This is not about who you voted for in 2016.
This is not about whether you neatly compartmentalize your political persuasions and don’t talk politics at work.
The six CEOs who left the president’s manufacturing council after Charlottesville may have done it to protect their businesses and profits. But I will give them the benefit of the doubt; they were unwilling to work with a president who cannot call white supremacists and neo-Nazis what they are.
The last to leave before the remaining members agreed to disband was AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He made the strongest and clearest statement of all. He announced he was leaving the council late Tuesday after President Trump defended his original statement on Charlottesville, blaming both sides. “We cannot sit on a council for a President who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” the organization said in a statement. “President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis. We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups.”
Ken Frazier was the first CEO to step down after Charlottesville. “As CEO of Merck, and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” he said in a statement. He was the only African American CEO on the council and is the only one singled out publicly and criticized by the President.
We live and work and play and study in a global society with great diversity. I embrace that diversity.
When I am coaching leaders I challenge them to share their values with the people they lead. I challenge them to envision the leader they want to be and to take concrete steps to become that leader. And I always encourage them to put aside personal agendas and do what is right for their organization.
When I speak to groups about women in IT and encourage more women to move into STEM fields, I tell them not to put up with crap. Not to be bullied or intimidated. I share some of my stories as a young professional woman on an all-male leadership team. Things that were said to me and how I eventually said, “enough is enough”. But I always note that it was the 1980’s and we’ve come a long way since then. Though at times, I doubt we have.
I don’t often watch Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show, but it’s been hard to miss his recent impassioned statements. They are all over social media and you can find them on YouTube. A few months ago, he spoke about access to health care from the perspective of a young father. Just this week he spoke about raising small children who don’t know what hate is. He asked everyone to call out white supremacy for what it is.
Social media has changed the manner and speed of public discourse. LinkedIn has a “no politics” guideline that professionals honor for the most part, myself included. I try to limit and temper my political posts on Twitter but anyone who follows me can tell that I am a progressive liberal. I share more openly on Facebook which is friends and family.
This blog has a significant number of subscribers and is shared widely through HIT industry publications and social media. I have walked the fine line of focusing on professional topics and only occasionally touching on political subjects from a healthcare or women’s perspective. I have commented on the black lives matter movement and how physicians view violence in our communities as a public health issue. My comment on gay marriage came from a very personal story: my aunt was kept from her dying partner by a hospital that lacked progressive policies on the definition of family. And I have commented that bullying and intimidating rhetoric have no place in a civil society.
These are not normal times. Today I close with a simple message – live your values and don’t be afraid to speak up for what you know is right. You will sleep better.