guess some might consider this propagandizing.  Guilty as charged.

You can read the Post’s story and some of the responses, and comments on the  the NPR Tweets at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/07/05/some-trump-supporters-thought-npr-tweeted-propaganda-it-was-the-declaration-of-independence/?utm_term=.14470aa78db8&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

 

 

 

 

United Air Lines – The Bad News Continues to Dribble Out

By Hank Boerner
April 12, 2017

United Air Lines, need we say, is in the midst of a serious brand and reputational crisis. Social media chatter is replete with those awful loops of passengers’ cell phone videos of “brutality” on a UAL aircraft — and are spreading the bad news worldwide, in a flash!

Broadcast and cable channels had a good run of the story with passenger videos as the highlights of the report on the goings-on in Chicago on Sunday night. Love those ubiquitous cell phone cameras.

How both alarming, and mesmerizing: Who could turn away from the video clips of ham-handed airport security staff dragging a 69 year old paying customer out of his window seat, slamming his head against the seat post, knocking off his glasses, bloodying his face, dragging him down the aisle in front of other passengers. No wonder it went viral – worldwide!

While he (Dr. David Dao) apparently tried to explain at the start of the incident that he was a doctor and needed to get to his patients in Kentucky, airline staff and airport security officers ignored him — and got on with the job.  And so we saw them in action.

Oh, those resulting headlines:

Facebook: (“Man Violently Dragged Off Plane After United Airlines Overbooks Flights!”)

Also reported with the passenger videos on The Huffington Post. “Dragged like a rag doll,” a witness posted on a Twitter account.

Facebook: (“United Airlines CEO Says Cops Will Never Remove a Booked Passenger Again…Will Use Common Sense.”)

A passenger watching the incident told the media: “He said, more of less, I’m being selected because I’m Chinese…”)

All of this is certainly not good news for the airline on the China mainland, where there is wide public outrage being expressed. The doctor clearly being brutally yanked from his window seat – which he paid for and thought he was entitled to — and was apparently of Chinese or Asian origin.

(The devil is in the details; have you ever read the fine print of the Airline Contract of Carriage, which sets out the rights, rules and procedures governing your relationship with an air carrier? Here’s United’s, in case you are considering a flight: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract.aspx )

United and its China Market

United has scheduled flights between the USA and China cities — Chicago/Beijing; Chicago/Shanghai; Denver/Zian; Houston/Hangzhou..,and more city-pairs. United has flights to five mainland China cities from various U.S. cities. In all, UAL has cities to 14 different Asia/Pacific destinations. Not a market to have branding issues in, especially this, with discrimination overtones.

What are the Asian customers of the airline thinking about today? There were almost 300 million immediate “hits’ on Chinese social media — and the story is still “new” and in the current news cycle. A boycott was part of the chatter.

And those passenger-provided cell phone videos continue to play in endless loops on television news media around the world.

As Fox Business reported, “Horrifying Video Threatens United Airlines’ Big Investment in China.”

Speaking from Experience

I’ve worked a good number of years during my career as an airline corporate citizenship manager, spokesman, issues and crisis manager, and marketing strategist. I can’t fathom what would move airline personnel to conduct themselves in such a manner when it comes to dealing with their customers. ( “The flying public,” as one would say,)

Yes,working with passengers, things can get tense. Perhaps the cabin crew was exasperated due to a series of incidents (the “now what”!); maybe the ground crew just wanted to get customers off/employees quickly to avoid criticism (what? you didn’t get the flight crews to Louisville on time?).

Of course, all manner of operational issues come up with an airline company having so many moving parts. Fleets of giant airliners moving through the skies, leaded with passengers; landing and taking off at various airports, large and small; the task of people-scheduling to make sure employees (including flight crew) are at their assigned post for “go on time”; fuel loading; baggage loading/unloading; dealing with changes in weather…and more.

Airlines train and train again to make certain their employees are prepared for “anything.”

And then in an instant it hits the fan and we find out if all that training paid off, are we really ready. Or not! United clearly was in the “not” column this weekend.

