‘Let American Be America Again’ a poem by Langston Hughes

We spend a lot of time considering the values of our workplace and how they mesh with our priorities; who we will become as part of a workplace community. But where we go to work is located in the broader context of a national set of values. And those values have been the topic of conversation this political season, with some questioning the basic tenets that have, until now, defined our national conscience.

It sometimes seems like we have lost our collective sense of the core values that bind us as humans, Americans and global citizens.

Take a moment today to restore our ‘moral memory’ and revisit history through the lens of American poet, Langston Hughes. The Friday Poem this week is ‘Let America Be America Again’ written in 1935 and published in Esquire Magazine in 1936.

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Langston Hughes  ‘The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes’  1995

The week@work – Mark Zuckerberg writes a letter, equality comes to combat, 20 predictions/20 years, the November jobs report and terrorism@work

This week@work was dominated, until mid-week, by the story of the ‘Chan Zuckerberg initiative’ to set aside 99% of their Facebook wealth, and overshadowed a major shift in policy within the Pentagon, opening all combat jobs to women, without exception. The November jobs report continued the positive trajectory of the economy with the revision upward of September and October numbers. And the editor of Fast Company Magazine offered ‘Twenty Predictions for the Next Twenty Years’.

All of those stories pale in comparison to the return of terrorism to the workplace at a holiday party at 11 AM on Wednesday in San Bernardino, California.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter to his new daughter and lots of attention was paid to the section on sharing his wealth.  Carmine Gallo of Forbes took closer look and noted that the letter read like a great speech.

“As you’ve probably read by now Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan welcomed a daughter into the world in a very big way – with the creation of a new initiative to donate 99% of their Facebook shares ($45 billion currently) to philanthropy. That’s the headline. I was struck, however, by how the open letter to their daughter read more like a speech than a letter. It was meant for the eye…and the ear. It was meant to inspire a generation to commit itself to giving and to making the world a better place.

“Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today,” the letter begins. Read aloud at an average speaking pace, the 2,200-word letter takes about twelve minutes to recite, the ideal amount of time for a good speech (many of the most notable speeches in recent history clock in at 15 minutes or less).

Zuckerberg’s hope for his daughter’s generation provides the theme of the letter, a headline that fits into one short sentence. In bold letters, Zuckerberg writes:

“Advancing human potential and promoting equality.”

Amanda Platell of The Daily Mail offered an alternate version.

“Let’s start with the ‘friends’ you may have on Facebook. Do not confuse them with the friends you should trust in the real world. Many will barely know you, plenty may be jealous, others will be insincere and spiteful…

If I have learned anything from running Facebook, it’s that there is no such thing as privacy any more. After all, that’s how I made our billions!

Come to think of it, perhaps we won’t give you a computer until you’re 18, just to be safe. Love, Dad.”

On Thursday the Dan Lamothe reported on the groundbreaking change in staffing policy at the Pentagon.

“Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Thursday that he is opening all jobs in combat units to women, a landmark decision that would for the first time allow female service members to join the country’s most elite military forces.

Women will now be eligible to join the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other Special Operations Units. It also opens the Marine Corps infantry, a battle-hardened force that many service officials had openly advocated keeping closed to female service members.

“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said. “This means that, as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”

Robert Safian, the editor-in-chief of Fast Company magazine marked the twentieth anniversary of the publication with ‘Twenty Predictions for the Next Twenty Years’.

“We celebrate birthdays to remember all that has gone before, and also what is to come. This month, with issue No. 201, we recognize Fast Company’s 20th anniversary by looking toward the future. The dynamic change of the past two decades is just a warm-up for what is still to come.

I have used the phrase Generation Flux to describe this era of transition. Because the changes are coming so fast, there is a rising premium on our ability to adjust, to be adaptable in new ways. This can be scary for some, but it is also undeniably exciting, and for those prepared to embrace this emerging reality, the possibilities are tantalizing.

What follows are 20 observations that we believe will hold fast in the years ahead. They are predictions and, as such, are fraught with limitation and supposition. None of them, on their own, is shocking. That is by design. In combination, though, they outline a world of tomorrow where work is still personal, computing is still social, and knowledge is still power. And where the rules for success will be ever-changing.”

Bouree Lam covered the optimistic economic report from the Labor Department on Friday.

“The November jobs report is out, and it’s meeting what were moderately high expectations. The figures from the Labor Department show that the unemployment rate remained at 5 percent and the economy added 211,000 jobs in November. Jobs were added in construction, health care, and “professional and technical services”—the Labor Department’s term for an assortment of white-collar jobs. Among those, the construction sector showing particularly strong growth, adding 46,000 jobs.”

