Friday, May 30, 2008

June 2, 2008—Great Leaders Have the Same Qualities


Consider This for June 2, 2008—Great Leaders Have the Same Qualities

Last Wednesday morning before I flew back to the United States I spent some time in the El Banco Central Museo in Cuenca, Ecuador looking at the history of that southern Andes city.

There is one floor where the former leaders of the country are presented. There are portraits of the presidents and the founders including Simon Bolivar. There are displays of uniforms and military paintings. All of this is described in detail on plaques next to the displays.

As I read the information I was struck with the similarities between what was happening in Ecuador in the 19th Century and what was going on in the United States during the same period. As a historian I would depict it as the period of unrest following the original revolution.

There is a management theory that describes it best. It is used for groups and organizations but can be used for countries too including the United States and Ecuador or for that matter all of the countries in the western hemisphere during this period.

The stages are called “Forming, Storming and Norming.” You can find it described in various terms but it really relates to the birthing of a nation, the forming of a group, a company or an idea.

I also considered the character and personality of the original leaders of Ecuador as compared to the original leaders of the United States.

As a point of disclaimer before someone wants to complain about what I am going to say, I do not present this as an original thought or idea. I do not lay claim to any of this as it has taken me years of reading and listening to many authors to come to some of my conclusions.

I doubt if any one author would agree with my thesis but many would and can find their own theories in what I have to say.

Great leaders have certain common characteristics.

Great leaders have a passion for leadership. They have found their passion and have learned to focus on that passion. They have a vision for the future and a plan on how to achieve that vision. Great leaders are all very intelligent. They are all excellent politicians within and without their group.

They have visions. And yes I am saying that they see things that no one else can see. They can see into the future. They know what is around the next turn without having anyone tell them.

Mediocre leaders are reactionary. They wait for a problem to present itself and then work to solve that problem at the moment. They are not forward thinking. They are part of the problem and not part of the solution. They do not consider the future. They can only see just past the end of their nose.

One of the very best examples of what I am talking about would be a study of famous generals. Few are in the first category and most are in the second group. I am not going to name names but you get my point. Most of the generals in the second group ended up losing major battles or actually getting killed in the process. Many of the generals in the first group went on to become presidents or world leaders in other capacities. You can name them as well as I can.

I would also say that the great leaders are also found in sports or industry. They all have the same qualities and would never have achieved their goals without those basic characteristics.

I thought about all of this as I studied the information about the former leaders of Ecuador and what made them great leaders.

Later that day I was watching CNN International in English in my home in Cuenca and considered each of the candidates for President of the United States. Can we believe that John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have those qualities of great leaders? Or how many ex-presidents can you think of who had those qualities.

Think about what I have said and then hold each candidate up to the light and ask that same question. Great leaders can be great politicians but great politicians are not always great leaders.

Monday, May 26, 2008

May 26, 2008 Happiness is Not an Entitlement


Consider This for May 26, 2008-Happiness is Not an Entitlement

An entitlement is just that. It is something that everyone believes that he or she is entitled to in life. As Americans we all believe there are certain things that we are entitled to as we trundle around this big blue ball.

Many of our entitlements are found in our great United States Constitution. You can define for yourself what you believe the Constitution means by Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

It is the last part that has most people stumped. It is the pursuit of happiness that is guaranteed in the constitution and not happiness itself. You are given the right to go after happiness but happiness is not guaranteed in the constitution or anywhere else. It kind of shatters the American Dream for some people.

I am now closer to 70 than 60. When you get as old as I am you have the opportunity to see how you did in the pursuit of happiness and how much the government did or did not have to do with that pursuit.

I have now lived in Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador for extended periods of time. In each country I lived with a local family and not in a hotel or any other place with the comforts of the United States.

You cannot believe the culture shock and how much you learn to appreciate your opportunity to pursue happiness in America.

Simple things like having hot water, central heat and/or cooling become very evident when they do not exist. Some things that we take for granted like a hot shower or being able to wash and dry your clothes are no longer available. You learn how to adjust very quickly.

I laugh when someone tells me about being in a third world country for a period of time and getting angry when room service can’t bring extra towels when asked. One friend of mine once told me that if I went to a certain country to stay I should take my own towels because the hotel never provided enough. I felt so sad for him and not the hotel or the country. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have been his mother. He was in his 50s and still acting like a demanding child.

I had one instructor in Guatemala who made $1 at day to teach me for eight hours. What she did at the school was considered a great job because many of her peers did not have any job. I did leave her a sizable tip when I left and when I asked her what she did with the money she told me that she had paid her water bill. She was married with four children and her husband did not work.

