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The Jobs Legacy

Monday October 10, 2011

When the announcement hit the headlines several weeks ago, that Steve Jobs could no longer carry the load as CEO of Apple, I remember the sadness. I also recall thinking that I would write about him. Even then, people in the tech business were on the search for words big enough to capture something of the legacy of the man who got a cancer that not even the best of the best, not even unlimited funds could cure. I thought about it, too, because Steve Jobs’ legacy touched me, as well.

Hoopla around Apple product announcements is what we expect anymore. Most recently, my anticipation revved up more over IOS 5 than a new “iPhone 5”. The new operating system, and the promise of iCloud had me waiting with that old Mac eagerness that I share with millions. A new iPhone can wait, I thought, but that new operating system. Wow. So when the new CEO (Tim Cook, Jobs’ handpicked successor) took to the stage somehow to fill the Jobian blue jeans, black turtle neck and shoes, the world was watching. Within minutes, we all took note of the subdued presentation and muted applause. For the most part, the whole ninety minutes, while packed with whiz-bang enhancements and new capabilities and processing speed felt off the mark. The whole thing was typified by the near groan you could hear around the world when Cook introduced the iPhone 4S? (Not the 5.) You could a most hear the line from Princess Bride… Inconceivable!

For the next day or so, the question was asked, “What is UP with Apple?”. Are they losing their edge, already?

Then came the news alert, which arrived in my world just the President indicated. He commented that it was a remarkable tribute to a remarkable man that that news of his untimely death (age 56) came to most of us on a device he gave to us. For me, the iPhone. “Steve Jobs has died, according to a report from Apple, Inc.” was all the text message said. I felt the air go out of my lungs for a moment as I processed the thought. Too soon, came to mind. Too soon. Sadnesses rolled over me again.

Immediately, I realized why the product presentation came off as something less than spectacular. Certainly, the new CEO knew. Many of the insiders both in the audience and on stage knew, too. Steve Jobs was close. Very close. His demise, eminent. It would be only a matter of hours. It is a tribute to the secrecy Jobs insisted on throughout his career that kept any of the rest of us from knowing how very serious his condition had become. As much as I thought I knew about the man, I was unaware that he was married; much less about the four children, all of whom stood around the bed as the man who would be soon compared to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison and Henry Ford breathed his last. He would leave behind the most valuable company in the world, with more cash in the bank than the Federal government. But the children and the extended family and his wife of nineteen years, Lauren, mother to three of his children, would grieve the untimely loss of a husband and a father too soon, just as the rest of us would. Money, power, influence, fame – all secondary.

While I never met the man, his work did impact my life. Significantly. Substantially. And will continue to do so. Not just because four years ago I gave away my last PC and traded windows machines in for Macs and iPhones and iPods and now an iPad (I’m writing this on the iPad at somewhere around thirty five thousand feet somewhere above Arizona), but because these tools happily occupy a good portion of my day, every day. My PC friends will be quick to remind me that Jobs didn’t really INVENT any of that stuff (you’ll hear the disgust in their voice, annoyed by the hyperbole and overuse of the word “icon”). While they have a point, the devices and integration and innovation and accessibility that is now a regular part of my day came from the company that Steve built. No, Jobs did not invent the Internet, but the World Wide Web was built on one of Jobs’ most outrageously powerful machines, the NeXT. He didn’t invent MP3s either. Or GPS. Or the digital camera. Or flash memory. Or eBooks.

But he put them all in my pocket.

As I have reflected on how my life has changed in the last few years, I realize how much control I have over the content I digest. I am way less dependent on the public airwaves, where I was once stuck with network drivel and endless advertising. I choose my podcast. My music. I’ve read way more books an ever. I’ve written a couple of books of my own on machines made by Steve, and I have instant access to research and fact checking and dictionary and encyclopedias at my fingertips. I can access my documents, keep connected to my family and friends, edit my photos and videos, speak to and see my grandkids who are thousands of miles away. I record my thoughts while barreling down the freeway and then send the recording to myself via email. I send Carolyn a text, she taps the screen and sees my location on a map, including my speed and my estimated time of arrival home. She can even see the traffic conditions. I text her again from the tarmac and tell her I love her. And I’m only getting started. It’s all in my pocket.

Oh yes. That iPhone 4S. It’s “for Steve.”

