Author Archives: Caitlyn Lindstrom

Event #3: “The intangible effects of walls”

This TedTalk was given by Alexandra Auer, discussing the effects of physical borders and barriers between nations and their effects on relations.  She claims that walls and fences only provide a feeling of security – they establish a division amongst people, instead.  Auer asserts that physical empower mental walls and mental walls empower physical walls, showing that this recent increase of building borders has increased mental disposition against “others”.  She also speaks of gated communities, serving as models of small-scale countries.  This point was made as an explanation that although these living conditions are made by choice, they have serious mental effects on the individuals who live there who do not open themselves up to interacting with those outside their gates.

Auer tells of her field experiment at an elementary school that had put up a gate between the two groups of kids who were of different ethnicities.  She explored idea of how to influence individuals to find the commonality amongst them.  In this, she begins to break the mental wall and challenges the us-versus-them mentality.  We have had discussions like these in our class, but I have always wondered how exactly you get people to realize the things they have in common.  Auer was able to answer this with a small sample group of children, and I realized that the answer is different depending on the individuals.  Especially when considering how people put up their own walls against others for various reasons, there cannot be one single way to resolve the division amongst a multicultural society.  Auer concludes that walls do not solve the root of our issues; rather it only divides a group of people on culture and geography that has large intergenerational implications.  I think this was a great point to leave on, as our international community has become a lot more vulnerable to security issues.  Officials’ solutions are to ensure the safety of their citizens through a defense, but this only perpetuates a difference principle that never will foster a united force.

Event #2: “Racism has a cost for everyone”

This TedTalk by Heather C. McGhee discussed her exploration of systemic racism in the lens of her background in economic policy as it complements the relations amongst individuals in a culturally diverse society.  She tells the story of a white man named Gary from South Carolina, who wanted to explore his prejudice and reverse its debilitating effects on his life.  This lead McGhee to wonder whether a nation with systemic racism so deeply embedded in its culture has backfired to harm the ones it was initially meant to advance.  Her conclusion is that racism leads to bad policy; racism harms all individuals in the society.

McGhee gives many examples of local governments that destroyed public goods just to avoid an integrated society.  She tells of how this racism developed and contributed to the 2008 financial crisis, explaining that the subprime mortgages were racially-influenced and targeted.  She claims we would not have had a financial crisis if it were not for racism.

I found this TedTalk to be really intriguing because McGhee spoke of the one issue that continues to stress the United States in many aspects of society.  Racism is prevalent, and it, unfortunately, has been a relevant topic since the beginning of our nation.  McGhee concluded on an interesting point that the harm to one is harm to all, and we should let the proximity of diversity share in our embrace of a common humanity.  It was beautifully spoken that these systemic issues are not only at the fault of policy makers – individuals are responsible for their own prejudices, like Gary.  This idea relates a lot to our class discussions on the role of followers in initiating greater change.  Followers tend not to understand the influence they hold over leaders, and it is about time we realize our actions (or lack there of) have consequences.  We need to mobilize in changing social norms and recognizing prejudices to flood the structure of our society with these values.

Event #1: Leading With Truth – Jepson Leadership Forum

This was the response I wrote to this lecture series that Jepson hosted early in the semester.  It discussed the truth and representation in the internet age through the particular medium of journalism as a catalyst for social change.

Michael Paul Williams serves as a local columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, dedicating his talents to share an uncommon perspective through a written medium and to relate with Richmond communities.  Accomplished journalists utilize resources and their platform to present the “truth”, regardless of biases.  In a city founded upon deep and systemic divisions, nondiscriminatory information is pertinent in sharing diverse experiences.  During the panel discussion, Williams expressed challenges of representation within reports and the lack of shared experiences amongst the greater Richmond area, perpetuated by rigid policy and infrastructure.  