One of the classes that I teach is Sociology and I often consider each culture that I visit from the perspective of a sociologist. There is a danger when someone like me comes from a country like America and then makes comparisons. There are no comparisons. It is up to you to accept their culture, to never judge and to not try to change their culture.

One thing that is very obvious is that in our American culture that holds us together is our diversity. Believe it or not the lower class in our society is just as important as the upper class in making our country strong. The fact that we have a diverse society that includes a lower class, a middle class and an upper class is part of the glue that holds us together.

That is why there is a major danger in losing our middle class in resort communities the way it has happened in other Colorado resort areas.

In many third world countries there is no middle class. You are either extremely poor or extremely rich. There is no in between.

There is no true pursuit of happiness. You only have the pursuit of enough to eat for that day before you have to move on to finding food for the next day. How was your dinner last night? Did you get enough to eat? Did you find happiness?

Monday, May 19, 2008

May 19, 2008—The Future is Our Children


Consider This for May 19, 2008—The Future is Our Children

I walk to my school here in Ecuador around 7:30 am each morning. That is about the same time that the entire population of Cuenca under the age of twelve is walking to school also. I come home from school for lunch at about noon exactly the same time that the same groups of school children are leaving to walk home for lunch too. It is so bad at times that I will actually change my route to avoid the crowds.

Families and children in Ecuador take education seriously and are very supportive of the system as it exists in Cuenca.

I sometimes laugh when I hear people complain about having to pay for our wonderful free public education system in the United States. People look at their tax bill and start to question the part about schools. They just don’t get it. Maybe in their case our wonderful free public education system didn’t work. They did not learn even the most basic things when they were in school.

It has nothing to do with charter schools or religious schools or private schools. It has to do with what our forefathers decided to do a long time ago to ensure that this great nation would continue to be great.

About 70% of our education bill in Summit County is paid by second home owners who do not have now or ever will have any children in our schools. They are in effect subsidizing our educational system without realizing any direct or personal benefit.

Let’s hear it for the second home owners.

I also hear from retired persons who complain about having to fund public education while, even though they live in the county, they do not have any children or grandchildren in the schools. They will tell me that is a waste of their money.

The other group that really hacks me off is the people who put their children in a religious or private school and then feel they should get their school tax money back because they do not use the system. That is the nexus of the voucher system that I fought against at the capitol for three years. If people want to not use the public schools then that is fine but not to the detriment of the children whose parents cannot afford a private education.

People with a good education will someday be able to come up with solutions to global warming and for all those poor souls stuck on I 70 in what has to be the worst transportation system in the world.

The skeleton of any sustainable community is the infrastructure. Just look at the way roads are built and maintained today and compare that with the way they were built and maintained in the 1950’s. Little or nothing has changed.

I am also reminded of a couple of old friends who aspire to a more radical approach. One would tell you that if you don’t fix the road then no one will speed and lives will be saved. I should make up a name for this approach and then write a book about the unintended consequences of that solution.

Another friend would say just stop building roads altogether. If we did that then people would stop coming to the mountains and all of the problems of transportation would be solved. No people equals no cars.

Of course there is the idea that I proposed several years ago when people were complaining about campground fees. I told several people and actually wrote about the future being very large parking lots on I 70 where you could park your car and then look into the National Forest. Yes, look into the forest and never set foot into the forest. We would have perfect forest management where you just let the forest just sit there unused.

Of course all three ideas are unworkable and the only true solution is to train up some bright minds in our schools to solve the problems today for future generations. When you truly think about the alternatives you will realize that we must continue to fund education at the highest level possible.

Monday, May 12, 2008

May 12, 2008—Love is a Family Value


Consider This for May 12, 2008—Love is a Family Value

Sometimes I feel like a foreign correspondent. Three years ago I was writing from San Miquel de Allende, Mexico. Last year I was writing from San Pedro, Guatemala and this year I am writing from Cuenca, Ecuador. Seems like the more time that goes by the further south I get. Maybe it has something to do with this last winter.

On each of my trips I have lived with a local family for a month.

In Mexico I lived with a very wealthy older couple in their huge expensive home. I have never felt more isolated.

In Guatemala I lived with a peasant family in a very poor area. It was mom, dad and me along with their eight children. We never ate together and there was not enough food to go around.

Here in Ecuador I hit the jackpot. I am living with a dentist and his wife in a very nice home high on a hill overlooking the city. They have plenty of food and can afford all of the nice things in life. They also have four grown children who are all professionals. They all have advanced degrees and are very successful.

And all of that brings me to why love is a family value.