If Steven Jobs had lived his three score and ten and then some, we may not be reflecting as we are today over the contribution he has made to so many. When he recruited John Scully, the CEO of Pepsi, to come and run Apple way back in 1983, he asked, “What would you rather do? Sell sugared water or come with me and change the world?”

That got him. It got me, too.

I’d rather change the world.

copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011

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Grandparenting

This week, we do something out of the box.  My good friend, Annie Moffatt, has created a remarkable web site.  A veteran teacher and mom to two great girls, Audrey and Sophie, she has created a web presence which makes her creative materials available to educators, parents and grandparents to get involved in the learning process.  She calls her site The Moffatt Girls.  You’ll want to take a look at her materials.

Annie inaugurates a weekly podcast today.  I am her first guest.  So instead of reading text this week, listen in to the twelve minute interview.  She asks me about my role as a grandfather.  I hope you enjoy it.

When you get to the site – read Annie;s introduction, then look scroll down and for the “blogtalkradio” widget in the right column.  Click on the play button. Let us know what you think.  Forward the link!

THE MOFFATT GIRLS

LF – Rite of Passage

Monday, September 26, 2011

The summer before last, we made our third visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem just outside the Temple Mount and off limits from the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.  It is the center of the religious universe for what many like to call the Three Great Monotheisms.  You can’t help but get a sense of that lofty description as you stand there in the shadow of the ancient stone wall, chiseled with an uncanny precision, massive blocks somehow lifted and placed in perfect symmetry by some unimaginable technology long lost to the still undiscovered records books.  Every day, folks dressed for the occasion in traditional garb, often black, many of the men bearded, most all with heads covered, come to pray.  Some men are orthodox and arrive under broad brimmed back hats.   The rest are under a yarmulke, a round cap, often embroidered.  Women’s heads are delicately covered with a properly folded scarf, or sometimes a stylish hat.  If you have no head covering, one is made available to every visitor, no matter what your ethnicity, religious preference or nationality.  All are welcome.  But best to cover your head.

This is a place of tradition.  Though the years, it has been known as the “Wailing Wall.”  Jewish visitors from all over the world come to pray for the restoration of the biblical Temple.  For Peace in Jerusalem.  They leave their prayers in the cracks of the wall; little notes rolled up small enough to squeeze in between the massive stones.  The guardians of The Wall clear the paper from time to time, but keep all of the written prayers in a permanent archive in perpetuity.  They are considered sacred.

It is not uncommon to witness a joyous Bar Mitzvah at The Wall.  According to a tradition thousands of years old, men and women are separated at The Wall by a distinct border.  When a Jewish son reaches thirteen and has completed his course in basic Hebrew and a study of the Torah, a great celebration is planned.  It includes dancing and laughter and singing and the obligatory recitation in Hebrew by the youngster.  A properly attired Rabbi superintends the ceremony.  The highpoint of the celebration is a declaration by the boy, in Hebrew, “Today, I am a man.”  The crowd cheers, from both sides of the barrier.

I captured an image that day which later moved me with deep emotion.  It has almost a Norman Rockwell quality about it, though this is an exceptionally Jewish moment, rarely American.  A beautifully dressed mother reaches over the barrier to hold her son as tears stream down her cheeks.  The boy is wearing his yarmulke, the Rabbi holds the scroll, and two lovely sisters, smiling broadly, join the mother in reaching over the fence to touch their brother, whose father watches over the scene with obvious pride. All join in together in a long anticipated moment of joy and accomplishment.  The son/grandson/brother officially transitions from boyhood to manhood.  Here, in the shadow of the Great Wall.

It is a rite of passage.

As we left the scene, and as I have studied my photograph, I have wondered – “Why is there no such rite of passage in my own tradition?  For my own son?  For my daughters?  For me?”

Jim McBride wonders, too.

So he wrote a book: Rite of Passage – A Father’s Blessing.  Jim is executive pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church.  It’s the church that gave us Facing the Giants, Fireproof and now Courageous.  He served in the Marine Corps.  He’s a tough guy.  It wasn’t until he had children of his own that he got serious about God.

And he’s concerned about the myriad of lost kids everywhere – who live their lives without a father’s blessing.  It’s an epidemic.  He documents the stats.  It will only confirm what you see all around you.  His book is a call to do something about it.  He shares his own experiences with his own kids, Buddy, Tommy and Sarah.

