Friday, August 25, 2006

The First Day of College

Posted by Picasa (The photo at left is Melanie Heuerman and her daughter Natalie Nyquist.)

Forty-one years ago my dad helped me carry my dictionary, box of clothes, and graduation-gift typewriter into the sparse basement dormitory room: two bunk beds, two desks, and two closets with curtains covering the doorways. A lounge had a television with a few local channels and a pay phone for calls home.

We shook hands and my dad, who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, left. My college days at the University of Minnesota, Morris branch, began (Morris, Minnesota is a town of approximately 5,000 people in western Minnesota). I didn’t have a car; when I wanted to go home for a weekend, I would get on the highway and hitch a ride.

Yesterday we moved Natalie, my step-daughter, into her dormitory room at the same small liberal arts college in Minnesota. When Natalie began to think about college a couple of years ago, my intuition told me she should consider Morris. She visited and it fit her—small, intimate, academically excellent—she will blossom in this nurturing environment where people care about students and learning.

The campus—still recognizable—had changed in significant ways in 41 years: more buildings, more dorms, and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Two giant wind-mills furnish much of the power for the campus. As I could in 1965, Natalie can walk anywhere on campus within five minutes. I felt like I was in a time warp. Memories flooded back to consciousness.

We carried her graduation-gift laptop computer into the room ready for wireless and high speed cable internet. Student volunteers helped and made the job fast and easy. We carried her new television (with DVD/VHS capability) into the room wired for cable television with HBO. An iPod replaces the stereo of days past. A cell phone with built-in camera is a necessity.

A refrigerator, groceries, and futon follow into the coed dorm (Thank God, Matt, Natalie’s brother, was there to put the futon together). A modern cafeteria replaced the lunch-room of the past. Her mom traded cars with her; Natalie will drive the sporty Pontiac Grand Prix and Melanie will take over the Ford Taurus.

Two weeks earlier:

I noticed the tension begin to rise as moving day approached. An emotional young woman, Natalie began to cling to her mother. “I love you” began to fill the air more often than usual.

Melanie got quiet and cranky. The “I can’t wait for Natalie to be gone” comments turned into “I will really miss her when she is gone.” I began to feel irritated with Natalie too. I then realized that what I felt was the anticipated loss of her energy that fills our home. I will miss her too—a lot. She is one of my children, and I love her.

I’ve had this experience before: I drove my oldest child, Becky, to San Diego when, at 19, she moved West. The sense of loss was deep. I helped my second daughter, Cari, move into her dormitory room at the University of Minnesota. I looked into her empty bedroom every day for months. I cried as my son Michael drove his new Nissan Pathfinder out of our driveway on his way to be a ski-bum in Mammoth, California months after graduation from high school. I know the feeling of loss. Jokes about renting their bedrooms cover the male sense of loss.

Natalie worked two jobs her senior year in high school, banked her money, and was an A student. Natalie is gifted in science and language. She didn’t have to study much in high school to do well and is nervous about her study habits in college. She already has 20 credits from her high school advanced placement courses. Like her mother, she is a hard worker. She will be a star in college.

I took Natalie to lunch to give her my advice. I told her that her generation would have the job of saving the planet for future generations. Her goal, right now, is to major in marine biology and Spanish. I told her that I believed her core purpose in college was to learn all she could about whatever she discovered she loved to learn about.

If she still wanted to be a marine biologist as time went by, there would be lots of jobs in that field for people who worked hard and did well in college. She has a dream of doing graduate work in Australia, and I encouraged her to begin to make that dream a reality from her first day at college.

Natalie is a beautiful young woman. He eyes talk; an angry glare from her sends shock waves through my emotional network. A tearful, plaintive look tugs at my heart. Natalie is also mature about relationships and emotions beyond her years. She is creative. I hope she surrounds herself with bright people who help her be her best self. And I hope she requires the men in her life to treat her with the respect she deserves.

Natalie wonders how she will say goodbye to her mother—her anchor, as she says. Melanie is the “go-to” person for her children: she sacrifices for them, she is always there for them, and she always helps them grow as people.

