A rare look at good business leadership

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In a time when the world seems full of corporate greed, it’s a pleasure to write about someone who gets it right, indeed.

Ken Chenault is one of America’s most respected CEOs. He was the former boss of the corporate giant American Express. When he was interview by CBS News Special Correspondent James Brown, thousands showed up at the World Headquarters to bid him goodbye. He was considered a Rock star to the Green card AmEx faithful and the cool and calm leaders to the employees worldwide.

Ken Chenault was the just the fourth African American to run a Fortune 500 Company. He said that someone once said, that they couldn’t conceive of an African American ever running a major division at American Express. Ken’s reply, “Then you haven’t met many African Americans, because there are many qualified people who can do the job”. The Brown vs the Board of Education case provided opportunities for people like him to enter the field and the Harvard Law school just expanded his world view.

Warren Buffett, one of the largest shareholders in American Express called Ken Chenault “A class act. The kind of person that you would want to be the trustee of your will or to be your next-door neighbor. Warren Buffett has been Ken’s friend for 20 years.

In 1981 Chenault was recruited by American Express where he faced a big challenge. The merchandise services unit was losing money and he pulled together a team that went from generating $100 million in sales to $700 million in sales. That propelled him into the fast lane; President and COO in 1997 and CEO in 2001.

He was tested again when the American Express Corporate Headquarters suffered major damage during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in which the company loss 11 employees. The next test came during the Great Recession of 2008. He kept his head while others were losing theirs.

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Chenault was interviewed by the Associated Press about the new tax law, being a Black CEO and the effect of competition.

  1. You are leaving AmEx but if you were staying, how would you use the benefits from the tax bill?
  2. I think a lower corporate tax rate will spur the economy in the long run…We wanted to create some long-term benefits for our employees. That’s why we did this one-time incremental benefit in profit sharing. We also going to put $200 million into incremental investment places where the company can grow and expand.
  3. Your departure reduces the number of African American CEOs at Fortune 500 Companies to three. What legacy would you talk about tied to that role you play in society and business?
  4. That’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing because there are thousands of people who are just as qualified or more qualified but haven’t been given the opportunity. What’s needed is a pipeline where quality people are coming in and the need to create an environment where people are embraced and engaged rather that just tolerated. Diversity and inclusion should be a core priority not just the flavor of the month.
  5. What will American Express look like once plastic cards go away?
  6. People see the services and the service is the brand. In 2017 Forbes named American Express as the 23rd most valuable brand in the world. In 2018 Fortune ranked American Express as the 14th most admired company worldwide and the 23rd Best Company to work for.

Maybe that’s the reason why the advertising program so effective, “Don’t leave home without them.”

H.G.M.

Let us honor an American Hero

This is the real life story that reads like a movie. An Admiral’s son becomes an aviator, gets captured in battle and becomes an American Legend. He became the gladiator that defied the Emperor to save the nation.

Let us honor him, because now he is free. CBS News called John McCain  “One of a Kind”… and I think a lot of other folks would agree. The Vietnam experience crystallized the importance of doing what’s right. It wasn’t easy but he persevered and came out of that situation a changed man.

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The military schools and basic training teach and preach about duty, honor and country because all warriors need  guidelines to follow. When he refused an early release he was practicing the “code of conduct”. The goal is to survive honorable while resisting the enemy efforts to be exploited.

Article I – I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

Article II – I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

Article III – If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

Article IV – If become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

Article V – When questioned should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give my name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the upmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statement disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

Article VI – I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and the United States of America.

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When he got into the Senate he warned about the rising power of special interest in government because it would  cause a breakdown in the democracy on which this nation was built. When he walked into the Senate Chambers after surviving brain surgery and did his thumbs down, it went against the party and the man who wanted to be king.

During the presidential race against Senator Barack Obama, he corrected a woman in the audience who called Barack an Arab. Senator McCain said, ” No ma’ma, He is a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with”.

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When Barack was elected he asked his audience to refrain from booing and said, ” I had the honor of calling Barack Obama to congratulate him on being elected the next President of the country , that they both loved.” Sometimes the real measure of a man is shown by how he responds to his victories AND his defeats.

In the coming days and weeks, many things will be read and said about the man and the life he led. He called it an extraordinary life and many veterans might also agree.

H.G.M.

Farewell to the Queen

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When Aretha was here, she did her thing. She will always be considered the Queen of Soul. CBS News did an interview her on June 5, 2012 in which Anthony Mason asked her some questions about her health.

She said she was excited and that she was ready to do her thing. That was something that the Godfather of Soul would say and later sing. As she was making a comeback at a New York benefit concert show.