Jim points out that there are rites of passage in our lives and our children’s, but we miss the opportunity if we fail to be intentional in capturing those moments and affirming our kids as proud, loving, affirming parents.  We can create some of our own custom rites, too.  He shows us how.  We also ought to involve our community – to bring in those who are close to us and share our values to celebrate these meaningful moments of transition with praise and joyful celebration.

That Bar Mitzvah moment remains one of my favorites, maybe because it calls up those memories of our own three and their passages into adulthood.

And perhaps that is the most meaningful part of our lives at this stage – to be there with affirmation, affecion and pride.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011

BLOG  TOUR for Jim’s new book |  Rite of Passage on Amazon

Mission Accomplished

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three years ago, the seed idea sprouted its first shoot.  It was, as my friend Scott Last likes to call it, a BHAG.  Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.  Our team got together and agreed – “Let’s make a movie.”

Frankly, if we had known in advance the obstacles, the barriers, the resistance, the seemingly insurmountable, the flat opposition – I’m not sure our guys would have proceeded back then.  There is something to be said for naïveté.  In the three years that followed, there were a hundred excuses for quitting – maybe more.  And most everyone would have understood.  But it was a powerful dream.  A compelling vision.  The impossible emerged as a possibility.  The door cracked open.  Our guys barged on through – with a team of prayer warriors holding them up all the way.

I’ve had a close look at this thing from the beginning.  I had the incredible experience of two personal trips to India in the interim.  This weekend, the official two minute thirty second trailer was introduced to over four thousand eager enthusiasts.  It’s been a long wait.  The guys nailed it.  They call it NOT TODAY.

Brent Martz, road weary and worn, beamed as he launched the video short.  Just a few weeks ago, on the flight back from India and a premier showing (to rave reviews) for the good folks who hosted the six-week on-location shoot and thirty American cast and crew (not counting the local actors, technicians, and support staff), Brent felt awful.  The day after his arrival home in Yorba Linda, he was admitted to the Emergency Center with a near burst appendix.  The doctors performed a surgery just in time.  But this weekend, Brent stood strong and tall – and as the trailer ran, the folks were flat blown away.  This is a real movie.  A powerful message.  A compelling story.  A fast paced journey, learning all the way.  A heart-tugging experience of India.  People you care for.

Back in the planning stages, we all looked around.  We could see it.  The church is abundantly blessed with artists, musicians, actors, writers, technicians and all the equipment anyone would need to make a feature film.  Most important, there was a message.  Global Freedom!  Free the Dalits!  This became our rallying cry as a church body.  And in the message of freedom is the essence of the Gospel.  Transformed lives lead to transformed culture and a transformed world.  Reaching out across the globe had a corresponding effect on the local neighborhood.  Our team agreed.  A documentary would be good.  But a full-length drama would be better.

Brent and his partner, Jon Van Dyke, were commissioned to write a script.  I read it for the first time while attending the first graduating class of Dalit students (high school) in Hyderabad.  I loved it.  A privileged Orange County millennial (Caden Welles) goes to India on a fluke with his partying pals.  They play the “ugly Americans,” Caden leaving behind a caring Mom and girlfriend. He stumbles across Annika (an eight year old Dalit – played by a student in one of our schools) and her father on the mean streets.  At first, he shuns them.  But they come back.  He grows attached to the little girl.  And when he learns that her father, thinking it best, accepts cash and a promise that she will be better off from an agent who takes Annika away, Caden does his homework.  He staggers, surmizing from an Internet search that the innocent little girl has become the victim of human trafficking – children snatched from their families and tossed into a world of unimaginable torment.  Off balance, Caden becomes obsessed with her rescue.  He and Annika’s father, Kiran, join forces as an unlikely pair in the hunt.

I couldn’t put down the script.  I spent the next week traveling with Brent and Jon scouting film sites and locations for the movie.  Then the next ten months researching and writing a book with Matthew Cork on the story of Global Freedom.  I spoke regularly with our partners in India who were enormously helpful in the research.  Next came the casting.  Then delays in filming (getting “permissions” to bring the film crew into India and through customs).  Then more challenges with time constraints and weather conditions, sickness, unreliable permissions on site, language barriers, clashing visions, debates over locations and scene selection, transportation, and every other distraction you might imagine.  Then in the editing room.  What to cut?  Keep the story moving, with all the hints and details just right.  And finally, post-production – color corrections, animated sub-titles, original music for the sound track, smoothing out the dialogue, adding street sounds and highlights.  And this paragraph barely begins to identify the monumental challenges.