After the journalism company that employed Williams was bought out, his experiences and passions persuaded him to continue his writing career to make certain the large person-of-color readership was properly represented in the media.  The racial divides in Richmond originate from the depths of the city’s founding.  Williams’s work shines light on the underrepresented perspectives of overlooked communities, yet policy that was enacted years ago continues to restrict these communities in submission of the privileged communities.  Many minority communities were structurally marginalized from “urban development” plans, resulting in the social and infrastructure divides we observe.  At-risk minority communities do not come in contact with wealthy, predominantly white communities, preventing the opportunity to create shared experiences.  From this, individuals fail to alter their perspective despite evidence.  In addition, Williams stated the evolution of technology numbs individuals to ethically considering their anonymous contributions on divided issues.  These uninformed prejudices are fueled by decades of propaganda and implicit biases.  To Williams, journalism opposes these under-qualified news sources to reveal truths, a large challenge for local writers.  Community members remain resistant to opposing perspectives when the view fails to support their own.  Williams attributes this injustice to policy and non-complacency of privileged communities; I assess the injustice originates from the cumulative advantage Anglo-American ensured themselves in Richmond by marginalizing minority communities with infrastructure.  These communities were obliterated by big promises that failed to deliver, leaving communities vulnerable and submissive to the growingly influential majority.  Williams acknowledged this progression through the example of a close-knit community destroyed by urban renewal construction.  Due to the lack of perspective sharing, policy-makers contributed more destruction than progression to the city.  Knowledgeable policy cannot be proposed if people fail to recognize differences and to confront these perspectives in difficult discussions.  Knowledgeable representation in published works and equalized influence in policy-making creates mutual understanding across perspectives, despite mutual agreeances, and establishes a basis of more-fair policy.  

As a journalist, Williams faces difficulties of pleasing different “truths” people possess while also seeking the facts of a story.  In the past, systemic disadvantages of marginalized populations eliminated culture-rich communities due to a lack of shared perspective across the local area.  For journalists today, the objective is to expose these routinely underrepresented perspectives to create a basis of mutual understanding.  To give a voice to the previously reduced populations balances influence on policy-making for the future and advocates to reverse restrictive policy from the past.

Impossible Response

Coronavirus Warning

The Political Paralysis chapter by Goska discussed the importance of individuals embracing the power people have to make an impact in another person’s life through small favors and actions.  In reading it, I thought about our current situation with the coronavirus pandemic.  As of recent,  our society has been recognizing the individuals who have been delivering groceries and working in essential stores as well as the medical professionals who are on the front lines as the “heroes”.  I’ve been reading articles centered around this, and their looming question is whether these occupations and individuals working the jobs will be as admired after we return to whatever “normal” will be.  Reading the first chapter brought those questions to mind, because the “normal” before the pandemic often overlooked these individuals and their necessity.  I imagine this pandemic will be transformative for many people, but I wonder if individuals will be more reflective of their actions and the influences we can make through small favors for others.

Additionally, I was drawn to the last chapter titled “Despair Is a Lie We Tell Ourselves”, as it calls on each of us to “maintain our world by changing the world”.  Kushner relates this to being politically active, which I believe is important to establish a democratic society.  However, I continued to wonder about the actions on the individual level.  Being an active voice in important at the national level, but it should not neglect the actions of the individual on a community.  This chapter was a good conclusion, as it left me feeling optimistic about the possibilities for change and togetherness.  I think there is some truth to claiming tragedy brings people together – this period of isolation and social distancing has only changed people’s view of how to spend time with others, and I find that to be a positive in all the uncertainty.

Favorite Political Ads

“Stripes” 1996 – Dole

This ad was sponsored by Candidate Dole, the Republican candidate running against President Clinton.  The entire ad was an attack ad – there was no substance or references to policy or political work.  The ad explained how Clinton was facing criminal charges, and Clinton defended that he is “active duty”; therefore, his hearing would be postponed, according to some act.  The whole point of the ad was the challenge and bring into question Clinton’s character, as the voice-over ended the commercial with, “Bill Clinton, he’s really something”.  It was almost more comical than serious, even if the contents of the commercial were true – it came off as more of a joke than an accusation or questioning of character.