The Crisis Details Dribble Out

The details continue to dribble out (the worst scenario in a critical issues situation, of course). The Sunday evening Chicago-Louisville flight (3411) was ready to go and then came the announcement: the plane is over-booked and four passengers need to get off.

The airline’s explanation was that the flight being overbooked (again, not uncommon) meant that four people had to yield their seats. Money was offered (again, not uncommon — it’s the way carriers coax passengers out of their seats).

What happened next? The Washington Post played the story big in the nation’s capital. Where lawmakers, employees of regulatory agencies and other key players could take it all in.

This is an example of where the right or wrong language used is Important — especially in critical incidents.

The Post reported that the airline told the local newspaper in Louisville that the situation was “an involuntary denial of board process.” (Is that clear to you now?).

Apparently no one on the Sunday night flight home to Louisville quickly volunteered to leave their seats. (If you were headed home, would you have gotten up? Maybe – people do that when the price is right.) That’s when the airline “chose” passengers to leave the flight to accommodate four UAL personnel who “had to fly” to get to other aircraft to meet flight schedules.

So, the airline staff selected by some means four people to leave the aircraft.  Three people agreed to leave. When a fourth passenger would not leave his seat, the crew summoned Chicago Department of Aviation security and the man was violently dragged out of his seat and down the aisle and off the plane.

Somehow he got back on the plane, blood on his face, glasses back on, howling it was said, and then was dragged off again. He eventually left the terminal on a stretcher. (The flight will not leave until everyone is off, the cabin crew evidently barked to the passengers.)

When the four crew members came on to fill the vacated seats they were reported to have been booed. Aren’t you ashamed to work for this company, people shouted to them.

The airline began to communicate, sending conflicting messages to the employees and media. (The flight was overbooked; or, the passengers had to make way for United employees. The passenger was belligerent end unruly. The removal was established procedure. The man ran back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials. )

EVERYONE was taken off the plane and after a while re-boarded as the man left on a stretcher. Some did not re-board (they were high school students and their chaperone, the Post said).  The CEO issued an apology to the passengers who were re-accommodated!

Fall Out – Death by a Thousand Cuts

As The Washington Post put it: “It’s a story that has shaken a global air carrier worth billions of dollars – and one that people around the world can find nothing right in at all.”

Investors reacted on Monday, sending the UAL stock downward at once. (CNN: “How to make a PR crisis a total disaster.”)

At the daily news briefing the White House press secretary was asked if a federal investigation was warranted. The U.S. Department of Transportation was looking into the situation, we learned. The late night comedians had new content to add to their stand up routines.

Finally the CEO apologized to the passenger who was “forcibly removed” and to all customers on board the fight. “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

Another oops moment the media had fun with: Oscar Munoz, the CEO, was named “Communicator of the Year” by PR Week for “transforming the fortunes of the beleaguered airline, galvanized the staff, and set the airline on a smoother course…” (This after a year-and-a-half on the job.)

Systemic Failure?

Over my four decades of crisis management, one of the things learned early on is that it usually is not a single “thing” that goes wrong. Whatever issues bubbling just beneath the surface can suddenly erupt to complicate the response to the (initial) single incident.

The information from the local scene (usually distant from the where the leaders who have  to respond is ) can be scant; the news reports can be conflicting; the standard comments prepared in advance can sound hollow and uncaring as the details of the incident become more widely known. (“This is standard operating procedure?”   Really?)

Unhappy employees can react to situation irrationally and even violently; local managers can make very “wrong” decisions and then try to correct, making things worse at times.

This was a Sunday evening; management was not likely to be at the office and equipped to move quickly to address the situation and begin communications (not in either the HQs or the airport).

Lessons Learned?

What are the lessons learned? We hope for the Chicago Department of Aviation, it’s don’t go dragging and injuring passengers off a plane because a long-time hometown airline asked you to. The aviation authority had moved quickly to put the security officers involved on administrative leave.

