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Perspective on Public Statements

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As I sit here on a Saturday morning with my coffee having just read the morning paper, the old guy in me feels like he has seen some of the news before.  This happens when you are my age and cycles of social behavior start to repeat themselves.  What I’m referring to is Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49er and his attempt to draw attention to his concern by kneeling during the national anthem recently. 

Perspective on Public Statements

Being a child of the 60s it felt for just a moment like a flashback moment if you had lived through those tumultuous times. This incident wouldn’t have even made the papers.  Let me give you a few headlines:


On June 27, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The bar’s patrons, sick of being subjected to harassment and discrimination, fought back: For five days, rioters took to the streets in protest. “The word is out,” one protester said. “[We] have had it with oppression.” Historians believe that this “Stonewall Rebellion” marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.


Just as black power became the new focus of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, other groups were growing similarly impatient with incremental reforms. Student activists grew more radical. They took over college campuses, organized massive antiwar demonstrations and occupied parks and other public places. Some even made bombs and set campus buildings on fire. At the same time, young women who had read The Feminine Mystique, celebrated the passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act and joined the moderate National Organization for Women were also increasingly annoyed with the slow progress of reform. They too became more militant.

The counterculture also seemed to grow more outlandish as the decade wore on. Some young people “dropped out” of political life altogether. These “hippies” grew their hair long and practiced “free love.” Some moved to communes, away from the turbulence that had come to define everyday life in the 1960s.


The optimistic ‘60s went sour in 1968. That year, the brutal North Vietnamese Tet Offensive convinced many people that the Vietnam War would be impossible to win. The Democratic Party split, and at the end of March, Johnson went on television to announce that he was ending his reelection campaign. (Richard Nixon, chief spokesman for the silent majority, won the election that fall.) Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the two most visible leftists in American politics, were assassinated. Police used tear gas and billy clubs to break up protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Furious antiwar protestors took over Columbia University in New York as well as the Sorbonne in Paris and the Free University in Berlin. And the urban riots that had erupted across the country every summer since 1964 continued and intensified.

Ah, good times!  For those of us who were there, it felt a little like the world was unraveling bit by bit and each day.  We got to see it on the news and read it in the paper.  Thank goodness we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  The emotional trauma would have been hard to handle.  We (the children of that time) have fallen into three camps; the ones who protested (true flag burners), the ones who went off to serve, and the ones who watched from the sidelines.  Curiously, now many of us have taken roles in the society that we mocked as “The Man.”  Have we improved upon the work of our predecessors? I will leave that to true historians.

What isn’t mentioned is that it was also a time for some of the best music, robust economic times and personal freedoms in generations and we put a man on the moon.  The women’s movement was born here as was the first generation fight to regain nation pride, truly equal rights for people of color and while there is still progress to be made on all fronts, it would not have happened if not for those individual leaders.  Those individuals who were not going to bullied and clung desperately and defiantly to their beliefs.  They stood up straight and tall and “took a stand.” These dramatic changes were not a coincidence. This was and is American cause and effect.  The founding fathers designed it this way.

So, back to sitting during the National Anthem.  You may never hear or see a stronger patriot then me and I believe that Colin Kaepernick’s right to sit and make a statement for the rights of people of color is just fine. My country can and has endured much greater strains than this one. In fact, I believe that Colin did the perfectly American thing. We can easily be lulled to sleep thinking that we are some sort of current day Atlantis reincarnate. A shake from time to time is good for us.

I will bring this little editorial to a close with a quote that Brene’ Brown reminded me of in a recent video.

Perspective on Public Statements

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and  blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt April 23, 1910

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Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



Submit A Comment:


Hello Ralph...I hope you are well. I too am a strong patriot for many reasons. However, I was filled with anger as Kaepernick’s sat during the National Anthem. After reading your article, you once again have sparked new thoughts and insights as you have done so many times before. Thank you for lessening my anger by looking at this situation in a different light. I will not change my strong beliefs but will certainly view this situation in a different light.
Rhonda Hebert


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