What campus visitors are saying
Political analyst Juan Williams likens America more to a salad bowl than a melting pot. You can see the lettuce, tomatoes, onions and carrots because they all retain their own identity.
“This gives us a sense of why we remain apart,” said Williams, who notes that assimilation is not the goal of many immigrants today. “It creates a great degree of anxiety and discomfort in the American mind.”
As part of the Maverick Speakers Series in October, the senior national correspondent for National Public Radio and Fox News Channel contributor examined demographic changes and their impact on the 2008 presidential election. In addition to the growth of ethnic minorities, Williams cited the rise in power among women and the divide between generations as pivotal issues.
“If you look at this presidential election and so many of the congressional races around the country, you’re looking at the influence of generational conflict and generational power that’s being split as never before,” he said.
The trends that are transforming America will grow even larger and present a more compelling challenge, he said, and engaged community leaders must be prepared to shape the country’s future.
“This really is a moment when we can have conversations, create coalitions and organize to create a different kind of future for America, one that takes us to a higher level.”
Baseball and leadership
Confronting an umpire in Japan’s professional baseball league was a lesson in patience for Trey Hillman.
“I would argue in English and then wait for the interpreter,” said Hillman (’91 BA), who spent five seasons managing the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before the Kansas City Royals hired him in 2007. “The interpretation would take about five times as long as I did, and sometimes I’d forget what I was going to say next.”
In addition to telling stories about his career, the 2008 Distinguished Alumnus outlined three keys to leadership last fall during the 25th Anderson Sport Performance Lecture in Lone Star Auditorium.
First, exude confidence and tell the truth. He says many leaders have trouble being honest because their egos are too big. He keeps his in check, he said, by surrounding himself with people who aren’t afraid to challenge his decisions.
Second, control the timing and presentation of your message. When a player makes an error, never chastise him in front of the team. When the time is right, speak to the player in a firm but non-intimidating manner.
Third, favor conversation over confrontation.
“My rule of thumb is that I will always start out with a conversation,” Hillman said. “If you start out confrontationally, most of the time your message won’t be heard.”
Lessons on diversity
Ethnic studies scholar Ronald Takaki traces the making of multicultural America to the 1800s.
“Many of us are here because of what happened in the 19th century,” the professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley said at UT Arlington in November.
What happened is that 4 million Irish and 500,000 Chinese immigrated to the United States. Their work in cotton mills and on railroads led to a connectedness among ethnic groups that included Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, African-Americans and Mexicans.
“The Transcontinental Railroad, one of the great achievements of industrializing America, was the achievement of immigrant workers from Ireland and China,” he said. “This diversity is what built the modern economy we enjoy today.”
The grandson of immigrant Japanese plantation workers, Dr. Takaki visited UT Arlington as part of the Maverick Speakers Series. In addition to examining 19th century migrations across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, he told the audience that it’s inaccurate to say Americans are European in ancestry.
“We can look at our own faces here in this room and know that not all of us came from Europe, and we are all Americans.”
Takaki has taught more than 20,000 students and written a dozen books. His A Different Mirror won the American Book Award and has sold half a million copies.
The genius of Lincoln
Doris Kearns Goodwin says nothing matters more to historians than bringing the people they write about to life.
“So if there’s any chance that writing about Abraham Lincoln has given Barack Obama some thought about the kind of inclusive cabinet that he might want to create, it’s a pretty wonderful feeling,” she told a Texas Hall audience in November.
Part of the Maverick Speakers Series, Goodwin discussed her book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author outlined 10 leadership qualities that made Lincoln successful, including listening to differing points of view, sharing credit for successes, profiting from his mistakes and understanding his weaknesses.
She said Lincoln created the most unusual cabinet in presidential history by appointing rivals William Seward, Salmon Chase, Edward Bates and Edwin Stanton to high-ranking positions. He molded them into a team that won the war, saved the union and ended slavery.
“This is relevant for our new president,” she said. “He has read Team of Rivals, but more importantly, he has thought about Abraham Lincoln and has promised to try to make an inclusive cabinet of not only his rivals, but of people who are Republicans as well as Democrats in order to meet the crises of the day.”