For the airline leadership: Best to always think up and down the value chain about actions taken and communications needed with key constituencies.

Employees (we hope they are viewed as team members and not just numbers in an organization as it grows larger).
Customers (especially those in physical proximity, at the curb, at the counter, boarding the plane, in their seats, during the fight, as they leave the cabin, getting their luggage).
Potential customers (what are they thinking today about their intention to fly United).
The public-at-large (who as they continue to fly in greater numbers and frequency have come to think of airlines as un-caring, faceless bureaucracies that take advantage of the public with planes that are cattle cars in the skies).

Regulators (yes, airlines are still regulated entities).

As for not flying United, we must remember that they have 50% or more market share at some key cities (Newark, New Jersey) and considerable share of market at Orlando, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Denver, Houston. (In 2010 United and Continental merged, creating one of America’s largest airlines.)

Perhaps then we should re-examine the structure of the American airline industry: have the dominant carriers become too big to manage?

Should we explore public policies that would begin to return us to the days of robust competition within the U.S.A. industry to try to ensure greater competition and more “customer-friendly” service?

More accountability by large carriers? Should we devise consumer protection measures that would help to reduce the perception that airlines don’t give a damn about their customers?

These and other questions will likely be raised by public policy experts in the days ahead, as the United situation calms down…and another airline crisis erupts. United meantime is the poster child for everything Americans hate about the airline industry.

# # #

Author Post Script:  July 6, 2017 – ABC News Report

Well, it happens again — United Air Lines accused of abusing a customer today.  A mother traveling with a 27-month old son, en route to Boston from Hawaii, had to hold the boy on her lap for hours of the final leg of the flight.  She bought a ticket for the son — two tickets for the flight, money in the United till.  So what!  Hey, we are overbooked – so hold the kind on your lap. (As unsafe as that is – note, please, federal safety regulators.)  A standby passenger took the boy’s seat.

Later United evidently learned that the boy’s ticket was not properly  scanned.

The woman did explain the situation to the crew.  We wonder what is missing in common sense, good judgment, customer-first (should be) thinking at the carrier.  Oh, and the woman appears to be of Asian background.  United is counting on the Asia market – on China flights — to assure its future.   A small note to think about as you Stay Tuned top United’s passenger treatment.

 

America – The Great Melting Pot – The Crucible

America – The Great Melting Pot – the “Crucible” of Humankind

A commentary by Hank Boerner

At least until recently, many of us took pride in the idea that our great United States of America was “a melting pot,” where immigrants from many nations, of varying religious and ethnic backgrounds, could figuratively “come ashore” as many of our ancestors did via Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

Lately, listening to the presidential and congressional campaigns and now the post-campaign rhetoric, the “Golden Door” of America (as attributed by numerous writers to the essence of our Statue of Liberty astride the gateway) is in danger of being sealed up and replaced by the promised wall along the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the U.S.A.  (As one author told us of the door, “…it is the entrance into liberty and freedom from oppression that is the promise of America, a land, a people, a way of life…”

You might recall the words of poet Emma Lazarus, firmly inscribed on the base of the statue:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” (“The New Colossus,” 1883.)

I grew up in New York, and have lived and worked here most of my life, with brief interludes in Washington, D.C. and Florida.  Riding on the city subway system most days, it is clear that at least in this bustling urban center, we here are still an example of the melting pot.

Where did this concept come from?  “The Melting Pot” was the title of a 1908 play by Israel Zangwill; it depicts the life of a Jewish-Russian immigrant family that survived an early-1900s pogrom in the Old Country and escaped to safety in America. The play was staged in Washington, D.C., and then-President Teddy Roosevelt (#26, a Republican) was in the White House and attended the debut performance.  (TR was born in New York City and lived most of his life in the Empire State.)

From this stage drama came the familiar phrase, “Melting Pot” to describe America…the “glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward…”  In the play, author Zangwill has his hero, David, write a musical symphony, “The Crucible,” with the dream of ethnicity disappearing in America.

