Sunday, October 11, 2015

We Are All Immigrants

The speakers at Sage Summit are top notch, and this year was no exception, with the lead-off talk being a conversation with General Colin L. Powell, US Army (Retired) and Deepak Chopra, moderated by Stephen Kelly, CEO of Sage. While Susan attended in person, as a registered conference attendee, I was able to tune in and watch the talk via live stream from the comforts of our hotel room.

The conversation navigated familiar territory, hitting on some of the same topics addressed by Brian McGrory, Jack Welch, and John Henry in the April 2015 Business & Baseball talk: engagement, luck, and opportunity inequalities. Both leaders have authored books capturing their advice: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra, and It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership, in which Colin Powell explains the thirteen simple rules he developed over the course of his career both as a four-star General in the US Army, and later as Secretary of State.

Deepak commented that he had just read Colin Powell’s book the previous night, and through it realized “why he was an extraordinary leader. He had one passion: to serve his country with love in his heart, and that was the secret of everything. If you ask people globally if they love what they do at their job every day, 20 percent say yes, which is a very sad commentary. Three hundred million dollars are lost every year due to disengaged and actively disengaged people in their jobs. If a supervisor or manager ignores their employees, the disengagement score goes up… If on the other hand, you don’t ignore them, but criticize them, employees get better, and the disengagement rate falls to less than 20 percent, because people would rather be criticized than ignored. If you notice a single strength they have, the disengagement rate goes down to less than 1 percent. Inspired teams come from you – giving attention, appreciation, affection, acceptance, even of weaknesses.”

“Think like a sports coach: shared vision, complementary strengths, and emotional connection.”

“The employee is number one. Your customers will be happy if your employees are happy. Your investors will be happy if your customers are happy.”

“Coincidences are what create good luck. Good luck is opportunity meeting preparedness.”

Colin Powell spoke of how the military had evolved, changing from the draft to an all-volunteer force, and how his family had served as a grounding force throughout his career. He also spoke of employees, the people, as the “most important asset,” saying that we “have to invest in the human capital.”

On the topic of veterans as employees: “You can’t get a better employee. They say, ‘yes sir,’ show up on time, have initiative, and are trainable. You recruit a soldier. You keep a family.” He remarked on how this was different from old Army thinking: “If we wanted you to have a wife, we would’ve issued you one.”

“It was my wife and three kids who were my gyroscope that kept me stable.” His daughter, Annmarie, was “most effective.” He was just Daddy to her. One night, he was coming home from work, wearing his new camouflage uniform, and when he walked through the door, his daughter called out, “Mom, our GI Joe doll is home.” He remarked on the importance of “humbleness and humility, and someone to keep you there.”

His first simple rule: “It’s not as bad as you think. It will be better in the morning. It’s not a prediction, it’s a hope.”

At the end of the talk, when he was asked about what was next for him, he replied that he didn’t know, but simply felt privileged to be born in this country, and has now returned to Harlem to help the children there. (He founded America’s Promise Alliance, dedicated to improving the lives of children.) “I want to invest in the kids who were just like me – poor, immigrants. That’s all the satisfaction I need right now.”

Earlier in the talk, Stephen Kelly had pointed out that both Deepak and Colin came from immigrant families, Colin from Jamaica, and Deepak from India. Colin called the country’s immigrant population “one of our most treasured assets,” and earned a few laughs with his statement: “I wonder what would happen to Trump hotels if immigrants didn’t show up tomorrow.”

After listening to the talk, I was walking/jogging on my way to catch the Katrina tour (see previous blog post 15 September 2015), when I came across this statue in the park along the riverfront (and levee), and thought, how apropos.


