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JFK at the social responsibility summit

One last thing from me on Sach's general session yesterday. He quoted John F. Kennedy:

"So, let us not be blind to our differences - but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved."

He used it to illustrate that at the most basic level, humans have much more in common than we have different. We all inhabit the same planet, we breathe the same air, we're mortal, etc.

It was interesting that earlier in the day when David Cooperrider had us answering questions in the appreciative inquiry process, I also turned to JFK -- probably to his most famous quote: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." I changed a word--from country to world.

To me, that's what it's about. Linking back to a post of mine from yesterday, I do think it's about changing the culture of the way we live and work. The point I was making was that in general we need to stop thinking about what we can get out of life and start thinking about what we can give back to society. And, we need to do this while keeping our individuality.

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Comments

I'm not sure what is meant by "give something back" since I don't recall taking anything in the first place.

Wealthy capitalists may need to "give something back" in return for making so much money off the less fortunate. But most not-for-profit organizations are not in that category.

It would be better if we talked about contributing to the common good. It is less punitive and helps everybody.

Hi David, I'm not sure what you're saying with this comment -- are you saying nonprofits should neither give back to society nor contribute to the common good? Because that's only for wealthy capitalists?

Or is it just quibbling with the term "give back" vs. "contribute to the common good." If so, I think the terms are pretty much interchangeable.

Hey, Scott,

I think "give something back" implies that we are doing something that is bad for society and that we have to make up for it. It's not semantics, it's attitude.

Associations that represent social workers, librarians, nurses, and other helping professions, for example, are doing "good" every day. They have nothing to apologize for and no need to "give back."

Association executives steadfastedly refrain from passing judgement on the activities of each other's members. We are all trained to be effective managers - regardless in whose self-interest we are acting.

Perhaps we should focus our social responsibility efforts on those in our profession who are doing bad things. But then, we'd be acting like ideologues, not managers.

David--I find it really interesting that "give something back" implies to you that we are doing something bad and need to make up for it. I've never read it that way at all;I always read it to mean that, in a typical person's life, that person has received many gifts from others--food, friendship, education, etc.--and he or she should therefore give back to the overall world as a "pay it forward" way of giving back to all of those people who made a difference in his or her life.

Or, in a professional society, "giving back" to the profession is a way of helping future members of the profession, just as the earlier members of the profession helped establish and nurture it years ago.

The fact that two such different interpretations of the same phrase can be out there reminds me of how important it is to talk things through when problems arise during a discussion, to make sure everyone involved is understanding the same terms in the same way!

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