It was an unfortunate banner – “Mission Accomplished.”  If former President G.W. Bush could do it over, the announcement would not have been so apparent on that aircraft carrier as the nation celebrated the fall of Hussein’s reign over Iraq.  Because, in retrospect, the work wasn’t done.  The mission still incomplete.  To this day.

So, when I congratulate our team with a  “Mission Accomplished,” I am compelled to add some qualifiers.  In many respects, the work is just beginning.  The movie needs to be seen, and should be seen by a mass audience.  The message needs to get out there. We’re eager (and sometimes impatient) as we watch the plan unfold.

But for today, just for today, our team has accomplished that BHAG. Kudos! It is nothing short of amazing.  We like to call it a God-sized vision.  Impossible, apart from His clear passion for a world in need – prompting us all to see beyond ourselves to something more – and His power to enable us to go far beyond what we can imagine.  Mission accomplished.

A great film is “in the can.”  Ready for prime time.  Who would have imagined it?

Well, some did.  And here we are.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011

VIEW NOT TODAY TRAILER

A Decade Later

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where were you?  You know the answer.  Me, too.  I know exactly where I was when I first got the news that the World Trade Center was hit.  I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the event then (a small plane crashed into the World Trade Center, they first speculated), but the memory is indelible in my mind, even at this age, as it is for you.

On this ten-year anniversary, we will not forget.  Retrospectives fill the airwaves and print media.  They bring back all those days of uncertainty, images of a terrible moment like Armageddon, when we wondered if this was The End.  And for far too many, it was.

I was in the habit of writing a weekly LeaderFOCUS back then.  These days, the current of LF version is trimmed down.  Some years before September 11, 2001, I established a discipline that got me in the habit of writing on a regular basis.  My goal: fifteen hundred to two thousand words a week – that’s three to four single-spaced pages with a twelve-pitch font for those of you not conversant in word count.  Today, my weekly essays are pared down to less than half that, knowing that you have plenty to read.  But that pivotal week, in the aftermath of the massive spectacle of horrors, I let it go.  I couldn’t stop.

This week, as part of my little personal memorial, I went back and read the two thousand, seven hundred and twenty-four (2,724) words I wrote on September 17, 2001[1].  I got carried away that day, but what writer wouldn’t?

Here’s one of my musings on the Saturday morning that followed the Tuesday we will never forget…

For a couple of decades, we [“Boomers”] crammed our naïve but ardently held ideas (which we thought were new and bold) down the unwilling throats of the Greatest Generation (we didn’t think of them in those terms back then) and embraced this rather ambitious notion that our heady enlightenment would usher in the Age of Aquarius and be the dawning of a new day of global brotherhood and sisterhood and the elimination of hunger, poverty, disease, violent conflict and every other sort of nasty contamination.  Sadly, all that has gone the way of the tie-dyed t-shirt and the flowered VW Microbus. 

As the dust of the ruined towers settled back then and we all looked into each other’s eyes in stunned disbelief, we wondered out loud – where will we all be in ten years?  Twenty years?  Well, we do not yet know about twenty, but here we are: ten years later.

And we were right.  The world has changed.

Ten years ago, most of us did not know the name Osama bin Laden.  Ten years ago, Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq.  Ten years ago, we barely noticed the proliferation of Mosques in our own country.  We knew little about Islam.  Ten years ago, we believed the “Internet Bubble” would be the worst of our economic troubles, and that it was behind us.  Ten years ago, at least half of us were not confident that the election gave us a legitimately elected President.  Ten years ago, I was not a grandfather.  (Now there are ten with two more on the way.)  Ten years ago, I had no real understanding of the plight of Dalits in India.  Ten years ago, I did not anticipate that a fire would sweep through our little town (The Paradise Fire of October 2003) and change the direction of my life.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking considerable heat for his decision to exclude “clergy” from the roster of the tenth anniversary memorial.  Righteous indignation abounds.  As a quasi-clergy myself, I can’t say I blame him.  My esteemed clergy colleagues spend far to much time clamoring for a prime spot at the head table, asserting their view that certain others ought to be excluded for the sake of principle (or “truth”) and bemoaning about how the rest of the world falls far short of their lofty standards.  Bloomberg may be right about shifting the focus from competing “world views” to the people for whom the event was created in the first place.  Anyway, clergy’s best work happens person to person – not in the spotlight.  (I’ll never forget the moving image of those collared priests, covered with ash, ministering to the dying.)