It’s a tribute to immigrants, with an angel facing the river, guiding an immigrant family below. We had walked right by it the previous day. I’m not sure how we walked by and didn’t see it, except perhaps for the record-setting 99-degree heat and matching humidity. Probably on the brink of passing out, all we could focus on was the vision of the hotel on the distant horizon.
Immigration has also been a hot-hot-hot topic lately, with much rhetoric tossed about in the presidential debates, while also forming one of the central themes of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., all against the backdrop of the refugee crisis playing out on distant shores in Europe over the past few months. The recent article by Liz Sly in The Washington Post provides the best explanation, and context, for why the crisis has exploded this year.
Ironically, on many levels, one of the factors was a quiet little tweet on August 25th by an obscure German government office in Nuremberg, basically announcing that Germany was no longer enforcing one of the EU bylaws that requires refugees to be settled in the country to which they first arrive (Thomas, Bradley, and Friedrich, 2015).
“We are at present largely no longer enforcing Dublin procedures for Syrian citizens.”
This quietly opened a door. As I said before, if Paul Revere could have, he would have tweeted it out that the British were coming, and he might never have made his midnight ride through the countryside. Social media has spread news of global events almost instantaneously. Traditional media has also delivered solid, professional journalism, researched and fully developed stories.
Having coffee on a Saturday morning, I’m reading the front-page story in The Wall Street Journal (Feher, Jervell, Bradley, 2015), telling of how a group of refugees left Hungary, setting out on foot, in hopes of reaching Austria, using only the map on their phone. When they meet up with the local police, they panic, but the police are trying to explain that they are in Austria. The police finally find the Arabic translation for Austria (on their own cellphone), and the migrants’ fear is replaced with relief and joy, realizing that they’d made it to “An-Nimsa.” “Almost immediately, several refugees began to cry.” And so did I.
And of course there was the photo of three-year old Aylan, lying face down on the beach, after the boat carrying refugees took on water and sank somewhere between Turkey and Greece. But, it was the second photo that caught my gaze, the one of the Turkish gendarme, crouched forward slightly, gently cradling the small, still body in front of him. Reverently, though still at half an arm’s length.
All of these images are playing out in stark contrast to those of Baby Doe, Bella Bond, whose body was also found washed up on our shore at Deere Island, an innocent victim of the state’s opioid crisis. Bella had the privilege of being born in this country, but not even that could keep her safe. Instead, in the richest country in the world, she died in the home where she should have felt safest. Aylan’s parents had sought safe haven and risked everything, all in the hope of a better future for their family, seeking out a safer place they could call their home.    
The new refugee stories echo those of the past, with eerie resemblances. Two recent editorials also make the comparison, one by Timothy Snyder in The Boston Globe, the other by Mr. Shadi Martini in The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Shadi Martini left Syria several years ago, and recently visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C. to see a special display of photos smuggled out of Syria, as well as the permanent exhibits chronicling the Holocaust. What struck a chord with him was the voyage of the S.S. St. Louis. Nearly one thousand Jews hoped to reach the U.S., via Cuba, on that ship, but it was turned away in Havana, forced to return to Europe. He writes: “How could the world have abandoned these people? But then I remembered the present.” While there is not the same genocidal mission to wipe out an entire people, the numbers of people impacted in Syria are staggering: 250,000 killed, 11 million displaced, 4 million of those leaving Syria. “The cruel fact is the Syrian people feel abandoned and left to die in silence, like the passengers of the St. Louis.”
Timothy Snyder begins his editorial piece, published in The Boston Globe, pointing out that “The last world war began amidst a refugee crisis,” and goes on to chronicle the way that Jews were progressively marginalized, and striped of citizenship and property rights in Germany, and the occupied countries: Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and France. There is some irony that Germany has been in some ways more welcoming of refugees recently. Mr. Snyder cites a ninth underlying factor contributing to the refugee crisis: the five-year drought brought on by climate change. “People will flee from south to north, on both sides of the Atlantic, so long as global warming continues.” If this is true, there is a global ownership for the crisis.
The U.S. is certainly war-weary at this point, but how can we turn our backs? Our isolationism in the run-up to World War II is embarrassing in retrospect. History will be our judge.
As we celebrate Columbus Day weekend, commemorating Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas, it’s worth recalling that our entire country was founded by immigrants and refugees. On the topic of the refugee crisis, Madeleine Albright stated ever so eloquently: “We cannot argue that the day after our forebears entered is the day the door to America should have swung shut.”
Even Native Americans migrated to the Americas via the Bering land bridge some 13,000 to 23,000 years ago. (There is a bit of controversy about precisely when this happened, and whether the migration took place as a single wave or in two or three different waves.) If we go back even farther in time, and think about things a bit more metaphorically or allegorically, we could all be considered refugees from the Garden of Eden, all of humanity exiled here on the physical realm, all for eating the apples. Maybe we are all just immigrants here, trying to find our way. If so, then we will surely need the angels to guide us.
Speaking of apples – it is apple picking season here in New England!
Ironically, when Christopher Columbus reached South America, he thought that Venezuela might be the outskirts of Eden.
The theme of immigrants and refugees has been a constant throughout the summer’s events, from the discussion of “inequalities of opportunity” at the Business & Baseball talk in April, to the experiences in New Orleans, the talk by Deepak Chopra and Colin Powell, the presidential candidates’ debates, and Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. at the end of September.
Congratulations to a local Massachusetts seventh grade student who won a ticket to see the Pope through an essay contest held by U.S. Representative Katherine Clark. Dylan Lopez wrote in his winning essay: “My dream is to help Hispanic immigrants who are discriminated against on a daily basis. It hurts my soul.” The topic of immigration hits quite close to home for him; his parents “arrived with nothing,” having left Argentina in 2001 in the midst of an economic crisis there.
Pope Francis had quite an impact on people during his week-long visit in the states. Look at the effect the pope had on Mr. John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who decided to retire and step down early. You might recall seeing Mr. Boehner, sitting behind the pope, to the right, during the pope’s address to Congress, wearing a bright Kelly green tie. Reportedly, Pope Francis complimented Mr. Boehner on his tie, saying it was the “color of hope.” (Hughes, Peterson, 2015) The next morning, Mr. Boehner woke up and decided that was the day, and announced his upcoming retirement.
Post Script – New Orleans
On the Katrina tour, the guide filled us in on the enduring influence of each wave of immigrants that came to New Orleans, from Germany, Ireland, Sicily, and many more, plus the legacy of starting out under Spanish and then French, and then Spanish rule again, prior to being sold to the burgeoning United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. New Orleans truly is a melting pot; a veritable gumbo of cultural traditions. The tour guide speculated that the way the Spanish and French treated their slaves may have played a part in fostering the rich musical traditions of the city that ultimately led to the development of jazz. Unlike their Puritan counterparts, they allowed the slaves to sing and dance on Sundays. Isn’t it interesting how allowing a person to maintain even one bit of cultural identity, their customs and heritage, their very dignity, could be such a powerful force in sustaining a culture.
Post Script – Sage Summit
Sage Summit is the place where the decidedly unsexy and unglamorous worlds of accounting, billing, and software could be said to collide, and yet – they made it fun. As a software company, Sage is remarkable, as they actually listen to their customers, i.e., the people who use their software. Susan actually succeeded in convincing Sage to add her button back, that had gone missing after a recent update to the software, through a vigorous twitter campaign. How refreshing, compared to most IT experiences! Think about the fact that most software packages get sold without a manual, leaving you at the mercy of the Help button. And, really, how often does anyone actually click on the Help button, and when they do, how often is Help actually helpful? Sage Summit is actually a forum for users, an opportunity to network and learn from each other, as well as learn about new add-ins, features and capabilities from Sage, and so there is also a sales motivation present. The speakers are also always top-notch. I would even consider registering for the Summit, and I don’t even use the software.
We are already looking forward to Sage Summit 2016, to be held in Chicago, at McCormick Place, named after another one of the original tractor makers. I can already taste the Chicago style hot dogs, Italian Beef, and pizza.
Gooooo Cubbies!
Coming Next
My retrospective on the HUB week events attended, showing the play between art, science, and technology:
Sunday, October 4 - De-Stress Boston (hosted by Massachusetts General Hospital).
Sunday, October 4 – Fenway Forum: What’s The Right Thing To Do? A philosophy class by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel.
Monday, October 5 – STEM Speed Networking Event (MGH)
Tuesday, October 6 – 3D Printing (Paul Revere House) and Driving Ourselves Happy (MGH)
Wednesday, October 7 – Coping With Climate Change (Harvard) and Your Brain on Art (Harvard)
After that, perhaps a return to first world problems: We Are All Patriots (DeflateGate)
Going On Now:
A Streetcar Named Desire
Feinstein-Gamm Theatre
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Extended through October 25th
Advance Notices:
Women In STEM Summit
Oct. 22, 2015
Bentley University, Waltham, MA