In the early-1900s theatrical work, the phrase “Melting Pot” quickly gained in popularity to describe the American immigrant experience.

Thinking about this recently, I consulted the National Geographic (NG) magazine, mid-1914 issue, published just as the Old World (Europe, Near East) plunged into the worst armed conflict ever — the Great War, now known to many of us as World War One (which began in summer 1914).  One consequence of WW I for America would be that immigration to our shores would slow to a trickle.  That was a dramatic societal change when we consider what preceded the war.

In 1914, NG reported, one-in-seven people in the U.S.A. were born outside of our borders (13-and-a half-million), equal to the population of Belgium and The Netherlands combined, or Norway/Sweden/Denmark/Switzerland combined. (Of course, all of those nations were the former homelands of millions of new Americans.)

The magazine writers tantalized the readers with lively descriptions:  We had more Germans than the City of Berlin; enough Irish to populate four Dublins; enough Italians to populate three Romes.

Immigration Pushing Westward

The American civil war between the north and south states involved 23 slavery-free states and five border states supporting the Union and 11 states of the south forming the Confederacy.  That five-year long war that killed 600,000 Americans ended in April 1865.  In May of that same year, the transcontinental railroad was completed, linking America’s east and west coasts, and cementing our notion of “Manifest Destiny.”

Europeans (primarily) poured into these once again-United States of America — some staying in coastal cities, many more flowing westward.  The Erie Canal helped to move goods and people westward through the Great Lakes.  Railroads began to criss-cross states, old and new.  Vast agricultural lands were settled (Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, and on and on).

As the swelling American population began moving from farm-to-city to work in the factories of the new Industrial Age, many more immigrants poured into the cities.  Five million-plus arrived on our shores between 1900 and 1910 (when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House).  Actually, eight-and-a-half million arrived, but three million-plus turned around and returned to their home country.

The American Dream was sought by those “huddled masses” from: Germany, Russia, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Austria, England, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, Scotland, Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, France, Greece, Wales, Japan, Turkey-in-Asia, Portugal, China, Belgium, the Atlantic Islands, Cuba, Bulgaria, Australia, the many nations in South America, Montenegro, Newfoundland, India, Serbia, all of Africa, Luxemburg, Pacific Islands, and Central American nations.  In that descending order of origins — the German-born in the lead.  Perhaps your ancestors are included in the tidal wave of people that reached our shores before WW I.

But even in the early-1900s there was a slowing of certain nationalities — notably, Germans and Irish.  But those earlier waves of immigrants were having families, and so by 1914 there were 19 million people whose parent or parents were foreign born.  And so an astounding 32 million of our citizens — one third of the total population — was either foreign-born or children of first generation immigrants who were foreign-born.

Stats Tell a Story

The earliest reliable statistics tracking immigrants to the U.S. are from 1820 forward.  In 1887, there were almost 500,000 new arrivees.  As the 19th Century turned to the 20th, the one million mark was reached (in 1905); heading toward 1914, the flow had reached 1.2 million — and then dramatically declined to 100,000 by 1918. The Great Migration to our shores was ending.

In 2016 we are a nation of three-plus times the population of those years (100 million then / 324 million today).

And the migration of the legally-admitted today is …. still about one million (2014 data).

What About The Un-Documented Among Us

The issue that irks many Americans, as evidenced in the political campaigns, is the presence of the “illegal or undocumented or illegally-admitted ” non-US citizens” among us.  That could be as many as 11 million (but dropping), according to The Washington Post  story earlier this year, citing the data of the Center for Migration Studies (of course, it’s a New York-based think tank.)  Trending Down: illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America with sharper declines from South America and Europe.

Today’s Immigrant Population

With changes in American law, “immigrants” today include such classifications as those who are lawful residents; tourists, students and workers admitted on a temporary basis; those who apply for asylum or refugee status; and the “naturalized” of the foreign-born.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act governs immigration policy.  There is a limit  set of 675,000 permanent immigrants allowed per year (with some allowance for close family members).  Non-citizens are also allowed on a temporary basis.

