Moral Compass: Apple CEO Tim Cook v. Indiana Governor Mike Pence

TEXT: This morning, in an op-ed in The Washington Post, Tim Cook who is the CEO of Apple wrote the following: Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or whom they love. We will never tolerate discrimination… America must be a land of opportunity for everyone. This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.

Tim Cook wrote this message in response to the actions of the Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, who on Friday signed into law a bill that will allow its citizens to deny service to anyone if an individual feels that to provide service would be offensive to his or her religious beliefs. The law is aimed at discriminating against gays and lesbians. Of that there is no doubt. How do we know that? Because during the debate on the law, when an amendment was proposed that would have expressly prohibited the law from permitting discrimination, the amendment was defeated. Additionally, while the Governor claims that he would have vetoed the law had he thought that it would be used to permit discrimination, when he was invited to expressly state that it would not be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, he refused. And he was invited to do so 8 times in the span of 8 minutes yesterday morning. He refused. Instead, when he was asked if he would support changing the law to assure that it would not be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, he stated, “I would not push for that. That is not on my agenda.”

Let’s talk moral compass.

A moral compass, mine, yours, Tim Cook’s, Mike Pence’s, are the principles that inform our choices, our behaviors, and our actions. Our moral compass is on display every day simply by way of how we interact with one another and by way of the choices we make that affect the lives of the people in our communities. Each one of us helps to shape our world and the world for the people we care about simply by way of our everyday actions and our choices. As time goes on, we will be living in a world that is shaped by the strength of our moral compass.

Some people find themselves in positions that allow them to exert a greater influence on the world around them, again through their choices and their actions, and as a result exert a greater share of influence on shaping the world we will all be living in as time goes on.

What kind of world do you want to live in?

A Tim Cook world vision: A world that is open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or whom they love. A world where we will never tolerate discrimination.

Or a Mike Pence world. A world in which the opportunity to change the laws that permit discrimination are not on the agenda.

I’ll choose a Tim Cook world vision: One in which we treat each other as human beings. It’s one in which opposing discrimination takes courage.

With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.


Send Governor Mike Pence your message.

Tweet him at @GovPenceIN

Support the initiative to pressure the legislature to change the law by sending a message #BoycottIndiana

Let’s Leave, They’re Only a Buck Fifty at Safeway

If you are fortunate enough one of these days to drive along the central coast of California between Santa Cruz and Monterey, you will pass by field upon field of tall, thick-stalked, prickly leaved, some say prehistoric-looking spiny plants supporting a fist-sized vegetable that is poetically known as the vegetable of passion, the food of nobility, the thistle of love — the California artichoke. Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to humankind. They are said to be an aphrodisiac. They were first cultivated for food in the Mediterranean thousands of years ago. Early plantings were first made in North America by French settlers in Louisiana, and then brought to California by Italians in the late 1800s.

Castroville lies at midpoint along the central California coast between Santa Cruz and Monterey. This small town, population 6,700 or so, claims to be the “artichoke capital of the world.” In 1949, in Castroville, Marilyn Monroe was crowned the first official “California Artichoke Queen.” Settled by the Spanish, and planted by Italian immigrants, Castroville is now largely populated by Mexican-Americans and Mexican farm workers who cultivate and harvest nearly four million artichokes from the Monterey region every year.

A mile or so south of town, Pezzini’s 100-acre farm straddles the coastal highway. A nine-foot-high green plywood “artichoke” gives direction to Pezzini Farm’s roadside grocery stand — take exit 414A. It’s not remarkable. Just an old, gray clapboard barn. Yet, it’s entirely unique.

In the back, wooden crates four feet on a side and four feet deep overflow with artichokes. Out front where I poke around, artichokes are heaped into bins, sorted and priced by size — I’m sure there is some official agricultural formula by weight or girth or something like that. To me it looks like: xs, s, m, l, xl, xxl, xxxl.

If you can’t wait to get home, you can buy an xxl freshly steamed artichoke right there (or if you prefer, some deep-fried artichoke hearts), along with as much dipping sauce as you like — homemade lemon-dill or garlic-mayo, or both. It’s a whole meal. There are a couple of picnic tables just out front, too.

