You Can Quote Me

One of the goals of education is to train future Masters of the Universe how to think outside of the box. This is a skill that any second rate debater will tell you is mandatory if she is to have even the slightest chance of winning. For how can she overcome an objection if she doesn’t understand the other side’s point of view?

When I was attending University North Texas, my political science professors would frequently assign a topic knowing full well that it was diabolically opposed to the beliefs of a particular student. Imagine a pro-life student arguing the merits of choice [this is a fictitious example added for illustration purposes only].

I was attending undergraduate school during the Reagan and Bush years, so when I was asked to write a semester long paper as a member of Reagan’s Security Council, I decided that I needed to find a way to slip a bit of myself into this artifice. My solution was to insert a sheet of paper in front of each chapter with a carefully researched quote that spoke to my true beliefs on the contents without being so obvious that I undermined the assignment. Alas, I was desperate to hang on to my GPA. This worked for me when I had to convince the class that Robert Bork should be confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1987, and again when I was asked to deny aid to Ortega in Nicaragua.

Over and over I did this. A geology professor gave me an assignment about a rock once. A quote appeared on the cover page. Economics? The biggest problem there was which quote to choose.

This went on through my years as an academic, and continued through my years as a political consultant, and after I entered the corporate world. When email became the standard communication tool, I added an automated quote to my signature line. There was, of course, a different one for my private account. For those who were my friends and colleagues during my working years, they would often chuckle, as one one was a bit of a laugh at the other.

Fortunately for me,  my relationship with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Frank Feigert has continued through the years as well. He, too has brilliant quotes on his signature lines, and we (likely it’s more me) have a bit of a mutual admiration as to whose quote can more effectively take the complexities of the day and sum them up in a single sentence. For, after all, isn’t that really what we want a quote to do? Take our hopes our dreams, our frustrations, our faith, and reduce them to a bumper sticker?

I am no longer an academic, no longer a political strategist, no longer a corporate mover and shaker. No, I’m none of those things. Yet, the events that are occurring  in this country by groups calling themselves Teabaggers, that are loosely aligned with the GOP, have me reaching for my book of quotes to wrap a clean crisp piece of typing paper around them with the following words:

“Zeal is fit only for the wise but is found mostly in fools”

- Proverbs

Oh, and Dr. Feigert’s quote, which I couldn’t come close to topping:

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
– Robert Heinlein


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13 comments for “You Can Quote Me

  1. March 30, 2010 at 5:06 AM

    Great article. “I got mine.” Richard Pryor

    • MaraBG
      March 30, 2010 at 6:21 PM

      Isn’t that just so much of what we are seeing in third generation on immigrants? They forget that had their ancestors not had the ‘hand up’ from the government, many of them would not have the opportunities they so selfishly hold onto today. Climb the ladder, then roll it up behind them. These are the same folks, who fill the pews, and preach charity – but only if it’s tax deductible and good for their image (generalization, of course).

    • March 30, 2010 at 6:38 PM

      It’s always a challenge to instill that capacity to question and flex your mind. Being informed takes time and effort. With information overload you have to rely on respected leaders who share your vision, fact check it occasionally and triangulate these opinions. That the national dialogue is so divisive along not reasoned debate but packaged soundbytes meant for ratings is distressing.

      Optimistically, I think people are wisening up to this. I admire leadership that encourages open debate. Across industries we’re slowly realising the challenges we face as a country. It’s refreshing to see the grassroots infrastructure strengthening. That starts with education, but not necessarily formal education since it seems this sector is going downhill. Mentorship is so important. I’m fortunate to have many in my life, but lots of kids don’t, and that is increasingly something I want to work with, both in the US and in SE Asia.

      btw I love the new design!

      • MaraBG
        March 30, 2010 at 9:16 PM

        Major kudos to you, Nathalie, for your commitment to making a difference at a macro and micro level. Yes, we depend on our leaders to inform us, but just as we are genetically programmed to individuate from our parents, we cannot pass the buck entirely. Mindspeak and Groupthink disappear once the group dwindles below seven individuals. It’s time for each of us to educate ourselves. The Internet is clearly moving into the realm of a right, and not a privilage. Laziness is not an acceptable excuse for an employer, and it’s not for ignorance in first world countries.

        Thank you for the feedback on my new layout. :)

  2. March 30, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    Very good. And of course:

    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” ~~Abraham Lincoln: February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865

    And similarly:

    “It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” Macbeth, William Shakespeare

    • MaraBG
      March 30, 2010 at 6:28 PM

      My father often quoted Abe to me as I teetered between placing my foot in my mouth and answering with an honest, “I don’t know”. His next comment was always, “Look it up”, which I did. Thus, began my love of research. Too bad the gentleman brandishing the sign “GOVERNMENT, KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE” was not as fortunate.

      • March 31, 2010 at 12:27 AM

        I think our parents were much alike. Mine also encouraged me to “Look it up”, and there were plenty of books in the house to do just that!

        It is distressing to see that so much of “debate” is nothing more than an appeal to emotion, with no logic or rationality behind it. And unfortunately, the majority of the voting population buy into it.

        We need to first get more people voting. When only 40-60% of people who could vote actually do vote, and it only takes a simple majority to pass, it is not hard to see that in some cases only 21% of the adults in a community have made decisions for everyone.

  3. Meryl Steinberg
    March 30, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain….. and most fools do.
    Benjamin Franklin

    I really love your new format. Simple. Easy to navigate. Easy to read.

    • MaraBG
      March 30, 2010 at 6:34 PM

      I learned early on in my career, and encouraged it from all my teams, if there was a problem that needed fixing, don’t bring it up until you have a proposed solution. I’m hearing a lot of whining and complaining, but not any viable solutions.

      • March 31, 2010 at 5:42 AM

        I remember that! I thought it was a great thing.

        • MaraBG
          March 31, 2010 at 7:33 AM

          Thank you, Geri! That means a lot coming from you.

  4. March 31, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    Oh jeez. There are so many different definitions for Teabagger, that it becomes hard to comment here. But, given the context, I will assume that you are referring to the activists who were named that based on their loose association to the Boston Tea Party.

    Whether you agree with them politically or not, you should praise their gumption….they have every right as US citizens to make their posture known. Most of our citizenry does not take a stand.

    I really enjoyed reading your post, and found it to be quite clever, but it’s a shame that your final intent was merely to make a political group look stupid. It does nothing to solve the problem. It only serves to polarize.

    Given your intelligence and your knowledge of the political process, I would have expected more.

    Still love ya, Mara….just sayin.

    Shecky

  5. MaraBG
    April 1, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Thank you for your honest feedback. The groups I’m referring to, Shecky, are the ones who are carrying signs comparing Obama to Hitler; the ones comparing Health Care Reform to Auschwitz; the ones who are living off of the largess of the government at the same time they are calling for less of it.

    By the time the events of the Boston Tea Party occurred in 1773, the colonies had been growing for 100+ years. The British were not developing the infrastructure of the America, but repatriating the wealth and resources back to Britian. Generations had been born here who had never set foot off of the Continent of North America, and it made no sense to them to be paying tax to a foreign occupier.

    To compare what was happening prior to the American Revolutionary War with the hysterics that more closely resemble a lynch mob is to assume the so called Teabaggers are calling for an overthrow of the government, which is treason.

    My intent was not to make the Teabaggers look stupid. Instead, it was to illustrate how far removed my personal views are from this fringe group. One further quote comes to mind that best explains how far apart I am from this mean-spirited group:

    “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean”.

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