2016 will be my 40th high school reunion, and as I pondered it, 70’s icons began to flood my mind.
Mork from Ork (Robin Williams for Millennials reading this!) made rainbow-colored suspenders and painter pants wildly popular (yes, I had both). Laugh-In tackled current issues with a cheerful cheekiness that made a silly phrase so popular that even Richard Nixon came on the show to say “Sock it to ME?”
Utter the words “I’d like to teach the world to sing” and baby boomers immediately see people from every nation and every background holding hands in “perfect harmony.” The song immediately becomes an earworm of warm and fuzzy feelings.
But “have a nice day” and its smiley face icon (the fore bearer of today’s emoji’s) is the most iconic symbol of the 70’s. It was everywhere, conveying a virtually universal desire to bless others with good wishes. This made me ponder what this year’s graduates will look back on in 2056 as the most iconic symbol from their high school years. I am afraid that the odds are way too high that it will be “grumpy cat.”
It is not just that grumpy cat memes are funny and dominate the Internet, but they really do capture our general grumpiness as a society right now. Hatefulness and obstructionism instead of optimism and solution seeking in national politics have infiltrated local government. Race baiting and name calling is becoming routine discourse. Disagreement has become justification for demonization.
It is not just that we are grumpy and acting out that grumpiness in how we treat other people as a society. We are increasingly accepting as normative ever-more ridiculous explanations by leaders trying to justify mean-spirited and anti-social behavior by themselves and their followers. Somewhere along the way we have equated treating people with dignity and respect with political correctness. The result is a stunning loss of civility.
Authentic servant leaders treat everyone with dignity and respect – especially those they disagree with. Authentic servant leaders nurture compromise more than collision. Authentic servant leaders think more about the next generation than the next election.
It is not just nostalgia that makes me yearn for more servant leaders who want “to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”