Author Archives: mattp

Lecture 3

The last lecture I wrote on was for Václav Klaus in which he spoke about his experience as the past President of the Czech Republic and his comments on Friedrich Hayek.  He spoke about many of the challenges that he faced as a leader during the rise and fall of communism.  He was inspired by Friedrich Hayek because of his brilliance in how he thought about and wrote against socialism.  My favorite part of his lecture, and honestly, the part I followed most clearly, (Klaus spoke English but it was noticeably difficult to follow his lecture), was when he spoke about the student protests and how his own son was involved in one of them and turned to his dad, the President, and said something along the lines of: “we’ve done what we can, now its your turn to make this happen.”  It was very interesting to hear about how his son and the other students and young adults motivated him and others in the government to fight for change.  Eventually the economy did improve and social issues became less and less of a problem, but it was a difficult time for those living through that experience because it was dangerous and volatile.  Many of the questions he was asked afterwards were about the current economy situations in Europe and the United States and the strength of the Euro.  From what I understood, he is not a fan of the Euro but he believes if they can work together to figure out a just way to bail out the failing countries, the currency can still be strong.

Lecture 2

The Second lecture I went to was actually by a representative from Cornell University who spoke at Dr. Goethal’s LDST 300 class.  This gentleman works with Greek Life on campus.  He is not an employee of the university, rather, he helps to run the Greek Life system, almost as a middle man between the members of Greek Life and the administration.  He talked about difficulties colleges face with Greek Life and maintaining a healthy and safe balance of fun on college campuses all around the country.  One of Cornell’s fraternity chapters had an incident recently in which one of the brothers died as a result of reverse hazing in which the pledge’s haze the older members of the fraternity.  His talk highlighted the difficulties of working with Greek Life, especially the challenges that administrations and Greek Life liaisons face with parents, alumni, and Greek alumni.  In addition, he spoke about how university trustee’s look at Greek Life and how it is on the bottom of their priority list.  It is a challenge to keep up with the changing times, increasing drug culture, and the hook up culture that has become so elevated on college campuses.  His talk was an interesting way to look at the challenges of communication and leadership and how compromise is not always easy and that difficult choices, whether they make people mad or not, must be made.

Lecture 1

The first lecture I attended was Zach Wahls’ when he spoke about marriage equality.  Zach comes from a “unconventional” American family in that he has two mothers.  It was interesting hearing someone our own age with such a personal story talk about the importance of marriage equality.  Zach actually became a “famous”, if you will, through youtube when the video of him speaking for marriage equality in front of his state’s legislature went viral.  Being so young, his story became inspirational because it highlighted the fact that our generation understands what love is and does not disrespect others because of their sexuality.  He used many personal stories about his mothers to bring his point to life.  He spoke about how they are actually a typical family who love each other, fight, support one another, and learn from each other.  His point: there’s really no difference between you and me…just because I have two moms doesn’t make me any less of a man. Zach’s talk showed how leadership can come from any person regardless of their age, and that personal experiences have huge impacts on the way people lead and encourage and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

The End of Hitler

I thought the ending of the book was interesting.  Obviously, there’s still a lot we don’t know about Hitler and we’ll never know the full story or have a full picture.  As many interviews that were conducted and as many documents saved, we don’t have the ability at this point to sit down with him and find out everything he was thinking–know why he did what he did when he did it.  However, as the book has done, we can try to piece together as much as possible so that very little is left “unknown”.  That’s what history is all about.

Of course it wasn’t all Hitler who was responsible for the destruction that was caused in Europe which affected the entire world.  No one man is capable of doing that by himself.  He had a team, as do many leaders, that helped him to envision a “goal” and attempt to achieve it.  Without them, it is very conceivable to think that none of this would have been possible.  It would have been inconceivable for one man to pull this all off by himself.  He simply became the face of the movement and is most associated with the terrible acts.  I think it’s interesting to ask why?  Was it his character, his image, his desire to be the front man?  Also, even if he was the front man and the face of the movement, is he really responsible for all of it?  Those are just a few questions I’m now considering.

Big Businesses, the Enviornment, and World as a Polder

OK so it’s clear that our society today, because we recognize something is happening out there in our world that is causing changes to occur faster than historically expected, must make some exceptions and change our behavior.  But to what extent?  We extract natural resources, why?  To better our situation and to use them to produce and expand a roller-coaster of a world economy.  Reading this made me consider a few things.  For one, who “owns” these natural resources, and should the people that claim them be the ones responsible for paying for damages?  Or is it the consumer who should be responsible for damages?  Does the distinction between third world and first world civilizations really matter?  If we are all in this together, if this world is shared equally amongst civilization, shouldn’t we all help each other for the benefits of man?

I think it’s clear that we are self interested and motivated to improve our own situations while maybe being concerned about the others.  But that leaves future generations in a precarious position.  There will be some point in the future where we will have extracted too many natural resources for them to be self sufficient in replacing themselves.  Is it possible to see a day when too many trees and forests are cut down to replant them to their magnitude at which they once existed?  I hope not, but as we’ve been reading, the situation for the future is unsure and simply sad.

I found the discussion of public expectations interesting because I, for one, assume that public expectations is another way to say greed.  We are self-interested and motivated.  Whichever way you look at it, we make decisions for ourselves and not for the future or even present people outside of our “comfort zone”.