Boston Book Festival
Oct. 23 - 24, 2015
Copley Square, Boston, MA 
Albright, Madeleine. 2015. America must do more for refugees. The Boston Globe. September 28, 2015.
Basu, Tanya. 2015. There’s a New Theory About Native Americans’ Origins. Time. July 21, 2015.
Chopra, Deepak. 1994. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Novato, CA: New World Library and San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing.
Feher, Margit, Ellen Emmerentze Jervell, and Matthew Bradley. 2015. Refugee Crisis Overflows in Hungary. The Wall Street Journal. September 5, 2015.
No link available
Hughes, Siobhan, and Kristina Peterson. 2015. In Capitol, Emotions Run High for Historic Visit. The Wall Street Journal. September 25, 2015.
Johnson, Akilah. 2015. 12-year-old’s essay earns him ticket to see the pope. The Boston Globe. September 17, 2015.
Martini, Shadi. 2015. A Syrian Refugee and Echoes of the Past. The Wall Street Journal. September 4, 2015.
Powell, Colin L. 2012. It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership. New York: HarperCollins.
Raghaven, Maanasa, et al. Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans. Science. August 21, 2015.
Sly, Liz. 2015. Eight Reasons Europe’s refugee crisis is happening now. The Washington Post. September 18, 2015.
Snyder, Timothy. 2015. “Warnings from another refugee crisis.” The Boston Globe. September 14, 2015.
Thomas, Andrea, Matt Bradley, and Friedrich Geiger. 2015. Mass Migrant Exodus Grew After Obscure German Tweet. The Wall Street Journal. September 11, 2015.
© 2015 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life.” Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of any other entity, person, agency, or organization.