So if Bloomberg’s intent was to eliminate God (as many have charged), it didn’t work very well.  God got honorable (and powerful) mention from the people, most of whom were family and friends of those lost in the flames and rubble of the attack.  In the shadow of the new structure and beside the water spilling into the footprint of Towers One and Two, the names were read, bells rang out, bagpipes wailed, songs went up and if you paid attention, God was in the midst.  “A very present help in time of trouble,” read President Obama (quoting the Psalmist).

President Bush made no speech, other than to cite the words of Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, who lost five sons in the Civil War.

“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2011

The Velodrome

Tuesday September 6, 2011

We generally don’t think about the impact of anti-Seminitism on the occupied territories of Nazi expansionism. This weekend, we got a double dose. In a session on the history of Israel, we saw the stats. The countries that opposed the formation of the Israel as an independent state in 1948 became inhospitable for their Jewish populations. In countries like Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia, as Arabs fled Palestine so Jews fled their home countries to what we now call Israel. (Jewish populations are nearly non-existent in Arab states). We know about the pogroms in Germany and Poland, but few of us know about the round up of Jews in occupied France. It happened in July of 1942, when French police assisted the Nazi army in extracting more than 13,000 Yellow Starred Jews from their homes and businesses and corralling them in a public stadium in Paris, the giant velodrome called Vél d’Hiv. The Nazi’s convinced city officials to halt the games, and use the facility as a holding station while the deportation was arranged. The conditions more than rivaled the horrible days that followed the catastrophic storm of 2005, Katrina, when thousands gathered for shelter at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Most of those detained in Paris during the war were shipped to camps (like Auschwitz) and few returned at war’s end. Sometimes it takes a combination of fiction and history to draw us in to the power of these historical events.

In 2002, Julia Jarmond stumbles across the story when she and her husband rent an apartment in Paris. She learns that the building was stormed by police during the war and that all the occupants who were Jewish were removed from their homes and taken to the famous Velodrome (long since destroyed) and then shipped off to Germany. She remembered that President Jacques Chirac publicly apologized to the Jewish people in 1995 in a well publicized speech. An American journalist living in France, Julia convinces her managing editor to commit to an exposé in the historic incident on the sixtieth anniversary of the episode. Her younger colleagues knew very little about the events surrounding the Holocaust. She got the green light, and pursued her research and writing, producing a piece that got a wide audience and high praise.

Sarah, age ten in 1942, is terrified by the invasion of their home. Her father hides in the cellar. Her mother tries to fend off the police. Sarah and her younger brother are perplexed, but they understand the danger. Sensing that they will be taken, she hides him in a closet, and then, along with her mother and father, are taken against their will to the Velodrome with thousands of others where they suffer in waiting, no facilities or food, for more than a week.

In her novel, French author Tatiana de Rosnay develops a story that is an intentional mixture of fiction and non-fiction. It is a story of family and loss and love and hope. This year, the novel is now a full length feature film. Carolyn and I talked for an hour, trying to unpack the reasons why it had such a powerful impact on both of us.

The critics, it turns out, haven’t been so kind. It’s just as well that we did not read them before we sent to see the film. They complain that the two story lines don’t mesh. We don’t agree.

History understood impacts the way we live, they way we think and the way we interact with others. Our world, it seems, has little time and little sense for historic perspectives. I wish I knew why I needed to get to this stage in life before I understood the power of history.

Sarah’s tragic journey is a gripping tale about the bond of family that inspires courage and determination. Julia’s quest for understanding leads to a new degree of self-awareness, breaking open secrets to find healing. And in the often tragic sweep of history, stories of bravery emerge, inspiring us to find our own courage against all odds.

Sarah’s Key unlocks many doors. Don’t read the critics. Go see for yourself.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011

 

The Help

Monday, August 15, 2011

Most of the women in my life have read the book, The Help, Kathryn Stockett’s mega-best seller.  I have not.  But I overheard so many conversations about the novel that I knew I’d want to see the movie.  The trailer got me.