I have never felt or seen so much love in one place that I do in this home. Instead of feeling isolated as I was in Mexico my family here actually invites me to eat in the kitchen with them

On Sunday the family had a huge family dinner with at least twenty people seated at the table. It was mom, dad, four grown children, their husbands and wives and more children than I could count.

Everyone talked at once. It was pandemonium filled with love. The children were acting like children making a lot of noise, not sitting still and running around the house. Not once did anyone correct them or ask them to calm down. I have never seen children loved so much.

There was lots of kissing and hugging among the family members and the children. It was not stilted or affected. It was a very real expression of emotion.

I found out later that the family comes over for dinner two days a week. Imagine that? The mother did all of the cooking but both the men and women helped with serving everything. No complaints and everyone just did what needed to be done.

No one got up to go into the other room to watch soccer. The women did not gather in the kitchen to talk alone. I got the feeling that if anyone left the room the others would be offended.

Love is a family value. Hate is not a family value as the bumper sticker announces.

When I was facilitating the Tough Love group in Summit County a few years ago the parents that I worked with would always ask, “What did I do to go so very wrong?” Their child was in prison or in jail and they blamed themselves for the situation.

I guess I should have asked the question, “When was the last time you had dinner with your children?” “When was the last time you ate dinner together without having the television on in the other room?”

I guess the reason that I am so smart is that I probably made all of the mistakes. My family very seldom ate together. For years all four of us went to the four winds all day long and would sometimes go to bed without ever talking to each other. That was wrong.

If you are having problems in your family or if you wonder where the love is at home take a few minutes and look in the mirror and you can see the person responsible for the problem and the person who can solve the problem.

Get your entire extended family together along with some great food. Lock the door and turn off the television and love each other the way my family in Ecuador does a couple times a week.


Sometimes I feel like a foreign correspondent. Three years ago I was writing from San Miquel de Allende, Mexico. Last year I was writing from San Pedro, Guatemala and this year I am writing from Cuenca, Ecuador. Seems like the more time that goes by the further south I get. Maybe it has something to do with this last winter.

On each of my trips I have lived with a local family for a month.

In Mexico I lived with a very wealthy older couple in their huge expensive home. I have never felt more isolated.

In Guatemala I lived with a peasant family in a very poor area. It was mom, dad and me along with their eight children. We never ate together and there was not enough food to go around.

Here in Ecuador I hit the jackpot. I am living with a dentist and his wife in a very nice home high on a hill overlooking the city. They have plenty of food and can afford all of the nice things in life. They also have four grown children who are all professionals. They all have advanced degrees and are very successful.

And all of that brings me to why love is a family value.

I have never felt or seen so much love in one place that I do in this home. Instead of feeling isolated as I was in Mexico my family here actually invites me to eat in the kitchen with them

On Sunday the family had a huge family dinner with at least twenty people seated at the table. It was mom, dad, four grown children, their husbands and wives and more children than I could count.

Everyone talked at once. It was pandemonium filled with love. The children were acting like children making a lot of noise, not sitting still and running around the house. Not once did anyone correct them or ask them to calm down. I have never seen children loved so much.

There was lots of kissing and hugging among the family members and the children. It was not stilted or affected. It was a very real expression of emotion.

I found out later that the family comes over for dinner two days a week. Imagine that? The mother did all of the cooking but both the men and women helped with serving everything. No complaints and everyone just did what needed to be done.

No one got up to go into the other room to watch soccer. The women did not gather in the kitchen to talk alone. I got the feeling that if anyone left the room the others would be offended.

Love is a family value. Hate is not a family value as the bumper sticker announces.

When I was facilitating the Tough Love group in Summit County a few years ago the parents that I worked with would always ask, “What did I do to go so very wrong?” Their child was in prison or in jail and they blamed themselves for the situation.

I guess I should have asked the question, “When was the last time you had dinner with your children?” “When was the last time you ate dinner together without having the television on in the other room?”

I guess the reason that I am so smart is that I probably made all of the mistakes. My family very seldom ate together. For years all four of us went to the four winds all day long and would sometimes go to bed without ever talking to each other. That was wrong.

If you are having problems in your family or if you wonder where the love is at home take a few minutes and look in the mirror and you can see the person responsible for the problem and the person who can solve the problem.

Get your entire extended family together along with some great food. Lock the door and turn off the television and love each other the way my family in Ecuador does a couple times a week.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ecuador May 5-6, 2008


Ecuador 3 May 5-6, 2008

The past couple of days have been very busy for me in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Yesterday, May 5 was my first day in school. I am taking four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. I arrive at the school at 8 am, leave at noon and return at 1:30 pm and stay until 5:30 pm. It is about two miles one way to school through the entire width of the city.