Building a healthy relationship between business and the enviornment is key, but in reality, unless our motives change, it won’t work.  Money makes the world go round (any Cabaret fans out there?).  While some companys like Chevron have made strides to bring the two together, the extraction of natural resources and the pollutants we emit into the atmosphere every day are building up to an issue that will be nearly impossible to overturn.  I never thought I’d say a lot of this but I agree something needs to be done.  However, I am convinced that any approach to change will result in some sort of a prisoners dillemna and it will be the same old story.  One man taking advantage of another man’s generosity.  Greed. Greed. Greed!

Rats, Destruction, and the Modern Age

I read the “rats, not men, to blame for death of Easter island” before I read the sections in collapse.  When I got to the collapse prologue, there was something that stood out to me in contrast to the article online.  Diamond was talking about the seriousness of current environmental problems and asked “will modern technology solve our problems, or is it creating new problems faster than it solves old ones?”  I found this really interesting because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.  How much is technology adding to our environmental concerns, and is it possible for us to slow this down, if it is happening to begin with.  On the other hand, is technology actually making our situation better off because its giving us opportunities to be more environmentally friendly?  Regardless of the answer, this questions is highly debated.  When I read that sentence in collapse, it made me think about Easter island and how the rats, not technology, or even humans, caused the demise of the island.  Deforestation was their fault and if this is true, other than accusing those who helped the rats get to the island (little did they know…), there is no way to actually blame a human being or race for that result.

When we talk about human error and fault and place judgement on past generations, we do so in a negative context.  What was interesting to me is that sometimes its not human beings who are to blame.  It can be nature, animals, etc.  I just think there is an overreaction sometimes when people blame past generations for the environmental concerns we have today.  A few things are clear: past generations did not know they were causing harm, or if they did, they didn’t know it was to this extent, and also, maybe some of what we blame on them isn’t actually their fault.

That was one thing that stood out to me and I found the contrast between that sentence and the article pretty interesting because it made me consider what else is going on in this world that add to the problems that humans are usually blamed for.

Blog Post

I am a PPEL and Leadership Studies double major…It was my goal to stay far, far away from Gottwald during my entire time at Richmond.  I unfortunately wont be able to have my way, as I have to take a science class during my senior year, but I digress.  Going off that, when I saw the readings were on the scientific method, I did cringe a bit and was hesitant to start.  I will admit that I have not given the scientific method enough credit in the past.  What I realized quickly when doing the readings was that I actually use the scientific method…or some form or combination of it, everyday.  Whether it’s problem solving in one of my leadership positions, or even handling relationships and some semblance of humanity in our apartment, this process of testing and questioning and discovering is something I experience daily.

I think that in the past I was intimidated by the language used to describe a method that now, when I really read about it with an open mind, is rather mundane.  I guess, now that I think about it, I do this all the time when I’m cooking.  I think I could make a case that building flavors in a sauce or any food I’m making works in a similar way.  You decide what you want to make, conceptualize a flavor, make a plan for building that flavor, begin creating a dish, taste, review, edit, and repeat until it’s right.  Any issues or deficiencies you think may exist you adapt for and continue to do so until it is just right.  Add a little of this, a little of that, (it’s usually simple salt and pepper that can do the trick and make it just right).  I just found it interesting to make this connection to something I am so passionate about and another thing (“science”) which I am rather intimidated by.  In the future, I’m going to laugh at myself when I realize I’m using some form of the scientific method in the kitchen.

I found the discussion of authorities and experts particularly interesting for this week’s reading.  As we have grown up, we have observed society as particularly untrustworthy, even from our most dependable leaders.  From former Presidents to atheletes and high-profile business people, inconsistencies in character are continuously brought to light.  It makes me question and comtemplate when, if ever, we will be able to take someone’s word to be truthful and accurate.  Is swearing upon a bible, as even our most trustworthy leader, the President, does, enough to make us believe he is an authority to be trusted?  Maybe not…

But it goes far beyond politics and into our everyday lives.  As the reading notes, many people are more and less ethical than others.  From lawyers, to accountants, to members of the clergy and doctors, ethics is a problem that exists everywhere.  This mundane topic is something that is taken seriously to an extent, but sometimes turned away from and pretended it doesn’t exist.  I fear that even with the extensive media coverage we have today, including social media, many citizens of the world do not appreciate the importance of ethical decision making, and I believe this hurts us all.

Lastly, the mention of duties made me think whether a “duty” to someone or something realy matters.  Are obligations taken as seriously today as they were years ago when a firm handshake actually meant something (or so I am told)?  Through observation and my studies, I’ve come to the conclusion that we live in a society where we unfortunately are unethical and self-centered/conceded…we’re really only in it to better ourselves and our position in society.  I know many people will agree with me but I just feel that every action we take somehow proves that we are bettering ourselves, even in “charitable” cases.  I’ll give an example to wrap up: when I donate $100 to charity, I’m benefitting…either my name is going somewhere to be recognized, or I am getting the self-assurance that I did something “better” than someone else…I didn’t just inherently donate that $100 out of the “goodness of my heart”, rather, I did it because I was going to get something out of it.  Agree or disagree?