Playing for Change: Stand By Me

Playing for Change filmmaker Mark Johnson:

I think music is the one thing that opens the door to bringing people to a place where they’re all connected. It’s easy to connect to the world through music. Religion, politics, a lot of those things… they seem to divide everybody.

A must see.

Shame. On. Us.

A Black Friday tragedy that should have each and every one of us thinking really hard about ourselves.

The throng of Wal-Mart shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot…

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him… Emergency workers tried to revive Mr. Damour, a temporary worker hired for the holiday season, at the scene, but he was pronounced dead an hour later…

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

Oh Beautiful, for patriot dreams

Though passion may have strained…

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

–Abraham Lincoln, in his first Inaugural address,
as quoted by President-Elect Barack Obama in his acceptance speech


Worth remembering, as dissent is about to flip to a different side…

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it. — Edward R Murrow

Liz Joyner: Ode to the three-legged stool

stool_1_lg.gifI am enamored with the three-legged stool.

In looking back on just where such an oddball affinity came from, I’m thinking it started with its colorful use as a prop by the late great He-Coon Florida governor Lawton Chiles. In his 1991 State of the State speech, Governor Chiles waved a three-legged stool in the air as an illustration of the American system of balance of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Saw a leg off, and that stool won’t sit right.

I’ve come to believe deeply, even reverently, in the balance of powers. The three legs of the stool of democracy achieves what is best in human history by acknowledging what is worst in human nature… that too much power tends to get the best of us pretty easily.

When I came back around to the religious faith of my childhood as an adult, good grief if I didn’t find another three-legged stool sitting right there in my Episcopal faith. The legs of this stool are Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

For a hoot, I googled “three-legged stool.” Apparently that little stool is a metaphor for balance in just about everything – Ronald Reagan’s conservative coalition, executive managerial theory, mind body & spirit – and on and on.

I recently found another sensible three-legged stool in Jim Wallis’ book The Great Awakening:

All three sectors of a society need to be functioning well for its health and well-being – the private (market) sector, the public sector, and the civil society (nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations, of which faith communities are a part). It is indeed like a three-legged stool. Each sector has crucial roles to play, and each should do what only it can do and not replace what the others can do better.

Private vs. public, business vs. government, church vs. state. The now dull and predictable political argument rages on, straining credibility that it never settles on the obvious conclusion that it’s “and” rather than “either/or”.

That lowly three-legged stool, it sits so close to the ground – so inconspicuously that you might just trip over it. But when you need to get something way up high, whether it’s a can of tomato soup or the makings of a fine democracy, it is so there for you.

All we have to do is make sure it sits right.


Liz Joyner is the cofounder of the Village Square. Contact her at

There’s baby, then there’s bathwater

I’m reading the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, recommended to me by my conservative friend Lea. The book talks about “Level 5 leadership” being one of the required conditions for a company to achieve greatness.

Level 5 leadership isn’t at all what you’d expect it to be. Level 5 leaders are humble, a little awkward when it comes to slick media sound bites. But behind the scene, they demonstrate single-minded determination to achieve solid results. Once exceptional results are achieved, they tend to be leaders who give credit to their employees or even luck. They build things that are solid, that last. They’re the best of what American capitalism offers. They’re kind of American like apple pie.

According to Collins:

The recent spate of boards enamored with charismatic CEO’s especially rock star celebrity types is one of the most damaging trends for the long term health of companies and if this trend persists – if we see a triumph of celebrity over leadership and we maintain our misguided mix-up between those two concepts – we will see very few great institutions the next century.

It occurred to me as I read this passage that this zillionaire show-off CEO is substantially part of the picture I think many liberals have in their brain when they think of big business. They notice what’s wrong with big business, not what’s right with it… not the “Level 5 leadership” that’s out there and does capitalism proud. Slick zillionaire leader boy (or girl) isn’t good for anyone, if you follow Collins thinking; not for America, not for capitalism, not even for their company. This person is a distortion, an aberration, an example of the excess that tends to always create trouble (in River City, that starts with “t” that rhymes with “p” that stands with pool).

That got me thinking that maybe liberals tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when they’re talking what’s wrong with big business. They develop a hostile tick about “big business.” And I’m thinking that conservatives tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when they’re talking what’s wrong with government… “big government.”

All this baby throwing out when really the problem we all share isn’t either the business or the government but the excess that exists in both?

What would happen if liberals attended to the excess that exists in government and conservatives attended to the excess that exists in corporate America? What would happen if we demonstrated “Level 5 leadership”, reaching for greatness within our own general sphere of influence? Where might we be then?