On Wednesday morning a group of colleagues went to work at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. As they were taking a break, preparing for a holiday celebration, one of their team and his wife, both heavily armed, entered the room and changed lives forever.

In 2014 there were 404 workplace homicides, 80% were shootings. The ‘mass shooting’ in San Bernardino was the fourth of this year.

Yesterday the editors of The New York Times published an editorial on the front page of the paper, ‘End the Gun Epidemic in America’.

I’m done with the retailers who give away guns to the first 200 customers on Black Friday. And I’m not comfortable with my cubicle mates carrying weapons to work. The workplace is a place to create, engage and perhaps follow a dream. Fear and hostility have never been a productive part of life @work. The last time leading by fear worked was in the mid-20th century Catholic grammar school classroom.

“It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.”

On March 4, 1933 newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his inaugural address. The familiar phrase, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself..” has been whispering from the back of my mind since Wednesday and I think it’s particularly relevant to our political conversation today.

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

 

 

 

The Saturday Read ‘Patience and Fortitude’ by Scott Sherman

In times of financial crisis, you start looking around the house for things you might sell off until you realize all you have left is the real estate under your roof. For the New York Public Library in the early years of the 21st century, the fine art had been sold at auction, the staff had been ‘right sized’ and all that was left to remain solvent were the private donors and the coveted real estate footprint of branch locations.

This week’s ‘Saturday Read’ is ‘Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, And The Fight To Save A Public Library’ by Scott Sherman.

“This is a book about a world-class library that lost its way in the digital age.”

patience and fortitude

A public library is a community sanctuary that has historically offered immigrants a way to the middle class. In the Preface, author Sherman retells the story of former New York Senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan who was working as a boot-black in 1940s Times Square, visiting the main library at 42nd Street.  “It was the first time I was taught that I was welcome in a place of education and learning. I would go into that great marble palace, and I would check my shoeshine box. A gentleman in a brown cotton jacket would take it as if I’d passed over an umbrella and bowler hat.”

This is a New York story, but one that illustrates the fate of the non-profit organization in an economic downturn. In the case of the NYPL, originally founded by bankers and corporate titans, the seismic shifts in the economy forced the influential board, of modern day financiers, to engage big name consultants in an attempt to apply “free-market solutions to complex institutional problems.”

The central narrative of the book was first reported by author Sherman in the December 2011 issue of ‘The Nation’. ‘Upheaval at the New York Public Library’ made public a four year old ‘Central Library Plan’, conceived and ratified by the NYPL’s trustees.

“The core trustees – led by the developer Marshall Rose – did what came naturally to them: they sold the NYPL’s land and took steps to shrink an institution they may have viewed as bureaucratic and inefficient…Personal enrichment was certainly not the trustees’ intention; they were sincere in their desire to assist the Library. It was hubris that drove them forward, and which ultimately led them astray: they believed that corporate logic could be effortlessly applied to a sprawling, decrepit library system.”

Consider this the first shot across the bow, as the Sherman chronicles the response from writers, researchers, NYPL employees, politicians and library patrons.

A 2012 Op-Ed piece written by Theodore Roosevelt biographer, Edmund Morris for The New York Times offers a sample of the opposition.

“I read newspaper reports about the determination of Anthony W. Marx, the president of the library, to spend $300 million to transform the main building, long devoted to reference, into what sounds like a palace of presentism. He wants to close the library system’s biggest circulating branch, the Mid-Manhattan (located just across the street) and the Science, Industry and Business Library (also in Midtown) and somehow wedge their contents into the already overstocked central research library.

For that he will need all the spatial ingenuity of his trendy architect-designate, Norman Foster. But something’s going to have to give, and you can be sure that what is new and hard and digital will prevail over what is old and papery and transportable elsewhere.”

On May 7, 2014 Robin Pogrebin reported that the NYPL has abandoned its renovation plan.

Last month, Tom Mashberg of The New York Times reported on the new plan to create a high-tech space under Bryant Park to house 2.5 million research works from the original stacks.

“This was not, of course, Plan A. That plan entailed a makeover of the flagship Fifth Avenue library that would have sent the research books to Princeton, N.J. But it set off a virtual Fahrenheit 451 of outrage among scholars and others for whom the library’s role as a research mecca seemed endangered. Critics, who hoped the old steel stacks could stay in use, remain apprehensive about the new stocking and retrieval system, which they say is impressive but has not been tested.”