So, on one of my visits, as I was finishing up the last bite of my artichoke heart, a 60-something couple drove up to the front of the stand, parked, got out. The couple poked around the stand for a few minutes, the husband following in the footsteps of his wife.

She closely examined the bins of different sized and priced artichokes — starting with the “xs” priced at $0.79 each, and moving down the line to the “xxxl” at $1.99. Perhaps no more that five minutes into their visit, she paused, turned to her husband, and insisted, “Let’s leave, they’re only a buck fifty at Safeway.” They got back in their car and drove off.

That one sentence unleashed in me a whole stream-of-consciousness. Part of me felt sorry for the woman. Another part of me felt fearful. My stream of consciousness went something like this:

Lady, get a grip.

These are right out of the field.

There’s no way you’re going to find this at Safeway, even if an artichoke there is only a buck and a half.

In that one sentence, I felt jolted by the rude and very real reminder that an important and meaningful part of my world is endangered. I dearly love my community. More accurately, I dearly love the unique character of my community — local mom-and-pop entrepreneurs whose businesses are personal expressions of creativity and courage, and whose survival is almost entirely dependent on our support: on us, the members of the community. In that one sentence, “Let’s leave, they’re only a buck fifty at Safeway,” I was reminded that character survives only in direct proportion to the sum of our actions to safeguard it. Is our world so caught up in commoditization that we are blind to character?

Metaphorically, I believe Pezzini’s is each of the local entrepreneurs whose small businesses form part of the soul of my community. Their grocery store and farm stand represents each of the local entrepreneurs whose businesses offer an oasis of uniqueness and personality in a world mounded with food and furniture and clothing and coffee that all seems to come out of the same limited variety of molds. These entrepreneurs offer a taste of natural, no-artificial-flavor in a world dominated by corporate formula and chemical-infusion. They offer an encounter with robust authenticity — albeit one sometimes rough around the edges. And yes, at Pezzini Farms, chances are that an artichoke will cost more than it does at a strip-mall Safeway.

Chances are, the smaller guys will never be able to compete on price with the bigger guys. Such is the law in an economies-of-scale world.

Chances are, indeed, that my community (well, our communities) will increasingly include the cookie-cutter coffee shop, the big-box building supply hangar, the fast-food franchise, the monolithic bank branch, the identical-looking chain store, the gigantic supermarket, the mega-mart and the big bookstore whose name begins with a “B.” Stocked, supported, subsidized and sometimes supersized by suppliers and shippers originating from places unknown, these better-financed, lower-priced, reliable, predictable, formula-driven purveyors provide (and always will provide) products that we need and want, at prices that most of us can afford.

And for that let us be thankful.

But, chances are the bigger guys might not buy and stock the proudly crafted, local cottage-industry products that you’ll find at the small-guys’ stores. Such is the larger guys’ limitations in an economies-of-scale world.

I liken my community to a patchwork quilt with each store, each shop, each street vendor; each merchant, each market, each mom-and-pop shop; each Safeway, each Shaw’s, and each Shop-and-Save; each minimart and each mega-mart; each small guy and each big guy; each — a colorful, exciting, lively and vibrant patch contributing to the texture and warmth and uniqueness of my community. There is a need for them all.


The local entrepreneurs are part of our fabric. I value the texture that the proud, local proprietors contribute to my community. I’m mindful of my role as a member of the community today, and as a co-creator of the world I want to live in as I grow older. I’m mindful of the character of the community I want to inhabit. And I’m mindful, too, that that character will survive only in direct proportion to the sum of my actions, and those of like-minded individuals, to safeguard and support it.

So, I choose to channel my purchasing power in their direction. Not all, but some. Not all of the time, but some of the time — routinely, regularly. Not because I have to, not because I am told to, but because I want to, and because I care.

