Lessons For the New Year From John Parker and Smedley Butler!

During my years as a manager we frequently used the phrase “hold them accountable.” At first one would think that it was a phrase alluding to punishment, but it was not. What we tried to do was create an environment where people would feel comfortable with taking a risk to meet their customer’s needs. The Customer being the next person in the supply chain. The accountability was to ensure the needs of the customer were met, and ensure a decentralized decision process was encouraged. Follow through and execution of the plan was critical.

I am a minor history buff, and love little nuggets of truth that appear in the various books I have read dealing. I’d like to relate two of these little nuggets to you today. The first is from 1865 and the second 1933. In both cases a lack of accountability is evident, and both involve the United States government. What has made me think about this was a comment I read this morning in the book “Killing Lincoln.” It was a comment concerning John Parker the body guard of President Lincoln the night he was shot. Parker had left his post at Ford’s theater to have a drink and never returned, and “incredibly he will never be punished for this gross dereliction of duty.” Amazing, here is a guy who was supposed to be guarding the President of the United States and he goes to have a drink. John Wilkes Booth was able to have direct access to President Lincoln and assassinate him.

The fact that Parker was never held accountable for his actions is mind boggling, but this also made me think about another historical event in which the perpetrators were never prosecuted. This one occurred in 1933, it was named the Business Plot. It appears, according to conspiracy theorists, that people from Chase Bank, Goodyear, Standard Oil, the Dupont family, and Senator Prescott Bush were upset with President Roosevelt’s plan to redistribute wealth in the United States. According to the story they hired General Smedley Butler to lead a Fascist overthrow of the United States government. They promised Butler an army of 500,000 soldiers to accomplish this task. General Hugh S. Johnson was to be installed as dictator. Even though this event is considered credible it was hard to prove, and no one was ever held accountable.

It makes me question what could have been? What would have happened if Parker stayed at his post? What if Butler had said yes, instead of exposing the conspiracy? Why wasn’t Parker, or any of the very powerful individuals in 1933, held accountable? What if, what if, what if?

We can live our lives wondering what if, but that is not healthy. The fact is Parker left his post, and our nation went from the best President in our history to the worst in Andrew Johnson. Another fact is Butler did expose the conspiracy, and our government is in tact today. Historical events have made us what we are today, both for good and bad. Although FDR’s plan to redistribute wealth in this country was not a success, we have become the richest nation in the world, and although Booth wanted the South to rise, we are a strong unified nation (although current congressional performance my not support this comment).

Even as our nation has become what it is as a result of historical experience, so do we as individuals. Our lesson for the new year is to stop looking at the past, thinking about what could have been, and look to the future, as what can be. New starts are wonderful. We are now heading into 2012, and I can promise you one thing, new things will happen to, with, and for you. En Carpe Diem, seize the day my friend.

And that is my thought for the day!


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