Melanie wants her children to follow their own paths in life (not her unlived life—she will live that for herself) and she frees them to do so even as she grieves that their relationships will never be the same after the kids leave. Melanie will take care of herself after the children are gone; that is her job. Their job is to find their own way in life with the foundation she gave them. Letting go is necessary for parent and child alike as relationships change. Natalie will say goodbye to her mother and the parting will be bittersweet. They will say goodbye to a stage in their relationship—not to their love for one another.

Back to yesterday…

It was a good day. Melanie and I feel good about this college. Now it was time to say goodbye. Melanie, Natalie, and I, walked to the car. Tears rolled down Natalie’s cheeks and then Melanie’s. I hugged Natalie and told her she would have a great time. I went to the car to give mother and daughter time alone. They embraced for a long time—a mother freeing her daughter to go and live her life.

And a good life it will be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Fargo/Moorhead Red Hawks

Posted by Picasa For two years, I believe they were 1960 and ’61; my dad was president of the Class C Northern League, St. Cloud (Minnesota) Rox--an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants and later the Chicago Cubs.

Dad took me to most games. I remember Lou Brock, Matty Alou, and Orlando Cepada. I met Willie Kirkland. They became major league stars.

One week the batboy for the visiting team was on vacation. I got to fill in. The thing that I still remember is that I shined Joe Torres’s shoes (he played for Eau Clair, WI, Braves) and he paid me $5.00. That was a lot of money. I can still remember his dark beard. Today he is the manager of the New York Yankees.

More than 45 years later…

I moved from the mountains of Colorado to the wind-swept plains of Fargo, North Dakota early in 2002.

I saw an ad in the local newspaper for the upcoming season of the Fargo/Moorhead Red Hawks, a Northern League team—now an independent league.

The advertisement brought back the memories of my childhood.

I decided to go to a game and see what minor league baseball was about.

I liked it.

Five years and about 150 games later:

I normally leave home at 6:00 P.M. and pull into the parking lot across from Newman Field 16 minutes later. I pay my $2.00 for parking and pull into a parking spot right in front of the driveway so I can get a fast exit after the game.

Not that a fast exit is needed in Fargo; this is an old habit from 30 years of going to Minnesota Vikings games and trying to get out fast to beat the traffic jams outside of Metropolitan stadium and later the Hubert H.Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.

I walk across the street and enter along the right-field side of the park. I climb the steps to the concession area and buy my regular hot dog for $1.50 (Cloverdale meats—they are great), diet coke for another $1.50, and popcorn for $2.00. I add lots of mustard and some onions to my hot dog and walk to my seat behind the Red Hawks dugout. Some of the regular season-ticket holders are already seated in front of me with their backpacks filled with radios, cameras, jackets, cell phones, baseball gloves, food from home, and memorabilia to be signed by players.

I sit down and eat my hot dog careful and try not drip mustard onto my white T-shirt. I’m successful about half the time. I wolf down my popcorn in a few minutes and nurse my diet Coke for most of the evening.

At 6:35 P.M. I put my earphones on and turn the radio on for the pre-game show with Scott Miller. I like Miller, in his first season as play-by-play radio announcer. He has a relaxed voice (“My, oh my” is a favorite exclamation point to a home run) and asks thoughtful questions of those he interviews. I listen to him interview Red Hawks manager Doug Simunic—the winningest manager in Northern League history with more than 700 victories. Simunic is a winner (see photo above).

I’m a good judge of talent, and I admire Simunic’s ability to put a winning team together year after year. He can spot talent and he can pick players who get along together. He manages aggressively and goes for the big inning. He makes the tough decisions needed to be a consistent winner, and he is compassionate towards his players often helping them find another place to play if he cannot keep them. He is a purist when it comes to baseball and has little time for the nonsense of marketing and promotion gimmicks. Doug’s philosophy can be summed up with: “mix it up, stir it up, throw it out and see what happens.” That’s about as good a description of how to live life and play baseball as I have heard.

Local talent sings the National Anthem and at 7:05 P.M. the first pitch is thrown. The legendary Maury Wills, in town for this series, joins Scott Miller to add the color commentary. I enjoy listening to Maury: he is wise, mature, experienced, and his insights add meaning to the actions on the field. A Maury Wills museum is below the stadium concourse. The locals fawn over Maury and he loves the attention. He exudes humility and gratitude for the game of baseball.

Somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 fans attend the games. The fans are respectful and rarely boo umpires or opposing players and applaud the local athletes even when they stink-up the field, which is rare.

A few hundred people, I would guess, are real baseball fans. The rest come to eat, socialize, and enjoy an evening outside (winters are long in Fargo). The ball park and Red Hawks staff serve as good babysitters for work-weary parents who want to relax. Kids come and go as they pester parents for money for food. I stand up and sit down over and over again. Around the 7th inning, the parents are broke and the kids—filled up with fat and sugar—are cranky.

The Red Hawks usually win the game. This year they have strong pitching and good hitters. Some kids are just out of college; others got cut from major league organizations. Many still have their dream of being a major leaguer alive inspired by Chris Coste, catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Coste, a Fargo native, played 4 years for the Red Hawks and 10 years in the minor leagues before going to the big leagues. A few know their future is past and play only for the love of the game. They all play hard.

The Red Hawks won the first half championship and are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. They are in first place so far in the second half despite losing their first 6 games of the second half. They lost their star 1st baseman to an organization recently. They then went on to win 4 in a row.

My mind wanders as I watch and listen. I am not a fanatical fan: mostly I enjoy the totality of the event and the solitude behind my headphones. They give me privacy as much as anything. People nearby think I am engrossed in the game when often my mind is far, far away thinking about something far removed from baseball or reflecting on something I feel strongly about. Occasionally Hawkeye—the team red hawk mascot—startles me to attention. I keep a close eye on left-handed batters; they can send screaming line-drive foul-balls into my section.

By the 7th inning, boredom sets in unless the game is close, and I head for the exit often pausing for ½ an inning to watch from the concourse as I make my way to the exit. Usually by 9:30 P.M. I am on my way home. The game usually ends before I arrive.

I am in bed by 10:30 P.M.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Iraq---What Would You Do?

I wrote this and posted it on my internet site ( on November 19, 2005.

Representative John Murtha, decorated Viet Nam veteran, and the leading "hawk" of the Democratic Party, yesterday tearfully called for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq at the “earliest practicable date.”

Murtha believes our troops have done all they can do in Iraq, have become an occupying force, and now incite more violence by their presence than they stop. In response
he was vehemently attacked by Republicans, who instead of governing went into campaign mode. Some accused Murtha of cowardice. Republicans, led by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, went on the attack and scapegoated Murtha as they supported their President. Hastert proclaimed, “We will not retreat.”

In the days before the Iraq war began I wrote:

"With crisis comes the potential for greater inhumanity, if we cling to old thinking, and the potential for great innovation, if we replace the models that created the problems of today with those that will address them effectively.

Will courage and creativity lead to a modern day relationship renaissance or will fear, resistance, and selfishness result in more fragmentation, malignancy, and regression?"

I wondered if we would lead the world or if we would disappoint ourselves by our conduct in this war?

What is the reality since the war began? Have we grown as a nation and people or have we regressed under great stress?

I had lunch with a minister friend. He pounded the table in anguish as he asked, “How could we have fallen for this war?”

Scott Peck wrote that the test of our goodness is how we behave under stress. How have we done? We will each have our own opinion on this question. The important thing, I believe, is that we reflect on our performance and not use the tactics of our enemies to justify our own bad behavior.

It seems relatively simple in concept, if not in implementation.

If hell exists, it is Iraq.

We need to leave Iraq.

I think a continuation of the "complete victory" path is immoral as our leaders have not provided the military what it needs for a complete victory. Our sacred duty, learned in Viet Nam, it to not put our troops in harm’s way unnecessarily. The Bush administration conducted the war “on the cheap” and politics were a part of it from day one as Bush used terrorism to define his Presidency. To continue on a path without strategy or direction is to perpetuate death, destruction, and to postpone the inevitable outcome.

We do not support our troops when we do not give them the manpower or resources to do their job. We do not support our troops when from stubbornness we support a failed strategy and leaders who have squandered their credibility. We support our troops by seeing reality as it is and acting accordingly. Of course people will disagree on what reality is. Alcoholics live in a world of “sincere delusion” believing they are not alcoholics even as they die of liver failure. We need to compare outcomes against goals, costs against benefits, and strategy against denial and wishful thinking. How is this war working for us as a nation, for Iraq, and for the world community?