I take personal responsibility to support our local entrepreneurs. I choose to freely, frequently and gratefully pay a small premium to our local entrepreneurs as a purposeful, intentional investment in their survival. I have decided not to assess the price of uniqueness as a cost, not to have it weigh on me as an expense. Instead, I have chosen to treat the premiums I pay to the small business owners as investments — investments in supporting the character I long to enjoy well into the future.

I’m thinking that the premiums I pay are minimal investments in another day. I’m thinking that on another day, five months or even ten years from now, as I pass by exit 414A on the coastal highway, I will still see that nine-foot-high green plywood artichoke pointing the way to Pezzini’s small 100-acre artichoke patch and grocery. I’m thinking that I’m investing now, so that on another day, I and many more like me will still stop and sit down at those picnic benches, and that I and many more like me will still eat and celebrate and even give thanks for a freshly steamed artichoke right out of the field — even if someone else still insists, “Let’s leave, they’re only a buck fifty at Safeway.”

— from The Engaging Leader

Boy Scouts of America Fail

One month ago today, the Senate confirmed Eric Fanning as undersecretary of the Air Force — the second-highest civilian position in this branch of the United States Armed Services. Today, the 1400 members of the national council of the Boy Scouts of America voted to change its position on whether gay boys and men are welcomed to participate as scouts and troop leaders. As a result of today’s vote, Undersecretary Fanning continues to be unfit and unwelcomed to step into the role of a troop leader in the eyes of the Boy Scouts. Why? Because he is a gay man.

Fanning has been deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy since July 2009. When Bill Clinton was president, Fanning was a research assistant with the House Armed Services Committee, a special assistant in the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense, and an associate director of political affairs at the White House. But because he is gay, the Boy Scouts of America consider him to be unfit as an adult leader for its young members.

Under the new guidelines enacted today, the Boy Scouts will no longer ban or discriminate against gay boys who have the courage to come out to their peers and their troop leaders. That is, until they reach the age of 18. The day they turn 18 years old, according to the new guidelines, these young men become unfit and unwelcomed to participate in Scouting in any capacity. Why, because at 18, they are gay men — no longer gay boys, but gay men. And that, according to the thinking behind the new guidelines, changes everything and renders these former scouts a danger, a menace, a threat to the teenagers who were their peers the day before. And it renders them unfit for the rest of their lives.

What idiocy is this?

It is the kind of idiocy that continues to allow employers in 29 states to fire an employee simply because he or she is gay.

It is the kind of idiocy that is rearing its ugly head in legislative efforts designed to permit anyone to refuse any and all service to gay men and women simply by invoking a First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression.

It is the kind of idiocy that carries with it the moniker homophobia.

And the new guidelines enacted by the Boy Scouts of America, camouflaged as progressive policy, do little more than reinforce this entrenched homophobia. For all intents and purposes, the national council is just passing the buck to the next generation of Boy Scouts of America leaders.

For my part, I have every confidence that this next generation of leaders will have more courage than the current timid group to stand up, to speak up and to act to assure the equal treatment and the equal respect of all American citizens — our Undersecretary of the Air Force included.

Related Reading:

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls Speaks Out Against Boy Scout Gay Ban: VIDEO

Boy Scouts of America Proposes Dropping Ban on Gay Members

Gay Man Confirmed as Air Force Undersecretary

Boy Scouts of America Proposes Dropping Ban on Gay Members

Boy Scouts propose allowing gay scouts but banning gay leaders

Mormon church endorses Scout plan: let gay boys join, keep out gay leaders

The Broader Implications of Citizen Leadership for Organizations and Corporations

Citizen leadership has a direct bearing on the organizations and corporations that are the driving force of much of our society and culture. Among the broader implications of citizen leadership for these organizations, large and small, is this: corporate character counts. In more familiar terms — corporate “culture” counts.

Despite what might be printed, published or circulated about an organization’s culture, in practice all we need to do is look at how our people interact with one another, and how individuals conduct themselves towards our customers, clients and communities. Those observations are all we need to discern our prevailing and dominant values. Nothing is 100%, of course not, but there are predominant patterns. Let us look to the patterns of our actions and decisions. Those patterns will speak volumes about who we are.