Rolling Stone Magazine named her the Greatest Singer of the Rock Era. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She was awarded the Grammy Legend Award in 1991, The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, she was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994, a National Medal of Art recipient in 1999 and awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. But to most of us she will be remembered as the Queen of Soul.

She was born in Memphis Tennessee but considered Detroit Michigan her home. She began her singer career at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where her father, C.L. Franklin, was the minister. Aretha’s mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, died before she turned ten. Her grandmother Rachel raised her and her siblings with a little help from people like Mahalia Jackson.  Aretha young life was surrounded by music and musicians and she learned to play piano by ear.

Her father reached celebrity status and many gospel folks would stop by the house: Clara Ward, James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, Inez Andrews, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, Martin gave her the SCLC Drum Beat Award for Musicians a few months before his death. And at the young age of 16, she sang at his funeral.

The two-day viewing of Aretha’s casket will be at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which happens to be a stones throw from where my mother’s senior tower was. My mom was born in Mississippi and she also settled in Detroit. Mom was an independent country girl who lived down the street. Glad I able to convinced her to come with me to the Museum with me on one of my visits to the city.

On my Face Book page is a photo of the Charles H. Wright Museum. The guy in the foreground is my man James. He got drafted in the Army and was sent to Vietnam. I enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to Germany after a quick stop in Libya.

Aretha has sung for the king (Martin Luther King Jr.) the Queen of England and the President of the United States. Now she gets to add her voice with the King of Pop, the Godfather of Soul and Prince.

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President Obama said, “American history wells up, when Aretha sings. Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African American spiritual, the Blues, R&B, Rock and Roll – the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.”  Farewell to the Queen.

H.G.M.

Mary G. Ross was a Lady Boss

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Mary Golda Ross (Aug 9, 1908 – Apr 29, 2008) was the first known Native American Female Engineer. She made major contributions to the aerospace industry.

Sometimes you never know what you might learn when you click a Google Doodle. She was also the great -great granddaughter of Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Nation. She was born in the small town of Park Hill in Oklahoma where she chose to follow a nontraditional path for women.

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She taught math and science until she returned to school to earn her masters in math from Colorado State College of Education. She was very bright at a young age. At the age of 16, she enrolled into Northeastern State Teachers College.

She moved to California in 1941 to seek work after the US got involved in World War II. She was hired as a mathematician by Lockheed in 1942 where she began working on the effects of pressure on the Lockheed P-38 Lightning jet, which was one of the fastest airplanes at that time.

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After the war Lockheed sent her to UCLA for a Professional Certification in Engineering. Wikipedia stated that it was unusual for a company that hired a woman to keep her after the war had ended. They must have felt that she was a valuable as one of the guys. She must have held her own because she was one of 40 founding engineers of the highly secretive “Shunk Works Project” at Lockheed Corporation.

In 1958 she appeared on the TV program “What’s My Line?”, where contestants had to guess who design rockets and missiles. My mom who grew up in Mississippi, but lived in Detroit said that she once made it to “The Price is Right” when she visited California. She also talked about that old Indian that she never really knew. I must have missed it or it when right over my young head.

Many years pass and I’m about to enter the service for the second time, I see a movie that made me re-think about a persons world view. As an US Army Officer we talked about military history and I knew about the Battle of Little Big Horn. The movie ‘Little Big Man’ was the story of a young man who straddled two worlds. It was the first time I looked at Cowboy and Indian movies in a different light.

At the age of 96 Mary participated in the Opening Ceremonies of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. in Sept 21, 2004.

Ten years later, when I finally visited the city during the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, it was one of the places I wanted to tour. In 2010 at my mothers funeral I learned that her father, my grandfather that I never met was a Native American.        Mom gave birth to 14 kids and worked into her mid eighties catching the bus in the cold Detroit winters. To me that’s a pioneering attitude and a Native American perseverance.

Mom remembered when her mom died because she was only eight. She called the man who dropped the seed, that made her, as “that old Indian”.  I always wondered where she got her independent spirit from, and it finally made sense.  The dad that she never knew kept track of all his off spring during his life time. And when mom was born in 1919 she was the last of his 33 kids, so I wanted  to make the connection to that part of my roots.

Four Life Questions to Ponder

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Sometimes the measure of a man can be made by the questions he asks before he leaves. Jim Rohn was a master wordsmith, but I never got the pleasure of hearing him speak in person. but I remember the questions he would ask.

As leaders we should learn to help people with their lives, not just their jobs. We can touch people with a book, a blog, a poem or a good word for the day. We should say something positive because we live in a very negative world today. Say something meaningful and don’t add to the confusion. Help people with their goals and their dreams, not just the demands of the day. Help your kids to build their lives, not just their homework.