Our public policy accommodates family-based immigration; employment -based immigration; and, permanent immigration. There are country ceilings (limits).  And allowance for certain refugees and asylees, and vulnerable populations (think: today’s Syrians, Iraqis, etc.) The latter totals just 85,000 per year.

There is a Diversity Visa Program. Remember the German and Irish and Italian flows more than a century ago? They are not coming in such numbers now, so the Immigration Act of 1990 created a system of allowing immigrants from low-number countries to immigrate to the U.S. — about 55,000 persons per year.

Remember the excitement about President Obama’sDreamers,” a program designed for immigrants who might become eligible for citizenship? There are about 1.8 million eligible, including many who are between 15 and 30 years of age.  The Dreamers are mostly young, of various ages up to 30 and are those brought here as children by their parents entering the country without permission (“illegally” here in popular rhetoric). Half of the Dreamers live in California and Texas; New York has 89,000; Florida, 106,000.  About half are female.  Seven-out-of-10 came from Mexico.  They anxiously await the changes that may take place in public policy when President Obama leaves office.

As We Await the Trump Administration

All of this is interesting to say the least for us to think about, as we await the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress coming to Washington — with immigration reform high on the agenda.

One element of the running conversation on immigration is that of the Muslim population. Should those applying to come here who are of the Muslim faith be denied admittance if they come from certain majority-Muslim nations?  Should Muslim citizens (and non-citizens) among us be required to register and a special database kept (their whereabouts, activities, and so on to be tracked and charted)?

We had somewhat of the same question raised a century ago, back in that 1914 era, when people of German origins comprised a very large part of the American population. (Donald J. Trump’s grandfather among them).  If America went to war with the Kaiser’s Germany, the discussion of the day was, would the German-Americans / or / American-Germans be trusted in the U.S. military?  Would they fight their cousins on European battle fields?

 Loyalty of New Citizens

This was an important question.  The American ambassador to Germany at the time, James W. Gerard, delivered a speech on the subject in April 1918 – a few months before we went to war with Germany.

The German-Americans embraced their new nation’s cause unconditionally, he told the German leadership. And he warned them of what would happen to any German-American who betrayed America.  The German foreign minister had told the ambassador that [Germany] had 500,000 “German reservists” in America who would rise in arms against the United States if our country made any move against Germany.

So, the ambassador said in his comments:  America would have 500,001 lampposts in where the “reservists” would be hanging the day after they tried to rise.  And if there were any German-Americans who were so ungrateful for the benefits they received that they are still for the Kaiser (the German leader) there is only one thing to do.  Give them back their wooden shoes and the rags they landed in, and ship them back to the Fatherland.

And for good measure he added:  “I have traveled over all the United States — through the Alleghenies, the Catskills, the Rockies (etc.).  And in all these mountains, there is no animal that bites and kicks and squeals and scratches, that would bite and squeal and scratch equal to a  German-American, if you commenced to tie him up and told him that he was on his way back to the Kaiser [and the former homeland].”

The Question Arose Again in 1941-42

The question was again raised in 1941 as the military-led Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. military bases in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and declared war on the U.S. (and we immediately declared war on Japan).  In what is now acknowledged by many to be a shameful period in American history, Japanese-Americans (“Nisei”) were rounded up and sent to internment camps — up to 120,000 men, women and children.

But the young men joined the military to fight for their country, the United States of America. More than 30,000 Nisei served in the U.S. Army, a good number fighting bravely as members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, one of the most decorated units in all of U.S. military history.  While they fought in Italy, the young Boy Scouts back in the internment camps in the U.S. conducted memorial services for the fallen.

The Nisei were Americans first in the 1940s, as were the German-Americans before them in the early 1900s.  Oh, and the Nisei soldiers were among those liberating Jews at the Nazi slave camps, including Dachau.  Wonder what they were thinking as they remembered the fate of their families back home in western U.S. internment camps.