Is that the signature by which we want to be known in the world?

Because we are.

For example: if truth is a principle that you want to be known by, and you regularly act in ways that are truthful in word and deed, internally and externally, then that’s how you’ll be known. Actions reveal who you are.

But, your principles and values do not come free of charge. You have to be willing and committed to ante up, even when it cost you. That is called an investment — that’s an investment in your integrity and an investment in your credibility, in the bigger picture, an investment in your culture.

Another example; if truth is a principle that the people — say at XYZ Corp. — want to be known by, but they — the individuals who make up XYZ Corp. habitually misrepresent the facts — public pronouncements about truth and ethics notwithstanding — then that’s who they are and that’s how they’ll be known. They can rationalize or excuse their choice of actions for any number of reasons: competition, pressure for quarterly numbers or closer to home, compensation — individuals saying to themselves, I do what I get paid for — but here’s the thing, values  — like truth — do not lend themselves to a cost-benefit analysis.

Now there are those who just don’t care. There are cultures that hold, “We have money, we have power, we have influence. It’s a free country and we’ll do as we please.” At least we know where they stand, what they stand for, and what we can expect.

But, there is a more sinister school of thought — one that adheres to the notion that “Principle is okay, up to a certain point, but principle doesn’t do any good if you lose.”[1]This is the culture that cloaks itself in principle — like truth — but if principle turns out to be inconvenient, then its members conveniently set it aside. In this culture, the overriding objective is “to win.”  And whatever currency “to win” comes in — be it profit, power, influence, reputation or the like — the ends justify our means.

For the Citizen Leader — corporate or individual — the ends do not justify the means. Instead, in a citizen leader culture, the means are routinely examined through the filter of our principles. Some of the means will need to be discarded because they do not fit with how we want to be in the world. Other means will present us with viable options — or more precisely, values-based options. These options safeguard our character as we pursue our goals — whatever form our goals take — profit, power, influence or reputation.

To borrow from the great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson:

As to means there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own means. The man who tries means, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

When all is said and done, it is the individuals in our organizations, our corporations and our institutions who will decide on their means, and on their choice of actions. It is the prevailing pattern of these individual choices that will define our corporate culture.

And so we are face-to-face again with these two questions: Who am I? and How do I want to be in the world? It’s just that our scope has grown from personal character to organizational culture.

Culture doesn’t happen because we will it to happen. It happens because we and many other people in our community turn our wills into behaviors and words and choices that honor and demonstrate the values that we choose to espouse. Building culture — a purposeful culture — is an act of dedication and ownership — personal and collective. Everyone can be involved. Everyone can accept ownership and take responsibility. Now, whether everyone accepts that ownership, whether everyone takes responsibility by holding themselves and one another accountable – that’s another issue. Accepting ownership for oneself is an act of citizenship; asking others to accept ownership and holding them accountable, regardless of our position or title, is an act of leadership. Not to do so, especially if we are entrusted with the responsibilities of a leader, is an act of abdication.

It was a series of acts of abdication among those who were most entrusted with the mantle of leadership at Penn State that allowed for the incidence of child molestation and the ensuing lack of any meaningful investigation that we learned about last summer. It has been a whole history of these acts of abdication among the leadership at the Boy Scouts of America and among the hierarchy of the American Catholic Church that have allowed for the scandalous abuse of children and the ensuing evasion from prosecution for both the perpetrators and their protectors.

On the other hand, it is an act of leadership that we see being played out at Harvard today with the candid disclosure and investigation of cheating among some 120 students. In the words of Jay Harris, dean of undergraduate education: “Without integrity, there can be no genuine achievement, either at Harvard or anywhere else. We have held, and will continue to hold, every Harvard College student to that same high standard.”

So in the broader sense, when we view citizen leadership on the scale of an organization, a corporation or an institution — be it in education, sports, religion, business, media or government — character still comes first. Who am I? and How do I want to be in the world? The principles that reveal our culture still count.

[1] Campaign advice given by former Vice President Dick Cheney to associates when he was White House chief of staff.