WHY? Why should we try? Why get up that early, why work that hard, why read that many books, why make that many friends, why reach out to help others at all. Maybe the answer is why not? What else are you going to do with your life? Why not see how far you can go and what you can become. You got to stay here, until you go. And when you leave what will they say? Life is not just how much you made, but what did you do with your time you had and who did you help.

WHY NOT YOU? Some people have done the most remarkable things with a limited start. Some people get to see it all. Why not you? Why not watch the sun rise in the mountains of Colorado or the Andes in Chile? Why not you seeing the sights of Spain or having lunch at a sidewalk cafe in Paris? Why not you, looking at the Mona Lisa smile, or listening to the orchestra at the Opera House of Australia?

I have been fortunate, in that I ventured out to see the world, when I was in the service (Air Force & Army). I have seen the sands of the Sahara Desert and visited ancient ruins of Tunis in Tunisia of North Africa.  When I got to Europe, I rode on the cable car to the top of the highest mountain in Germany: The Zugspitze.

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WHY NOT NOW? Why postpone your better future any longer? There are ways to see the world, but you must expand your world first. Expand your mind and you never know what you might find. Most people can’t travel the world because they have a job. But if you start the right business you can travel like the top one to two percent. Personal development is the best way to go. Ask for Gods help and he will make a way but be prepared to do your part. He provides the seed, the sun and the soil. We must plant and tender the garden of our soul. Don’t do what is easy, do what will bring you the best results by developing your integrity, your character, and your effort.

I would still love to see Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Or watch the annual animal migration on the Serengeti Plain.

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H.G.M.

Remembering 1968

The CBS Sunday Morning program featured the 50  Year birth of Intel (the company with the chip that changed the world). Who would have known that something so small, would have such a large impact on today’s world. But it did. Two middle-aged engineers Gordon Moore  and and Bob Noyce got together and ushered in the era of fast, ubiquitous electronics  and in July of 1968, Intel was incorporated. I consider that one, of the few good things from that year.

This is a picture of the company’s oldest plants in Portland Oregon which shows what a chip plant looks like today.  And they still wear Bunny Suits to keep the contamination down to the minimum.

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I remember the shocking events of 1968 more, because I lived through them. I remember that year, being the year that Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. His voice was silenced but not stopped. Now every year we hear his I have a Dream speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a Nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content for their character”. Unfortunately the dream has not been realized yet.

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Dr. King felt that something might happen when he delivered this sermon. “We got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top. I’ve seen the Promise Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight , that we, as a people will get to the Promise Land”.

The following photo features the other history maker of 1968. President Lyndon B. Johnson was the president during the Tet Offensive in which 216 American troops were killed and 1,300 were wounded in a 26 day battle for Hue Vietnam. Robert Kennedy also featured in the photo was going to run for President but he was also assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angles California.

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Journalist Pete Hamill said that Kennedy’s assassination was more than what happened, but what could have been. He called it a LOST.  CBS reporter Jim Axelrod asked what lost? And Jim answer, “the lost of what could have been: Hope, instead of despair”. Even the story of Bobby Kennedy was a tale of transformation during those troubling times because he went from hard-charging law-and-order to social justice warrior.

In many Black households back in the day, there were three photo of warriors who left here too soon; Martin Luther King , John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. In the photo below is Sen. Robert F. Kennedy with Marian Edelman as they were visiting an unidentified woman in Greenville Mississippi during an investigating of poverty in the Mississippi Delta in 1967. A portrait of his brother hangs on the wall. Marian Wright Edelman,Robert F. Kennedy.

I remember the year 1968 mostly as the year I graduated from high school. I got a full time job (second shift) on the auto assembly line in Detroit MI during my last semester of high school, and still managed to graduate on time. It was not easy, but I did it. As a results, I learned that, I wanted do do more than work like a machine on the line. To escape the assembly line, I joined the military line, so I could use the GI Bill and get a better position off the line. The Vietnam War was hot and heavy and my classmates were being drafted right and left.

If I was going to the war, it was going to be on the flight line, so I joined the Air Force. After basic training, advanced training and my first state side assignment,  I was shipped off to Libya North Africa to assist in the Air Base closure there. By the time I got to Germany I had heard so much about the war (from the Air Force guys that came back) I was almost ready to go. I wouldn’t mind being on a large Air Force Base in a combat zone, but by then, they were only accepting airmen in special forces units.

In a war zone, anything can happen, even on a large Air Force Base but they were going to need me as  a generator operator, out in the boonies (in the middle of nowhere). If I wanted to see that kind of action I would have signed up for an Army Airborne unit. So I didn’t sign up for a “Red Horse Airborne Civil Engineer Squadron” assignment.