“Surgeon” 1996 – Clinton

This ad was put out by the Democratic party to support President Clinton.  It shows multiple children saying what they wanted to be when they grew up, followed by a clip of Dole claiming he wanted to get rid of the Department of Defense.  This ad was really interesting to me because it made me wonder how much these candidates manipulate children to appeal to the emotion of viewers.  Clinton ran on the promise for a college tax credit and credit toward tuitions.  The commercial ends by claiming that Clinton is going to build a bridge to the 21st century, and it makes me wonder about these policies in today’s discussions of elections.

Favorite Ad Response

A few months ago, I was watching a lot of shows on Hulu, and the commercials that split up the show are often recycled and reused – to the point of it just getting stuck in my head.  One of the companies that stuck with me was SafeAuto, not because of the direct promotion of the company, but because of the silliness of the commercial itself.  Each commercial featured a product that is unconventional and definitely wouldn’t get a bid from SharkTank investors – like pajamas for your car and a jumpsuit that heats up your food when you work out.  The voice-over cuts the fake promotion short by exclaiming “That doesn’t sound right!”, which is the part that starts that promotion for SafeAuto itself.  My friends and I quote the “That doesn’t sound right” phrase in our everyday interactions, which makes the commercial even more comical.  As I was thinking of commercials that I really liked, I struggled because no commercials were initially coming to mind.  I began wondering what commercials I refer to the most, and I was reminded of these SafeAuto commercials from Hulu.  However,  I think it is interesting because I  couldn’t remember the company itself, but I remembered the silly promotions of fake products and the phrase “That doesn’t sound right!”, making me wonder how effective the commercial was for the course.

In addition, I thought about the Super Bowl commercials that everyone talks about the day after Super Bowl Sunday.  Of the commercials from last year, I recalled the Bud Knight commercials.  I remembered really enjoying them because the commercials made up a trilogy series, which was entertaining to watch out for in the commercial breaks.  I thought it was interesting to see the progression of the series, and the story line itself was so unique from other beer commercials.  These commercials were really memorable, and they gave way to the famous “Dilly Dilly” phrase.  While I wouldn’t say these commercials are my favorite, they are impressionable for the uniqueness and audience it drew.

Harvey and Bezio Reading Response

I found Harvey’s chapter intriguing as he elaborated on the discussion of group ideologies.  We are often taught in our leadership classes that leadership is possible because of a similar ideology or set of morals shared amongst a group.  Harvey defined this as asking and answering the “who are we?” question.  Identity and a sense of self are found in asking this question, but there is an implied question of “who are we not?”  Addressing this allowed me to make the connection that this is the root of establishing an in-group and out-group mentality.  This plays into the next questions he brings up around the drive, alignment, envision, and learning – each that are an on going discussion for leadership.  I found this to be interesting, as I thought of the model being used in different regime or government structures.  I’d think that it would be applicable, yet it can be manipulated to adjust its audience based on the structure.

I thought Bezio’s article introduced an interesting connection between literary works and modern politics, through the lens of leadership.  Specifically in the discussion of the Union, it would be conditionally upon the successfulness of leadership to unite people and crowns.  This directly reminded me of Harvey’s definition of leadership – the relationship between leaders and followers – as Bezio implies successful leadership embraces that relationship, as well.  I found the discussion on Brexit intriguing, as Bezio discussed the differences in older and younger peoples’ sense of ideology and each’s “who we are” question.  It created a division within the nation – whether to embrace English nationalism or not – ultimately defining the successes – or failures – of Brexit, and it questions the balance of nationalism and unity, within the nation and beyond.