To be continued…

And while you wait, catch up on the history and the cast of characters who bring ‘Patience and Fortitude’ to life.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Chicago and December’ a poem by W.S. Di Piero

The Friday Poem this week is ‘Chicago and December’ by Stanford University Professor of English, Emeritus W.S. Di Piero.

In an interview with ‘McSweeney’s Internet Tendency’, the poet described the early influences in his writing.

“Writers are schooled by whatever they read. I took what was available. (Discovering the Philadelphia Free Library was enormous.) All writing occupied the same bandwidth—Freddy the Pig books, Kidnapped, Poe’s and Conan Doyle’s stories, and in particular, when I was very small, the Sears catalogs I studied on Sunday visits to relatives’ houses. I came to love reading about the old west—no kid in South Philadelphia knew more about Wyatt Earp, Kit Carson, Doc Holliday. In high school I read Whitman—he was, still is, so strange, exasperatingly friendly, formidable. By the time I turned twenty-one, it was “sweet sounds together” that mattered. Sound is still important. Subject matter was (still is) whatever piece of life’s procession pauses in front of me (or behind my back).”

On this first Friday in December, take a break from work and visit Chicago as we accompany poet W. S. Di Piero on a walk from the Art Institute, across the river to Michigan Avenue.

Chicago and December

Trying to find my roost
one lidded, late afternoon,
the consolation of color
worked up like neediness,
like craving chocolate,
I’m at Art Institute favorites:
Velasquez’s “Servant,”
her bashful attention fixed
to place things just right,
Beckmann’s “Self-Portrait,”
whose fishy fingers seem
never to do a day’s work,
the great stone lions outside
monumentally pissed
by jumbo wreaths and ribbons
municipal good cheer
yoked around their heads.
Mealy mist. Furred air.
I walk north across
the river, Christmas lights
crushed on skyscraper glass,
bling stringing Michigan Ave.,
sunlight’s last-gasp sighing
through the artless fog.
Vague fatigued promise hangs
in the low darkened sky
when bunched scrawny starlings
rattle up from trees,
switchback and snag
like tossed rags dressing
the bare wintering branches,
black-on-black shining,
and I’m in a moment
more like a fore-moment:
from the sidewalk, watching them
poised without purpose,
I feel lifted inside the common
hazards and orders of things
when from their stillness,
the formal, aimless, not-waiting birds
erupt again, clap, elated weather-
making wing-clouds changing,
smithereened back and forth,
now already gone to follow
the river’s running course.

W.S. Di Piero  Poetry Magazine, June 2006

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Does your resume reflect your values?

Yesterday was #GivingTuesday, a day to give back after the frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Let’s start a new tradition, #ValuesWednesday and do a quick audit of our community involvement activities over the past year, and update our resumes to reflect our values.

It’s not just our individual contributions to our local area, but the activities aligned with the places we work. As a new employee at Salesforce you spend your first day outside the office working for a community non-profit organization. It’s a clear message that ‘giving back’ is part of the corporate DNA.

“Salesforce operates on what it calls a “1-1-1” philanthropy approach, in which it supports local nonprofits by giving 1 percent of its products, 1 percent of its equity and 1 percent of its employees’ time.

As an added incentive, employees get six paid days off a year to volunteer. If they complete that, they receive a $1,000 grant to donate to a nonprofit of their choice.”

Most folks forget to include a community involvement section on their resume and omit a key component of their work narrative.

Your resume should communicate what’s important to you. It’s a living document that reflects your commitment @work and in your community.

Conducting a ‘values audit’ is not only an exercise to build your resume, it’s a way to evaluate how you set your priorities over the past year. If you notice your perception is out of balance with reality, you may want to consider the work/family pressures that redirected your plans. If work and values are coming unglued, expand your audit to take in the bigger picture of career/life decisions.

Po Bronson wrote an article for Fast Company magazine 13 years ago. It’s a piece that continues to resonate over time as it applies to our life @work.

“Every industry has a culture. And every culture is driven by a value system.

One of the most common mistakes is not recognizing how these value systems will shape you. People think that they can insulate themselves, that they’re different. They’re not. The relevant question in looking at a job is not What will I do? but Who will I become? What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life? Because once you’re rooted in a particular system — whether it’s medicine, New York City, Microsoft, or a startup — it’s often agonizingly difficult to unravel yourself from its values, practices, and rewards. Your money is good anywhere, but respect and status are only a local currency. They get heavily discounted when taken elsewhere. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

On this #ValuesWednesday, ask yourself, Who’s driving the values bus? Are you morphing into a corporate clone or maintaining the integrity of your personal value system? We’re not talking mutually exclusive terms here, just taking an annual values audit.