Ten years later (1978) the story continues. I finally graduate from college using the GI Bill and become an Army Quartermaster Officer where I supported Special Forces at Fort Bragg North Carolina, the Home of XVIII Airborne Corps.

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Life is strange and you never know how things will turn out. In 1967 I was home along when the Detroit Riots started. I saw 82nd Airborne Troops rolling down Detroit streets in trucks and armored personnel carriers. But because I didn’t do anything stupid like get arrested or shot I was able to joint the military the next year. The numbers are still astounding 2,000 buildings were destroyed, 7,200 people were arrested 1,100 people were injured and 43 people were killed within a five or six day event. It wasn’t until I went home for a visit and saw the movie (Detroit 1967)  and read the newspapers as to  why thing happened the way they did.

H.G.M.

Barbaric and Beautiful

Precious and beautiful is the sight of pure gold, but barbaric are the actions of those who want to maintain control!

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The history and evolution of money; and the emergence of gold as the universal money supply;  is the  history of governments clipping or debasing gold coins to cheat their subjects; it is based on the false reality that any any quality of gold will suffice for a monetary system and that “more money” does not require more gold.  –  Ch.7 The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin

What is money? Is it the metal coins and the paper currency we have in out pocket, is it the numbers in our checking account or electric impulses in a computer? Does it include the balance in a savings account or available credit on a charge card? Does it include the value of stocks and bonds, houses, land or personal possessions?  Or is it nothing more than purchasing power?

In the simplest terms money is anything which is acceptable as a medium of exchange and is classified in the following forms:

  1. Commodity money
  2. Receipt money
  3. Fiat money
  4. Fractional money

The concept of intrinsic value is the key to understanding the various forms of money. During early times the usual item was some form of food , either produce or livestock. Pecuniary which means pertaining to money is derived from the word pecunia which is the Latin word for cow.

During the Bronze Age iron, cooper, tin, and bronze were traded between craftsmen and merchants along trade routes and major sea ports. The value of metal ingots was determined by its weigh. They were non perishable and they could be melted and reformed so they could be divided into smaller units to purchase minor items. The most important attribute was, they could be precisely measured; an ingot of metal is either 99% pure or it isn’t, it weighs 100 ounces or it doesn’t. One’s personal opinion has little to do with it.

Gold was selected over the years because it seemed to be just the right amount in nature to keep its value for coinage. It is less plentiful than silver, and more abundant than platinum. In addition there is demand for it in industry, art and fashion. In addition, its purity and weight can be precisely measured.

The misleading theory that gold is too limited in supply to meet the needs of modern commerce is false. In reality 45% of all gold mined in the world is in government  or banking stockpiles. There is about 30% of gold in private stockpiles. The amount of gold in the world does not affect its ability to serve as money. It only affects the quantity that will be used  to measure any given transaction. If a one ounce coin would be too valuable for a transaction then a person would simply use a half-ounce or a tenth- ounce coin amount instead.  A gram or a tenth of a gram would be even more effective.

Most of the gold reserves are weighs in the tons. National debt and budgets are in the billion and trillion dollar range. So government try to stretch their power to pay their bills. When governments became more brazen in their debasement of the currency to the extent of diluting the gold and silver content, the population  just tucks away the ‘good solid coins’ that were not diluted and used the other coins for their purchases.

The Byzantine Empire seemed to have the best record of sticking to the real currency. The emperor Constantine ordered the creation of a new gold piece called the solidus and a silver piece called miliarense. The gold weigh of the solidus became fixed at 65 grains and was minted at that standard for eight-hundred years. Is was so dependable that it was freely accepted from China to Brittany and from the Baltic Sea to Ethiopia.

The money laws were so strict back then that if some was caught clipping away from the coin, they would get their hand cut off. Now its a slap on the wrist, In fact, many financial crooks barely do any time in jail today.

In the beginning of the modern society when men accumulated more coins than he required for his daily purchases he needed  a safe place to store his coins. The goldsmith, who handled large amounts of precious metals in their trade had already built sturdy vaults to protect their own inventory, so it was an easy for them to charge a fee to store valuables for others. When the coins were stored, the precious metal warehouse man would give the owners a written receipt which entitled them to withdraw at any time their valuables. At one time the receipts had printed on the top ‘Pay to the bearer on demand’.

The paper receipt represented a certain value back by solid gold. When the receipt was honored the economy moved forward but when it was uses as a gimmick for the artificial expansion of the money supply the economy stagnated.  As the government printed  more and more money the value of the money in our pockets decreased.

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Paper money (fiat) loses its buying power with increasing inflation. Maybe now is a good time to look at the “Golden Triangle” that being built around the world. From Stuttgart Germany to Madagascar off the coast of Mozambique to the  Miami Florida. Many have discovered another method of savings.

H.G.M.