Source: Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, by John W. Dean.

Peter’s Perspective: Crafting Culture

The culture of our communities is, for better or for worse, the predominant pattern of our collective behaviors, speech, choices and actions. Our families, our schools, our neighborhoods, our towns, our teams, our troops, our places of worship, our places of work – all of these are the communities that make up our world. Each one of us, through our daily behaviors, speech, choices and actions contributes to the character of these communities. We shape the world in which we live and work, for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, for our colleagues, for our co-workers and for our fellow citizens. As such, it behooves us to ask ourselves, what is the character of the culture that we aspire to create and live in as a community?

Whatever the answer to this question, and whatever the size or scope of our community, we have an opportunity to be more deliberate and intentional. We have an opportunity to choose how to behave and speak and act, individually and collectively, with renewed commitment, to craft a purposeful culture.

Crafting purposeful culture is an act of dedication and ownership – both individual and collective. Purposeful culture doesn’t happen because we will it to happen. It happens because we and many other people in our community turn our wills into behaviors and words and choices that honor and demonstrate the characteristics of the culture that we aspire to create. Everyone can be involved. Everyone can accept ownership and take responsibility. Now, whether everyone accepts that ownership, whether everyone takes responsibility by holding themselves and one another accountable – that is another issue. Accepting ownership for oneself is an act of citizenship; asking others to accept ownership and holding them accountable, regardless of our position or title, is an act of leadership. Not to do so, especially if we are entrusted with the responsibilities of a leader, is an act of abdication.

It is abdication among those who were most entrusted at Penn State that we now painfully learn about. (It is abdication among those who were most entrusted in the hierarchy of the American and Irish Catholic Church that we have painfully learned about for a decade now).

Crafting purposeful culture requires our full commitment. It requires ongoing conversation and dialogue between and among the leaders and the members of our communities to define the characteristics of the culture that we want to create or safeguard for the future.

During that deliberative process, we need to consider:

  • What do these cultural characteristics really mean?
  • Why do we each personally care about these characteristics?
  • How do or could each one of us turn these characteristics into tangible behaviors and action?

Our candid and collective consideration of these questions will better prepare us to engage other members of our communities in a conversation about the whats and whys of our culture. In turn, they will better understand the importance and implications of their dedicating themselves to taking ownership for their own behaviors and actions. Equipped with a clear understanding of the culture that we want to create collectively, we, the leaders, can more confidently distribute ownership to the other members of our communities for behaving, speaking, and interacting in ways that assure that the culture we aspire to, becomes a reality. They, in turn, are better prepared, and indeed expected, to identify and take action on what needs to be promoted, what needs to be protected, and what needs to be put to an end.

We Must Stop Bullying. It Starts Here. And It Starts Now.

On Sunday, April 22, in response to the tragic suicide of a 14-year-old boy who had been relentlessly hasassed and bullied after coming out as gay, the Sioux City Journal faced down those who would say that bullying is simply a part of life and declared, “those people are wrong, and must be shouted down.”

We must make it clear in our actions and our words that bullying will not be tolerated. Those of us in public life must be ever mindful of the words we choose, especially in the contentious political debates that have defined out times. More importantly, we must not be afraid to act.

The Journal published the following full page opinion piece on the front page of the paper to stand up to bullies, to those who condone their behavior and to their apologists.

“Siouxland lost a young life to a senseless, shameful tragedy last week. By all accounts, Kenneth Weishuhn was a kind-hearted, fun-loving teenage boy, always looking to make others smile. But when the South O’Brien High School 14-year-old told friends he was gay, the harassment and bullying began. It didn’t let up until he took his own life.

Sadly, Kenneth’s story is far from unique. Boys and girls across Iowa and beyond are targeted every day. In this case sexual orientation appears to have played a role, but we have learned a bully needs no reason to strike. No sense can be made of these actions.

Now our community and region must face this stark reality: We are all to blame. We have not done enough. Not nearly enough.

This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient — maybe even painful — to address. But we can’t keep looking away.”

Read the full editorial >>