All of the schools I have attended have been mini United Nations. There is a young lady staying in my house. Her name is Julie and she is from Toronto originally but now lives in Vancouver where she attends graduate school. She spent a couple of months last year travelling in Peru and Chile. Her Spanish is not too good but she is trying hard. She is in the process of completing her thesis also. Her major is environmental engineering. Both of her parents are engineers.

Everyone here hates George Bush. Who I will vote for is one of the most favorite questions. I am watching CNN International. It is out of London but they simulcast regular CNN so I can watch the North Carolina and Indiana returns.

My morning instructor is a young woman Yadira Ordonez who is married to a liquor store clerk. They have four boys. She is very patient and gentle. She takes her time when I can’t grasp something.

My afternoon instructor is a young law school student Edwin. He is very intelligent but does not have any patience. That gets a tad stressful at times.

The school building is wooden and probably over 100 years old. It is very well preserved and well maintained. It reminds me of many museums I have been in at times.

My host family lives high on a hill above the city with great views. That is the good news. The bad news is that I have to climb that hill twice a day. I turned 66 last Saturday and it is getting to be more difficult each day. I still do 6 to 9 miles a day on the treadmill at home but it is relatively flat. This is much different. It takes me about 20 minutes to make the trip one way.

There are at least eight large catholic churches here and I walk by all of them. Each has their own elementary and high school. All of the students wear uniforms. They look great. Some schools wear blazers and others wear t shirts. This is my third month long Spanish School and is far superior to the others. I would highly recommend it to anyone. The city is very progressive with few if any slums. The people are super nice to everyone. There are hundreds of stores where you can buy just about anything. I have been looking for an internet store but have not found one that stays open after 5 pm. I am on the verge of not eating lunch and doing my Internet stuff then.

I will try to get back to once a day so these are not so long. g

Monday, May 5, 2008

May 5, 2008—Let’s Have a Tax Revolt


Consider This for May 5, 2008—Let’s Have a Tax Revolt

The other night I got hungry and had an urge to get Kentucky Fried Chicken. That one only hits me about every six months so no problem with the various potential side effects.

I bought the $11.99 eight piece bucket. The voice at the other end of the ordering speaker told me the total was $12.92. I had to wait a minute at the window for my order and was considering the fact that there was almost $1.00 in sales tax for an $11.99 meal.

I asked the young lady at the window for a receipt and then came home to calculate the tax on my chicken. The tax was actually 93 cents which was 7.75 % of the original price of $11.99. That is 11.625 cents per piece of chicken.

Later that night I was watching the 10:00 p.m. news and listened to a report that the City of Lakewood had eliminated their sales tax on food. They did that in response to the looming world food crises and to reduce the burden on their citizens during these hard economic times. What a great thing to do for your taxpayers.

I remember many years ago that there was not a sales tax on any food items. Then the law changed and the state allowed local governments to tax food if they chose to do so.

I know that most Summit County residents feel that the majority of sales tax is paid by tourists. That is true if you look at the bulk of the tax collected but we all pay sales tax. Even the so called undocumented illegal aliens pay sales tax. You can’t avoid it.

In fact if you are poor you pay a higher percentage of your income in sales tax than if you are wealthy.

There are three levels of government in the United States: the Federal Government in Washington D.C.; the Colorado State Government in Denver, and local government consisting of your town government, your county government and special districts.

The Federal Government gets most of its money from income tax. Yes there are other things like gas tax and tariffs but I want to keep this simple.

The State Government gets most of its money from sales tax and income tax. And yes there are other places the money come from but remember the key word, simple.

Local government, the county and the towns, gets most of its money from property tax and sales tax. The special districts make their money through a property tax and fees. Some special districts never collect any property tax while others collect a lot. The biggest property tax consumers are the school districts.

Now here comes the rub. Colorado has one of the lowest property tax rates in the nation. Those of us who have moved here from other states know that is very true. So when you complain about your tax bill maybe you should go back to where you came from and check out those numbers.

With the majority of our permanent population in Summit County not living in any town the disparity becomes even greater.

This is not always true but it does happen. If you buy something from Eddie Bauer, Sears, Land’s End or any other catalog or on-line retailer and the item is either shipped or mailed to an address indicating a town (They all do.) then that company will automatically charge you town sales tax and pay that tax back to the town. That is taxation without representation. I have complained to the towns and they just smile and walk away.

The Department of Revenue told me that there isn’t an address data base to indicate where people live and it only shows the address where they get their mail. Remember the Boston Tea Party? Maybe it is time to dump this process in Dillon Reservoir.

Or to lessen the burden on our year-round permanent citizens and taxpayers let’s remove the sales tax on food for a start. That sound you just heard was the three towns with big box grocery stores gasping.