If Speaker Hastert wants to support our troops AND wants "complete victory" then he should send enough people to Iraq to disarm the country, restore order and services for the citizens, and commit to staying for decades to rebuild the country.

I think the "leave immediately" option is also immoral as we created this mess and thousands of people who trusted us would die, and we would dishonor those, from all nations, who died fighting for what they believed was a just cause. To "cut and run" would bring shame upon our history. This is not what Representative Murtha suggested as portrayed by the Republicans. He called for “an earliest practical date” withdrawal. We need to give the good people in Iraq a chance to stand on their own--as small as the probability of success might be.

It is a time for tough love. We need to serve formal notice to the Iraq government that after a specified and reasonable time, we must leave. We must do so because they must stand on their own if they are to endure as a free nation.

Between now and then we will do all we can to defend, train, and equip the Iraq government. When that time, not too far in the distant future, arrives, they will be on their own.

Then the silent majority in Iraq will be called to face their own deepest desires for freedom or control, peace or terror, and their own courage and cowardice. They can and should choose their own fate. They can stay and comply, they can stay and fight, or they can leave. They get to choose for themselves.

As much as we want to, we cannot control the outcome of the wrong war, with the wrong enemy, at the wrong time, entered into by gross incompetence at best and lies and deceit at worst and led by leaders who, despite their talk of commitment, lacked the commitment to provide the military with the resources to win a total victory.

I believe it probable that the final outcome, unless we completely subjugate Iraq (then we will have replaced Saddam with ourselves), will be chaos, civil war, and a step back in time for the frightened people of Iraq, the United States and democracy in the Middle East. It seems improbably that a "right" outcome can emerge from so many mistakes in judgment. I hope I am wrong.

The national humiliation will not be the perception of a military defeat. The national humiliation will be that, scared and angry, we squandered our values, national character, and moral authority (and our treasury) in the world fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong way and thus making our true enemy stronger (Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda).

It appears that the final debate has begun. It will be heated. The American people will decide at the ballot box. We have much to think about. I hope we do it thoughtfully.

It is now nine months later…

Iraq appears to be in civil war. We send more American troops to try to secure Baghdad. We train a Marine to fight in 13 weeks and they do so heroically. Iraqis have had several years and still cannot defend themselves. Loyal to their own tribal identities, they appear unable to forge a shared sense of purpose. I think it will be impossible to forge a democracy in Iraq: people do not give up identities by force. The war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah terrorists complicates things in the region. Yesterday the British foiled a plot to blow up as many as 10 flights to the United States. We are scared again.

National elections loom on the horizon; what will the American people say at the ballot box?

What would you do?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Israel---What Would You Do?

I watch the Israelis fight the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon this August of 2006. I fear for the future of Israel as their fanatical enemies (governments and terrorist movements) grow stronger, bolder, and more deadly. Israel’s understandable bombing campaign in response to the kidnapping of their soldiers has the unintended consequence of recruiting more members for the cowardly Hezbollah who hide amid innocent people.

Israel is surrounded by people who want to eradicate the nation of Israel. Perhaps some have legitimate historical issues; however, I will not listen to any community or tribe that straps bombs on young people and sends them to blow up innocent people.

Madness pervades the Middle East. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote:

There is nothing that you can’t do to someone
in the Middle East today, and there is no leader
or movement—no Nelson Mandela and no million
-mom march—coming out of this region, or into
this region, to put a stop to the madness.

Many of the people in this region appear to be insane: driven mad by crazy crackpots in control who spur human development and the growth of successful nations in an interconnected world. They prefer a primitive culture of male dominance and extreme and contrived fundamentalism (a form of mental illness) that uses religion to control and manipulate.

People in these nations cannot rebel and express their outrage against those who control them. Instead they believe the lies and blame and scapegoat the West. They think they are normal; they are not. People who blow themselves up and kill innocent people so they can be rewarded in heaven with 72 virgins, are not normal—they are nuts.

How does the world negotiate with such people?

What would it be like if we lived in a neighborhood like that?