About America, the Melting Pot, America, the Crucible

The originator of the “Melting Pot” and “The Crucible,” Israel Zangwill was a British-born teacher, author and playwright (1864-1926) who was an ardent supporter of 19th Century “Zionism.”  While championing a Jewish homeland, he had strong thoughts about America.  Look at the words his character says in the famous play:

“America is God’s crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming!  Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your 50 groups with your 50 languages and histories, and your 50 blood hatreds and rivalries.

“But you won’t be like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you’ve come to — these are the fires of God.  A fig for your feuds and vendettas!  Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians. Into the Crucible with you all!  God is making the American.

“The real American has not yet arrived.  He is only in the Crucible, I tell you.  He will be the fusion of all races, the common superman.”

 Lessons for 2017

What are the lessons of all of this for we Americans in the last weeks of the year 2016 — and looking into what might happen in 2017?   When the first European explorers reached the North American shores, the land was sparsely settled — estimates range from 7 to 18 million indigenous peoples were here.  America as we know it is an immigrant nation.

Of course, every nation must be able to secure its boundaries, its borders.  We are a nation of laws, based on our wonderful Constitution and Bill of Rights as foundation, and it is not unreasonable to expect that people arriving here will do so within the framework of the law — “legally,” if you please.

The questions to be addressed going forward are:  (1) what should our legal immigration policies be? (2) What do we do — humanely — about those that did not follow the rules but now live among us?  (3)  What do we do about asylees and refugees who want to come to our country?  (4)  What do we do about citizens born here, and protected by our Constitution, if their parents came without permission when they were children?  (5) What should our conversation be about immigrants and immigration and so on, so that those we welcome here….feel welcomed!

Stay Tuned — the answers should be coming in early-2017.

* * * * * * * *

Check out The Washington Post story about illegal immigration at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/federal-eye/wp/2016/01/20/u-s-illegal-immigrant-population-falls-below-11-million-continuing-nearly-decade-long-decline-report-says/

About author Israel Zangwill:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Zangwill

More background on “The Crucible” and playwright: “American Crucible:  Race and Nation in the 20th Century” by Gary Gerstle (published by Princeton University Press, 2001).

I’ve commented in this blog about immigration and the wonder of our Immigrant Nation — see my Thanksgiving 2014 post:  http://www.hankboerner.com/staytuned/happy-thanksgiving-tomorrow-yes-it-will-be-heres-my-why/

At Crisis Time – For Companies and Celebrities, It’s Usually Not Just One Thing to Deal With

by Hank Boerner

In my career of advising clients on issue management and crisis management (and especially crisis response), I usually pointed out to  those in the crosshairs that it is not just “one thing” to deal with. Often, in time of an escalation of existing issues, a critical event occurring, or a full blown crisis at hand, the managers on point have to deal with numerous things going on.

Chaos, confusion, complexity reign. Things feel, well, like they are spinning out of control.  Often, they are!

Over the years I estimate that I’ve been involved in more than 400 critical issues and crisis situations — in various industries and sectors (auto manufacturing, banking and financial services, airlines, cruise ships, railroads, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, educational institutions, government, countries, mining, food marketing, consumer goods, oil & gas, mutual funds, stock exchanges…and more. Some of my work involves helping individuals cope with crisis eruptions. Those are vary tough assignments – emotional damage is difficult to deal with.

In my issue and crisis preparation training for managers, I stress the key, top line actions for effective response by the enterprise:

  • Know in advance what might go wrong (the potential risk posed to the enterprise or perhaps a leader such as the CEO), and monitor and evaluate those issues regularly. What “is” (facts) will surface one way or another – perhaps by a whistleblower. “Nothing is secret anymore” is my advice.
  • Develop a plan for responding to critical events; assign roles to responders and prepare them (such as with formal training).
  • Build prevention programs. Practice – drill – stress internal preparedness.
  • Establish communication channels and have content ready “in case.”
  • Respond quickly – work to reduce fear; maintain credibility; create positive perceptions where you can.
  • Work hard to control the incident, the crisis. Stress solutions. Demonstrate your values.
  • Communicate – tell your story — if not, others will fill the vacuum and their story…and yours…and set the context in which the story [of the crisis] will be told and retold in the future.