Zinn and Hayter Reading Response

To say I was disturbed while reading Zinn’s chapter, “Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress” is an understatement.  It was revolting to read of the horrible killings and malicious burning of indigenous communities’ crops and villages, amongst other things.  I was distressed reading these accounts, even though I had read many of them before.  When Zinn stated these horrible beginning of history between the Europeans’ invasions of indigenous people’s land, it made me reflect on what history I have been taught.  In fifth grade, we did projects on European explorers – mine on Hernán Cortés; this contributed to the systemic indoctrination of romanticizing these wealth-driven Europeans.  In middle school, you learn of the Trail of Tears and reservations; it wasn’t until I took an English class on Native American Literature in college that I got a glimpse into the generational affects of Europeans’ actions centuries ago.  Early exploration of the Americas is romanticized by schools and media and holidays (why do we even celebrate Columbus Day?); in reality, it made the lives of indigenous people – and minorities alike – troubled through each generation.

Hayter’s work contextualizes this in the fight for voting rights of African Americans in Virginia and the greater southern states.  Richmond was cultivated in an ideology of segregation and power inequality.  Moving into the Civil Rights period, African Americans had been oppressed for so long; their fight to secure voting rights was the avenue to gaining a voice.  Wealthy whites continued to disregard African Americans through voting laws and annexation; this was essentially the Europeans burning crops and villages to eliminate opposition.  And even though Richmond had few victories, like electing an African American mayor and a majority African American city council, they have been restricted within the city and the federal system to structurally alter the wealth and education available in the city.  As Hayter concludes with, “it is imperative that we remember America’s long history of cloaking disenfranchisement in the garb of ‘good government.'”

Goethals/Allison & Stanford Prison Experiment Response

From the Goethals/Allison reading, I found the idea of the primacy effect and the implications of human brains to “fill in blanks” on individual’s character to be interesting.  The idea of the primacy effect reflects an individual’s tendency to create a positive or negative opinion toward another person given the qualities that are experienced during one’s first impression.  Essentially, individuals tend to judge other’s character based on first impressions.  This is what lead to the Warren Harding Error noted by Gladwell; individuals falsely associated Harding as a good president based on his good looks (and the good qualities associated with them) when in reality he was a terrible president.  It makes me curious about the quality of first impressions and worried for the lasting effects one’s impression may have toward others.

I also found it interesting that when exposed to a set of characteristics, humans try to complete the pattern by filling in assumptions of others’ character.  People’s perceptions of others are often not accurate, and when perceptions are not holistic, individuals make assumptions to make it whole.  I was reminded of this idea during my reading of the Stanford Prison Experiment.  Even though the prisoner and guard roles were simulated and the whole prison was an experiment, each participant made assumptions of the other participants to create a whole perspective of the individual defined by their role.  The participants saw the other participants around them as their assigned roles, making the experience more realistic.  It just shows the power and influence that can be manifested within the human mind from a simulated situation, let alone the implications it has for real society.

The Logic of Failure Response

I found the Dörner chapters intriguing as he evaluated shortsightedness to perpetuate more complex issues in the long-term.  Particularly, I enjoyed reading about the Greenvale experiment.  Dörner drew a distinction between his good participants and bad participants based on individual’s approaches to the social issues in the hypothetical Greenvale.  He noted that good participants made more decisions, addressed more “why” questions rather than “what” questions, considered the potential effects a decision has on other sectors of the society,  and reflected on their own behavior.  All of these characteristics have larger implications for what kind of leader these good participants would make.

In my 102 course, we discussed how much leaders reflect on their actions and how willing individuals are to receive criticism as a key characteristic of an effective and trustworthy leader. In reading the Dörner chapters, I was reminded of this; Dörner considered the participants to be good if they were critical of their own actions and made sure to modify their approaches the next time.  Their work was focused on finding the root of the social issues and creating a reliable plan for the town, rather than impulsively making a decision and failing to take responsibility for the negative consequences afterwards.  In combination with the concluding pages, he poses that individuals in positions of high power need not rely only on intuition; they should embrace criticisms and one’s expertise should not inflate his or her esteem to believe they are immune to flaws – it is quite the opposite.