How would I behave if all my neighbors wanted to destroy my home and kill me and my family because we had a certain heritage? Would I leave the home of my ancestors? Would I try, over and over again, to forge relationships even when my neighbors sabotage my life? What would I do as I watched them build terrible weapons that could destroy my little spot and my loved ones and me in a moment? Would I fight a holding-action? Would I try to appease my enemies? Would I destroy them before they could destroy me?

And what about my friends in neighborhoods across town: could I count on them to help me, would they pretend to not see what was happening, would they betray me for a false sense of security?

What do we the people of the world think of this evil and madness in the Middle East? Many of us don’t want to think about it at all.

Rollo May defined a pseudoinnocent as someone who is naïve, who has blinders on, and who does not see real dangers (Authentic innocence preserves childlike attitudes into maturity without sacrificing the reality of one’s perception of evil). Pseudoinnocents cling to childhood assumptions about the nature of the world. They do not see real dangers. When faced with tough issues they cower into this innocence and make powerlessness, weakness, and helplessness virtues. Evil, like Hezbollah, uses creativity to kill. The pseudoinnocents among us denies evil and colludes with it. They close their eyes to reality to try to make it go away.

Many people and many nations in our world are pseudoinnocent. Grand strategies to transform the Mideast seem out of touch with the reality of the region.

Good mental health requires that we see reality as it is. Villains and injustice exist. We are surrounded by evil—at home and abroad—in more insidious ways than ever before. Much savagery has become institutionalized in the Middle East and elsewhere in our world and accepted as normal.

We need to see the Middle East accurately—Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan—and develop bold strategies to deal with what we see (obviously we didn’t do that in Iraq; we were dumb and reckless). If we do not, we collude with evil. The world cannot allow nuclear weapons in a region immersed in madness.

Pierre Rehov, documentary filmmaker (his upcoming film is "Suicide Killers"), on how we can end the madness of suicide bombing and terrorism in general:

Stop being politically correct and stop believing
that this culture is a victim of ours. Radical Islamism
today is nothing but a new form of Nazism. Nobody
was trying to justify or excuse Hitler in the 1930s.
We had to defeat him in order to make peace one
day with the German people.

We need to see life as it is and make wise moral judgments. It is wrong not to. If we do not use our power for good, a vacuum is created and is filled by those who will use their power to destroy. We use our power to carry out the moral judgments that support and sustain life and spirit--that lead ourselves and others to freedom. Consciousness cannot rest passively. Consciousness must be asserted.

All people of the world need to see reality as it is and stand together against evil in all its forms. If the international community will not secure southern Lebanon, Israel may have to go door to door to disarm Lebanon to protect their nation. The United States should stand with its friends and against evil.

We should also begin a mega-Manhattan Project and become energy independent (at least from the Middle East) and quit funding the madmen.

If Iran develops nuclear weapons and continues to be led by a mad-man, Israel will have an even more difficult decision to make.

What would you do?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Interim Means Caretaking

The local newspaper (The Fargo Forum) had an editorial today that called for an 18 month to two year interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System (See "Sabotage the Leader").

My suggestions based on 30 years of leadership and organizational experience:

1. Interim leaders are caretakers. People do not follow caretakers, no matter how qualified. Meaningful change cannot happen during the interim period. The passive-resistors who sabotaged Robert Potts will hold the real power during an interim period. Perhaps this is what the local newspaper wants, as it has a hidden agenda to support the local university president--right or wrong.

2. The North Dakota Board of Higher Education should make the interim period as short as possible; North Dakota higher education cannot afford to stand still for two years. Get busy and go out and find a strong leader to come to North Dakota and lead this dysfunctional system. I generally support promoting from within; however, in this case the new leader should come from the outside as a change-agent is needed.

3. Before hiring a leader, the Board must clarify roles and responsibilities, as Potts called for. Nothing is more important. I believe a chancellor with the power to hire and fire college and university presidents is required. Absent clear roles and responsibilities, no competent leader will come to North Dakota in light of the recent fiasco.

4. If the Board cannot show more leadership than it has so far, it should be replaced.

5. The local newspaper should limit itself to straight reporting of the facts on this story as its editorials show a lack in organizational and leadership insight.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D., a former U.S. Secret Service agent and senior executive at the Star Tribune Newspaper, is a writer and consultant. He holds a doctorate in leadership and organizational change from Union Institute and University in Cincinnati.