In the context of corporate crises situations, these guidelines have pretty much become SOPs. With my partners, over 25 years we helped many companies in the US and other countries put issue and crisis management programs in place.  There are other consulting practices doing the same. Yes, crisis situations still occur (cases in point including General Motors, BP, Target, the Obamacare launch) but many enterprises really are better prepared to respond that in years past.

But What About Individuals in Crisis?

For individuals involved in crisis situations — especially high wattage celebrities with brand and reputation (and future earnings) on the line — the man or woman in the crosshairs will often find themselves in uncharted territory.

As the ancient mapmakers would put on their charts of the distant oceans — here be dragons!

Right now, comedian Bill Cosby — “America’s Dad” as his brand — is dealing (or, not dealing) with a serious crisis continuing to spin out of control.

Comedian extraordinaire Bill Cosby has not been in hiding.  At 77 years of age, he is still very much in the game.  He’s been doing his one man shows across the country, 50 a year it’s reported  (My wife and I saw his show a few years ago — outstanding!) His books sit ready for purchase in many book stores and retail outlets. His TV series continues to air in syndication.

But recently a series of business decisions put him out front in media reports (of a favorable type) and stirred up allegations of sexual misconduct of years standing. Consider:

  • He was in discussions with NBC to create a new weekly TV series.
  • Netflix, the popular technology and entertainment threat to cable and broadcast dominance, had a special scheduled (“Bill Cosby 77,” featuring the  comedian as MC at the SF Jazz Center last July).
  • His old 1980s family audience TV show was doing well in re-runs (more income generation) on TV Land…possible marketing leverage for a new weekly show on NBC.
  • His books remain popular with readers and are featured in retail and on Amazon.
  • A new biography — “Bill Cosby. His Life and Times” by former CNN news leader and  former Newsweek managing editor Mark Whittaker was on the retail shelves.  Praises for Cosby in the book were by other celebrities who enjoyed cultural admiration — Mary Tyler Moore, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld.

Things were really looking up for the star of I Spy and The Bill Cosby Show, two important cultural foundation stones of many Americans’ youth.

And then…in mid-October comedian Hannibal Buress in a stand-up routine accused Cosby of being a rapist and told the audience to “Google” the record on this; he then went on the Howard Stern program on Sirius XM to repeat his charges, and pushed his views out on Twitter; The Philadelphia Inquirer “old media” giant posted the routine and the social media platforms it up.

Author Whittaker’s biography was publicly attacked by the National Review as “fawning,” glossing over the many rumors over the years about Mr. Cosby’s misconduct, and tagged the author as the “latest enabler.”  The article went viral in the nation’s politically conservative community.

Back in 2006, Philadelphia magazine published an article detailing the alleged attacks on more than a dozen women by the comedian.  The Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) district attorney (Bruce Castor) investigated claims and declined prosecution; he now has to publicly defend his prior decision.  A civil lawsuit proceeded with [there was said to be up] to 13 women that could be involved; that case was settled and sealed.

One of the women — Barbara Bowman — went public in November, publishing a commentary about her experience in The Washington Post.  That got other traditional and new media lighting up with more “news” and lots of commentary.

Other women then stepped forward — a dozen or so — repeating their stories of years ago or going public with their stories for the first time.

And the Google searches suggested by comedian Burress?  There were millions of searches, according to media reports..

Reaction was comparatively swift:

The NBC series – cancelled.  The Netflix special – cancelled. The interview with David Letterman on CBS – cancelled. The new biography’s sales were reported to be slumping. TV Land  re-runs – cancelled.

Author Whittaker’s  new biography was attacked by the National Review as “fawning,” glossing over the many rumors over the years about misconduct, and tagged the author as the “latest enabler.”  The conservative publication’s article went viral, especially within the nation’s politically conservative community.

