Nearly Everyone Has a Favor Bank — A Few Thoughts on the Latest Attempt to Derail Clinton’s Campaign

The latest attempt at derailing Hillary Clinton’s campaign is about emails sent to her Secretary of State staff recommending the hiring of influential people who are purportedly connected to the Clinton Foundation.

In The Secret Handshake, I wrote about favor banks. And it’s true that they can be requested and granted at the wrong times.  But, equally true is that hardly anyone gets anywhere without asking for and granting some favors.

It’s important to make connections in business and government. In fact, many people use connections when getting their children into colleges and universities.

While favors are more subtle in the U.S. than in many countries where “greasing the skids” (bribes rather than favors) may be required to take a taxi from the airport to a meeting, most careers, at some point, involve the granting and receiving of favors — both large and small.

It would be surprising, at best, to learn that favors were never requested of any previous presidential candidate. It would be naive to think that people who put their hearts and souls into an election are simply given a wave and a thank you when the campaign is over.

I could tell students who ask for letters of recommendation: “If you’re all that smart, get the job on your own.” But, why wouldn’t I put in a good word for a good student?

It may be different when big donors get involved in asking for favors, but the process of requesting favors goes on everywhere.

Anyone who thinks favors aren’t asked of people in high or powerful places is politically naive. When requests are too much to ask (e.g., qualification for a job are not adequate or another candidate is highly qualified) or if they put one or the other person in a compromising position, then ethical considerations are important.  Knowing the lines not to cross is critical.

It’s important to learn the limits of favors. But it should never be surprising that requests for them are regularly received by people in positions of influence.

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Hillary’s Speech — The First Female Presidential Candidate Knocks It Out of the Park!

I heard the first few minutes of Hillary Clinton’s speech on the radio. I was worried. It was stilted. Seeing her on television didn’t initially assuage those concerns, as her eyes were wide and her words did not flow smoothly. But a few more minutes in and she was on a roll. It wasn’t the transcendent rhetoric of Barack Obama or the smooth delivery of Bill Clinton. But it was good — damn good!  She began to smile and exude warmth. She was no longer alone up there.  When that isolation subsides, good speakers emerge.  And she did.

She began to embrace the audience and they her. It will be referred to as a “workman” type speech and “effective.”  It was these things.  But, it was also a speech about who she is and what she wants to do. It was about where she came from and the values instilled in her by hard-working parents. There were no gratuitous stories, only real ones.  She lambasted Donald Trump, not simply because he is her adversary, but because he is not who he claims to be.

Hillary Clinton focused on the positive, credited President Obama and Vice President Biden and all leaders who’ve made America stronger.  She did this while skillfully sharing what still needs to be done.

She did not seek to please everyone by playing it safe.  “If you believe” she said before each pillar of her platform, “then join us.”  She laughed, she connected, and while I would have had her smiling sooner, the result was a much needed look at the real Hillary Clinton. Tonight we heard from a woman who wants us to know that we can trust her with our futures. She did that well and looked radiant in the process.

The first female presidential candidate from a leading political party gave a strong speech, intellectual and from the heart, about her but more about us. It was history in the making, and it was memorable —  a long time coming and worth every minute of the wait — a credit to so many women who worked to make this possible — who would no doubt love to have been on this earth still to witness what we did tonight.

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“Class Act” Revived at the DNC

The term “class act” came to mind repeatedly tonight as speaker after speaker stood at the Democratic National Convention podium and reminded us of what truly matters. And we probably needed it. Last week we witnessed consecutive rants about fear and strangers trying to steal our livelihoods. Not tonight. This evening was about America already being great. It was about coming together to do what’s right — no matter your political party affiliation, about trying, as President Obama said, even if it means making mistakes. Tonight was about the bigger picture presented to us with sincerity, piercing the bubble of hype.  It was about rejecting “malarkey,” as Joe Biden labeled the kind of faceless fear dished out daily by Donald Trump. It was a breath of fresh air. Most of all, it was good to see and hear exceptional speeches presented with admirable sincerity. Tonight we saw one class act after another. Let’s hope young people were watching because class is passed on. It’s something we learn from the people who raise us, who teach us and who inspire us. Tonight we were reminded that it is not a thing of the past.

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Meryl Streep — The “Real Deal” Hillary

Meryl Streep starts this introduction of Hillary Clinton by mentioning how tough we can be on women. That’s not sour grapes. It’s supported by extensive research. Our choices in clothes, facial expressions, gestures, and walk, to name a few, are subject to far more criticism than typically levied at men.

