Center for Ethics and Leadership

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Excellent New Docu-Play on Autism

Last week, I attended a wonderful play at The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia entitled, Life on the Spectrum: A Love Story. The spectrum is the autism spectrum, and the playwright, Meghan McCullough-Kirk, is the older sister of Tim McCullough, an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Life on the Spectrum began as McCullough-Kirk's senior thesis for her B.A. in playwriting at the Eugene Lang College of The New School. It consists of dramatized interviews of parents of children with ASD, factual information dispelling myths about autism, and McCullough-Kirk's own reminiscences about growing up with a little brother who was very different from all the other kids. This is a very well crafted play that is always interesting and never tedious. Its several vignettes fall into place neatly and build to a dramatic crescendo that appeals both to the emotions and to one's political intellect.

The two shows in June were to benefit AACCEPT (Autism Awareness & Creating Community Environmental Programs Together). AACCEPT's chair is Tim and Meghan's mother, Linda McCullough. It is a fledgling organization designed to address a pressing need, the lack of services for adults with autism. The situation is more severe in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, now that both Governors Rendell and Corzine have warned that budget pressures threaten even current autism services.

McCullough-Kirk co-directs of SITA (Social Issues Through Art) with Rebekah Griffin. Here follows a quote from their remarks in the show's Playbill: " . . . our fundamental belief that art is a powerful tool that can be used to stoke the fire of change. . . . It can make people think. It can make people talk. It can bring an entire room full of strangers together . . ." Our theater director here at Alvernia thinks in a similar way about drama, as do I. Congratulations, Meghan, on a job well done.

Conservative Student Organization Protests at Bucknell

Last April, the Bucknell University Conservatives Club, an undergraduate organization, wanted to have an affirmative action bake sale on campus. Persons of color would have to pay less for the food. The bake sale was intended to promote the appearance of Star Parker, a well-known African-American conservative who opposes affirmative action. Bucknell administration called it discriminatory and refused permission, thereby generating the predictable claims of victimization by the students, who argue that it is a matter of free speech. Conservative groups continue to keep the issue alive, and it finally hit the Philadelphia Inquirer today.

There is a difference between speech and action, and a bake sale is action. There was no interference in Ms. Parker's appearance. The club also has its own faculty moderator, a member of the management faculty. In addition, the club has a good publication, The Counterweight, whose tagline is, "The Other Half of Your 'Balanced' Education."

Of course, there are actions and there are actions. The administration must make a judgment call about the potential disruptiveness of any student action, and the Bucknell administration decided against the sale. Other colleges across the nation have had such sales.

I suppose there would be nothing the club could say if, for example, the Bucknell Caucus For Economic Justice sponsored a White Privilege Bake Sale. White males could buy large vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing for practically nothing; white females could also buy vanilla cupcakes, but not as large as the others. African-American students would get small chocolate cupcakes rather expensively, and Hispanic students would have to show two forms of government-issued identification to participate.

If the tables were set opposite each other in the cafeteria, maybe Bucknell would get more than a food fight.

Charlie Manuel's Leadership

This post will not engage the formal theories of leadership that have been developed. It is more a reflection on watching a leader closely and noticing the results. For those of you who don't know, Charlie Manuel is the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, baseball's current champions. Like many Phillies' fans, I spent the first few years of Manuel's tenure wondering what he was doing. Of course, nothing convinces like success, and last year his team won it all, thereby shifting the burden of proof squarely onto the shoulders of his critics.

Manuel manages by trusting his professionals to be internally motivated to perform at the highest level. At least I think that is the unspoken theory. Consequently, even when they underachieve, he gives them time to recover.

His is not a hands-off philosophy, however. For example, he stuck with Pat Burrell through thick and thin, and the biggest payoff was Burrell's double in the clinching game of the World Series that was the eventual winning run. Burrell is not with the team this year, and in retrospect, as much as we all liked him, he had to go. Similarly, Manuel has moved Jimmy Rollins from his preferred spot as leadoff hitter to sixth in the batting order in an attempt to help Rollins emerge from his batting slump.

Yet these decisions come when circumstances dictate their necessity. Manuel's basic stance is to let people play with the knowledge that there will be good performances and bad. The result? It is common knowledge throughout major league baseball that players love to play for Charlie Manuel. And his previous team, the Cleveland Indians of the mid-90s, did very well, too.

Maybe this is just confirmation of the cliche: hire good people and then trust them to do the job. Whatever it is, it seems to work.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Murder is not the Answer

On behalf of the Catholic bishops, Cardinal Rigali, who chairs the pro-life committee, immediately issued a statement condemning the murder of Dr. George Tiller on Sunday. Here is the quote:

"Our bishops' conference and all its members have repeatedly and publicly denounced all forms of violence in our society, including abortion as well as the misguided resort to violence by anyone opposed to abortion," Cardinal Rigali said. "Such killing is the opposite of everything we stand for, and everything we want our culture to stand for: respect for the life of each and every human being from its beginning to its natural end. We pray for Dr. Tiller and his family."