For the first twenty or thirty minutes or so, I realized why there were so few others of my gender in the packed theater.  As I scanned the room for other guys I thought to myself, this one is a serious, unapologetic chick flick of the first rank.  (The stranger next to Carolyn struck up a conversation over the shared experience of reading the book, and then expressed shock that her husband [I] was there seated beside her.  Hers, she explained, came up with a convenient excuse for missing the movie.)  As The Help’s sound track quieted down for the dialogue scenes, I could hear the sub woofer explosions and rapid shots of automatic weapons firing in the next theater over.  I figured all the other dudes must be over there watching some digital world blow up.  But there I was, next to Carolyn, feeling like I had been secretly ushered into a bouquet jammed, flower scented, boutique sitting room to listen in on a pack of polished, coiffed, manicured, chattering women blissfully unaware that there was a male present.

I actually whispered a prayer of thanks that I was created male.  Those opening scenes.  Women can be so catty, so cruel.  With a glossy smile, they can cut each other to pieces.  Us guys do the same thing, I guess, but mainly on the field of athletic competition utilizing physical contact or scoring skill as our primary mode of establishing superiority.  On a woman’s turf, the damage can be just as severe.  But the warfare is verbal and the bloodshed emotional, even psychological.

Discrimination is a major theme of the book and the movie.  That first part of the film, as I have explained, I was most acutely aware of the gender discrimination, which was, in the Jackson, Mississippi of the early 1960s, as pronounced and stark as all those other segregations and stereotyping.  This is a woman’s world.  No men allowed.  Maybe at no other time in history – the white, post-Gone-With-The-Wind South – were gender roles so clearly differentiated.

But as I grew accustomed to the company of these women, I tuned in to the powerful performances and the great characters.  Minny and Aibileen transform from necessarily passive housemaids to a powerful pair of warriors: Aibileen, quiet, simmering, intelligent; Minny, take-no-prisoners, quick-witted and daring.  Minny’s outspoken, independent spirit gets her fired more than once.  Her strength emerges when she takes on the ditsy blonde outcaste, Celia Foote.

This film (and the book) is really about that other discrimination – racial discrimination – when schools were as segregated as the public transportation and drinking fountains and diners.  Stockett contextualized the film through her main character, Skeeter Phelan, whose college education has sensitized her and dreams of becoming a writer energize her research.  Through her, we are reminded of the Jim Crow laws that had been protected by a Supreme Court ruling since the Reconstruction era in the aftermath of the Civil War.  This was the early sixties, when Medgar Evers was murdered in the streets of Jackson just after President John Kennedy’s speech called for Civil Rights.  The Help makes domestic workers a metaphor for the epic social change unleashed nearly fifty years ago.

Bryce Dallace Howard was interviewed on how she could possibly play the role of that despicable social butterfly with a supremacist’s determination.  She explained that the breakthrough came when she realized that her character, Hilly Holbrook, really believed that her obsessive commitment to segregation was in everyone’s best interest.  She believed she was right.  She considered her activism noble, courageous and virtuous.  She also got the confirmation of the political establishment, and enjoyed the admiration of her friends.  Her proposed legislation, to require every household to provide separate toilets for (colored) domestic helpers won wide support.

All of us cheered the victories of Minny and Aibileen over Hilly and her detached, insensitive battle for superiority; her tireless efforts to preserve a separation that she argues will her prevent the “contamination” of the races.  As Aibileen explained, her strength “came from God.”

Both the book and the film have critics from both ends of the political spectrum.  Some believe the story exaggerates the problem.  Others believe Stockett’s book and the film understate the problem and leave out too much.  But this is a work of fiction.  This is storytelling.  A novel will never satisfy the academic crowd on either side.  That’s why, in addition to the novel, we have the dissertation.

As the world shrinks and our neighborhoods become less and less homogenized, we still have much to learn from the Civil Rights era.  The Help presents us with an ideal.   Barriers can be eliminated. “Let the walls fall down,” wrote Billy Batstone.

When we listen, when we care, we develop mutual respect… even affection.

As Aibileen took little Mae Mobley in her arms, she taught her to say, “I’m kind.  I’m smart.  I’m important.”

Copyright Kenneth E. Kemp

Note – a good friend and LeaderFOCUS reader, Jim Adkins has written a terrific book in which he addresses the issue of racism. Take a look.