The Light on the Water

B. William Silcock, Curator, Hubert H. Humphrey Program, Arizona State University

hhhportrait_09_smallThe 2013-2014 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at the Cronkite School set forth on their own voyage of discovery this past year. Symbolically, they sailed the seas of leadership — kinship, friendship, ownership, workmanship, hardship, stewardship and worship — as they stretched themselves in ASU courses, got dirty hands during community service projects and polished their professional skills in affiliations with Arizona media businesses and nonprofit organizations.

We’ve talked of career mapping and polished elevator pitches all while riding the waves of emotion that come with moving to a new country and diving into a new culture. Each fellow has magnificently oriented their own moral compass to direct them to paths of passion and professionalism that make us all so very, very proud — a true ripple effect of light. Those careers already traveled many miles in the lands of journalism, public relations and strategic communications. Where will they go next?

Each Cronkite Humphrey Fellow has become even more a unique vessel ready for new opportunities after this year. They’re boarding their own ships ready to leave Phoenix’s safe harbors. “A ship is safe in harbor,” penned Presbyterian theologian William Shedd, “but that’s not what ships are for.” Who have become these fellows’ leadership role models?

Masthead is a fascinating word. We think of those ornately carved images on the front bow of a clipper sprayed by ocean waves. The word can refer to the banner of a newspaper or the top of a Web page while mast is also a name for the tall tower structures of broadcasting antennas. What will be carved on the masthead of each of our fellows’ vessels of leadership? Ask them — they know! Wisdom, power, justice and mercy no doubt are among the words to describe those who inspire them.

Ships can be a beautiful, metaphorical image in the quest to study and practice leadership principles. Captain, first mate and crew become powerful roles to model organizational obedience, teamwork efforts and the interplay between a self-centered focus and the servant leadership perspective on life. The lives of great sea captains such as Magellan, Columbus, Lord Nelson and Hirose, whose selfless sacrifice during the Russo-Japanese War elevated him to hero status, offer timeless lessons. Hollywood teaches too — think Captain Kirk and Hans Solo. Missing are untold stories of women like Amelia Earhart or Sally Ride who sailed “higher seas” in the sky to make their historical milestones. Who will tell their stories?

The deserts of Arizona may seem a strange place to ponder the metaphors of leadership voyages surviving a perfect storm or learning the lessons of English explorer Lord Shackleton’s quest in Antarctica. In the desert, as on the sea, one is forced to confront the reality of our life’s voyage. Gazing upward to the heavens, we not only learn how navigate with the stars but are drawn to ponder our own moral compass to life’s success.

On behalf our Program Manager Kristi Kappes, who became far more than a first mate to many of you, and the faculty and staff at the Cronkite School, we wish you every success and “God Speed” in the adventures that lie ahead.

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