Our choices are “marked,” as Deborah Tannen has pointed out. We are punished socially for tooting our own horns — and so we often start demurring at a young age and continue to do so during adulthood. Streep reminds us of this. She doesn’t say or imply “poor women.” Not at all. She simply points out that it’s tough being a female role model. We expect so much. We notice so much that isn’t to our particular liking.

That doesn’t stop Hillary Clinton. On that alone she is a role model for girls and women. You should view this video and perhaps ask yourself if you’ve fallen into the habit common in our society, across the world, of being especially critical of small choices women make that shouldn’t matter at all.  Then take that knowledge to your work and volunteer endeavors.  If you’re a woman, let some of these criticisms roll off.  If you’re a man, try not to let the cut of a woman’s hair or the choice of her outfit influence your impression for long.  Look deeper.  That’s the challenge we all face with gender biased perceptions.  Meryl Streep issued a much needed wake-up call on how they can inadvertently cloud our judgment and distract us from seeing what truly matters.

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Scary Lines in Donald Trump’s Convention Speech

Experts might reasonably agree that Donald Trump’s convention speech was too long. By the time he finished, it was difficult to remember what he’d promised.

His conviction was evident.  To his additional credit, he made efforts to identify with his audience — as persuasive speakers tend to do.  He demonstrated a pinch of humility and added a dash of humor when admitting he wasn’t sure he deserved evangelical support.

Repetition of key points can be useful in speeches.  He employed this strategy.  But, he took it too far with regard to his repeated emphasis on  law and order. He topped this off with a promise scarily lacking specifics:

“Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied and every politician who has denied them to listen very closely to the words I am about to say: On January 20 of 2017, the day I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced.”

Will laws be enforced by locking up more people, especially the mentally ill?  One implication is flexibility in law enforcement will cease.  Are we to assume there will be no more warnings given out for minor infractions?  Break the law and you’re going down!

Trump’s confidence in his ability to dictate immediate change, rather than work with a Congress never mentioned in the speech, bordered on delusional.

Conviction is a plus in public speaking. Pride to a fault is not. The latter is especially evident in this excerpt:

“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

How does he know the system better than anyone else? Has he been part of its worst elements? How is it that only he can fix it?  Where is the support for such a claim?  It was hubris run amuck — a step too, too far.

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Keeping On Track When Others Disagree With You

As a former debater and having studied persuasion and negotiation my entire career, I enjoy disagreeing without being disagreeable. That situation is harder to find nowadays. Even the best intentions at dinner gatherings can lead to dispute. So, here is another angle on avoiding contentiousness from an interview I did with Today.com.

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Does Electing a Female U.S. President Matter?

“Tonight’s victory is not about one person,” Clinton said when she became the presumptive nominee of her party this week. “It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”

There are those who argue that gender doesn’t matter, that competence does — as if the two are mutually exclusive. If anyone knows how much competence counts, it’s the countless women who’ve struggled to make it to the top of their fields.

Women represent only 20% of the U.S. Congress. One hundred years ago the first woman was elected to Congress.  It took all those years for a major U.S. political party to nominate a woman for president.  As Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar told CNN, politics has been a “macho sport.”  If you want to make it to the top in that arena, you can’t be all things to all people.

As Erin O’Brien, co-editor of Diversity in Contemporary American Politics and chair of political science at UMass Boston said of Hillary Clinton:  “There is no denying that she is ‘badass.’ And that’s a good thing. It got her here. Wounded in some ways, disliked by many, but firmly at the fore. The first realistic female president had no other path.”

We are often unaware of our own cultural biases with regard to appropriate roles for women and men.  Most girls learn early that sounding too sure of themselves will make them unpopular with their peers.  Yet, those who demure are perceived at lacking leadership potential.  So, women try to walk what I’ve described as the thin pink line. Eventually, however, we learn that sticking to that line, especially when leadership is required, is a good way to derail a career — to suppress the best we have to offer.

Males and females also use and perceive language differently, adding to the challenge.  A stated observation by a man may be perceived as a complaint when expressed by a woman. We are, after all, creatures of habit and products of the contexts in which we develop.

We should celebrate when highly competent women pave the way, crack the glass ceiling, traverse the rugged terrain.  With each bold step detrimental biases and limiting parameters for behavior are questioned — not only for women but for men as well.

So, does it matter that history was made this week? Yes. It is indicative of progress — of a recognition of our emergence from being unable to think beyond stereotypes.

Is being female enough to be a great president? No. But it’s exciting to think that maybe today we’re closer to it no longer being enough to stop us.

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