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Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 02/22/2021

Alan Weiss's Monday Morning Memo

Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 02/22/2021


“Presentism” is the uncritical adherence to contemporary attitudes with the concomitant tendency to apply them to past events and interpret those events through them. Recently, the San Francisco school board (and others) voted to rename schools now named for Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and other historical figures. That involves over 40 schools, about a third of the system, and millions of dollars.

Chattel slavery was and is a horrendous crime, a heinous social condition that bears constant review and discussion and reconciliation. Such slavery has been in existence for thousands of years, including the ancient Greeks, tribes in Africa, and throughout the Nile Valley. But not everyone supported it during those times, and many people in the times of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln believed it to be wrong, criminal, and sinful. (Jefferson himself supposedly said about slavery, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”)

Yet, if we erected statues and named buildings only after “perfect people” of their times as judged by our current times there would be precious few statues and building names other than those like the New York subway system: trains are named after the alphabet. Take the “A” Train.

But my greater concern—because I’m not going to fight elected officials’ decisions to take down statues or rename buildings, which is their right—is that such actions are mere tokinsim. The school board in San Franciso is spending more time on this than in trying to get kids back in school, which the CDC is strongly advocating. We find it easy to rename a school, but no one seems willing to take on the thorny issue of changing how schools are funded so that ALL communities are equally endowed with the resources they need. Property taxes inherently favor wealthy communities and penalize poorer communities. Nor are the politicians willing to take on the very powerful (and bloc-voting) teachers’ unions, which oppose charter schools because they are such a threat to union power. I believe parents should have a right to send their kids to the best schools available for their needs.

I wouldn’t go around renaming schools because what goes on inside of them is the key, not what’s painted outside of them. But if the former is undermined by the latter, then we have a huge problem. We need to deal with the real issues of education equality and opportunity, not with the superficial—merely pretending we’re actually doing something. Henry Ford was a virulent anti-Semite (and Charles Lindburgh wasn’t far behind him) but the motor company still bears his name, and the Brown family, no matter what rationalization you use, were the most heinous of all the slave traders, yet the self-congratulatory, extremely progressive Brown University, endowed by the family, refuses to change its name.

Postscript: Two hundred years from now (or, perhaps, sooner) society will be horrified by our practice today of eating living creatures, many of which we “harvest” and slaughter. (I’ve always wondered about people denouncing the sale of furs while wearing leather shoes.) That will be their “presentism.”


Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.—John F. Kennedy

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.—Leo Tolstoy

Questions I’ve Never Been Asked: I’ve been interviewed thousands of times, coached thousands of people, made thousands of speeches. Yet I’m always amazed by the questions I’ve never been asked.  I’ve been around the block (over 60 countries to be exact). Maybe there are some things I’ve never shared because, as I think back, I’ve never been asked. If I were interviewing me, I’d be a lot more probing.

What’s been my greatest embarrassment in my profession, and why? What decisions I have made earlier and better? Who disappointed me hugely and what did I learn from it?

You’ll be hearing about these in this unique self-interview (I got the idea from Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything which I’ve been reading and in which he employs this technique). When I’ve worked with and chatted with Marshall Goldsmith, Jonah Berger, Dan Gilbert and a raft of other thought leaders, I’ve found we’re mostly asking each other questions and self-disclosing in response. (If Marshall and I had recorded our conversations in co-authoring Lifestorming we could have sold those for more than our respective coaching fees.)

And I’ll take questions throughout the session from attendees, and subsequently, by email, from those who watch the recording. I guess it may be that only I can ask these questions, but I’m certain that you all can profit from the answers.

Date: March 9, 2021, via Zoom    Time: 9 am to noon US eastern time. The session will be recorded and sent to those wanting to time shift

Fee: $1,000 by March 1,  $1,300 thereafter.

Consider this therapy that I’ve convinced you to pay me for.

MacKay CEO Forums: My long-time client and colleague, Nancy MacKay, is seeking additional Chairs for her vast network which provides virtual peer meetings for over 1200 business owners and executives around the world. She helps experienced coaches and consultants get off the income roller-coaster and add 50-300k in recurring annual revenue by using a guaranteed, proven system for success. The Chairs, while continuing to run their own businesses, also facilitate these meetings periodically, and gain exposure to potential clients by also addressing the groups and becoming known within the network. Here’s a video conversation with me and Nancy and more information at Mackay Certified Chairs. You can reach Nancy for further discussions here: Just mention that I sent you to receive a quick response.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 2

  • February 24, 2021

    Many feel the same (me included), but you articulated it beautifully!

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