All of sudden another “old” scandal was back in focus for the right wing:  former President Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual escapades — sure to haunt Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential race, the post writers opined. (We’ll see Paula and Monica and the other “Bill Clinton women” on  parade over the coming years, they predicted.)

The Cosby camp did respond on social media — a Twitter post encouraged the Twitter-ali to go to a web page and post comments.  They did!  Oh, not the comments that supporters would welcome, of course.

The New York Times published an in-depth story on all of this on November 20 — “Cosby Comeback Unravels as Rape Claims Flare.” The Times noted the long tail of the controversy: “The current furor surfaced surrounding Mr. Cosby had its root in accusations brought in 2005 by Andrea Constand, a female staff member with the basket ball team at Temple University (Cosby alma mater).” Despite DA Castor’s declining to prosecute, she brought a lawsuit that would possibly involve up to13 other “Jane Does.”  That was the was the civil case settled.  The “Jane Does” we can presume are those coming forward – and those planning to do so in the future.

Context is important in these matters.  And as I compose this, the news headlines scream out another complicating factor that is shaping in various ways public opinion:  “University of Virginia Suspends All Fraternities” – this after the still-remarkably relevant Rolling Stone magazine published a report that a female student was sexually assaulted by seven Phil Kappa Psi members in 2012.  The university president — a woman, by the way, Teresa Sullivan — called on her board, students, faculty, alumni…to begin a conversation on all of this.

That can be alongside the conversation about allegations or the reality of wife and child abuse by National Football League players…these have been glossed over, ignored, diminished…until there was sufficient public outrage and an apology by NFL leader Roger Goodell.  The viral video of Ravens player Ray Rice shown beating his fiancé/now wife in a casino triggered the crisis, which had been brewing for years if you think about it as anti-domestic violence advocates do.

Consider the Bold Names – Collateral Damage

Take a few seconds to read upward — note all the BOLD names in the commentary. Think about the rippling effects of the Bill Cosby crises.  The NFL crisis. The crisis today at the University of Virginia — and other universities where similar incidents have been charged by female students.  .The corporations involved with brands and revenues on the line now. The other celebrities praising Mr. Cosby.

The Role of Social Media and the Internet

Back to the Cosby case:  why are decades-old, or at least five or more years old cases being brought front and center today?  I think a profound difference is the omnipresence today of social media.  Citizen media. Everyman (and woman) media. The challenge of old media (The Washington Post, The New York Times) by new platforms like Huffington Post, even Twitter (as news source for millions of user, specially younger populations)..

We still have venerable TV national news forums  like those in the evening on CBS, NBC, ABC. (With great anchors — Scott Pelley, Brian Williams David Muir).  But since the 1980s we have 24/7 CNN as well…and many young people get their news from other “anchors” like Bill Maher (HBO) and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert (Comedy Central).  And I would throw in Saturday Night Live! parodies on NBC. On these new news platforms, humor and satire are the staples and celebrities in crisis should expect to be skewered.

But citizen media (social media) is really now the key to setting the match to a smoldering situation.  That applies to be companies like BP and celebrities like BC. As The Times’ Bill Carter, Graham Bowley and Lorne Manley noted in their November 20th Page One story: “The reach of web and social media impact have provided a distribution platform for these accusations, which had surfaced before but never gained widespread attention.”

And Martin Kaplan of the University of California’s journalism school noted: “The combination of [today’s] social media and Mr. Cosby’s return to the spotlight had propelled the story to much greater prominence that when the accusation first surfaced.”

As I said up top…Chaos, confusion, complexity reign.  UC’s Professor Kaplan explained: “The fact that he was already in the spotlight and the fact that these charges have a much more powerful amplifier and echo chamber, gives people the sense that this is a big story…”

Going back to the basic principles for crisis management — if in fact the allegations of the women accusing Mr. Cosby of serious sexual misconduct have a factual basis, as a celebrity (and therefore a “public person”) it might have been better to continue one’s career in lower profile.  In crisis management, over and over again, the lesson for leaders is clear:”what is, is” – and will come out at some time.

What are your thoughts on all this? What are the lessons learned?