News

That Guy

So, not wanting to miss out of the “Event of the Week”, That Guy attended Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge’s speech in Burden Hall last week. Unfortunately, I’m not the avid note taker that most of the news writers are. What does that mean? Sometimes I was writing instead of listening, and sometimes I was resting with my eyes closed (that’s right, resting: I can’t imagine who would fall asleep at such a momentous event…), so I only really got down portions of the Secretary’s speech.

I was worried, because I thought this would prevent me from being able to write the story. But since I at least had some quotes written down, I realized that I could just look at my notes and fill in the implicit questions that he must have been answering. So here’s my interpretation of how the speech would have gone as an interview, with That Guy providing the questions:

That Guy: I’m working like a dog at HBS. People keep telling me it gets easier, but it doesn’t. On top of that, I have no job prospects for the summer, and I’m feeling a bit depressed. Who can I turn to?

Secretary Ridge: Nobody loves you more than your mother.

TG: Good point, I’ll call her after the interview. I was also wondering if my education at HBS was really worthwhile?

SR: My father always said that education was the road to empowerment.

TG: Nice job kissing up to the administration, why did you feel the need to do that?

SR: When I was driving up to the campus, two words came to mind, “Eminent Domain”.

TG: Ah, gotcha. Listen, I’ve really enjoyed this line of questioning, but why don’t you just throw a bunch of unintelligible numbers at me for a while.

Secretary Ridge: We had to bring together 22 agencies employing more than 180,000 people… Each day we monitor 9,500 miles of coastline, 7,000 miles of border, 1.5 million passengers at airports, 2.5 million pieces of luggage…..

TG: Hmmm, I’m sure you could go on all day, and I appreciate that, but in the interest of time and my sanity, why don’t we shift gears a bit? Would you be able to give me a colorful anecdote about a horse?

SR: Adlai Stevenson once said, “It is hard to lead a cavalry charge when you think you look funny on a horse.”

TG: Perfect, that is exactly what I was looking for. Well, since this little meeting was set up by the Leadership and Values Club, why don’t you hit me with a little adage straight out of our Leadership and Organizational Behavior class from first term?

SR: Titles do not equal leadership. Titles establish a chain of command, and that can get you as far as compliance, but it will never get you true commitment.

TG: Wow, that was good stuff. How about another one?

SR: A good leader has to be a good listener.

TG: Again, exactly what I was looking for. I want to shift the line of questioning a bit now to the topic on everyone’s mind. Tell me why I can’t identify with terrorists.

SR: Terrorists don’t share our values.

TG: Ohhhh, I knew there was some reason I couldn’t relate to them, but I just never quite put my finger on it. Obviously, this is why you are in charge. Tell me, what are some of the day-to-day issues you face in your job?

SR: We are undergoing the largest change management ever. We are consolidating 22 divisions that had disparate HR departments, payroll systems, procurement departments, etc.

TG: Wow, sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare. What is the most critical part of the effort?

SR: Creating a new identity, basically branding. We are moving to one uniform, one logo, but maintaining the various pins, patches and badges from the former organizations. We need to reassure the public and show a presence to our enemies.

TG: I can see how that whole branding thing is really critical in that achieving those goals. Tell me, what words to you have to reassure readers about their safety within the US?

SR: We are in the business of risk management, not risk elimination. We are basically trying to avoid a catastrophe.

TG: Excellent, that is very reassuring. Any points that you would like to get across to our foreign students?

SR: The US Visit program is being implemented requiring photographs and finger prints at points of entry into the US.

TG: Well, that is sure a treat that they have to look forward to. Secretary Ridge, it has been a terrific honor to conduct this interview, and I was hoping that you could impart one last piece of wisdom upon the Harbus readers.

SR: Get caller ID on your phone.

TG: Another bull’s eye. Thank you again for your time sir.

So there you have it, my interpretation of Secretary Ridge’s speech. Sure, I may have missed a few sentences, but I think this is pretty much what the Secretary was getting at. I’m sorry that some of you missed the speech in real life (those of you sleeping in Burden and those of you elsewhere), but I hope this helps you feel like you were still able to take away Secretary Ridge’s key messages.

February 17, 2004
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