John William Gardner Essay, Research Paper
John William Gardner John William Gardner was born in 1912. He is a noted author; a formerSecretary of Health, Education and Welfare; a former U.S. Marine Corpsintelligence officer; and among many additional accomplishments is currently a professor of public service at Stanford University. Gardner started his career as a psychology professor at Mt. Holyokecolleges. He then served his stint with the Marine Corps during World War II. One year after the culmination of the war Gardner joined the CarnegieCorporation of New York. Within three years he would progress to become itsvice president and in 1955 the Carnegie Corporation s president of theFoundation for the Advancement of Teaching. From his position in the Carnegie Corporation Gardner would proceed tohis first presidential appointment when President Lyndon B. Johnson named himas Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in July 1965 . Not satisfied withthis position he would resign less than three years later to head up the NationalUrban Coalition. Two years later he would found Common Cause and serve asits chairman between 1970 and 1977. Beginning in 1989 Gardner would serve inhis current position at Stanford University (Rasberry, 1992). Gardner has been a prolific author. His books have dealt with a variety ofsubjects including such topics as self-improvement, morality, leadership, humanresourcedevelopment, and organizational development. He is an avid speaker as well. The chronological development of Gardner s thought process is obvious whenone looks at his books. He progresses from Excellence : Can We Be Equaland Excellent Too? written in 1961, to Self Renewal: The Individual and theInnovative Society (1964), to No Easy Victories (1968). His latter works include On Leadership written in 1990. In all of his work, Gardner looks at the role of the individual and thecollective role of the group. He dissects organizations and describes theirmaturation processes, comparing them to those of people. He stresses thatwithout new growth, organizations like people, grow old and die from theirinability to respond to the marketplace. In Self-Renewal Gardner stressesaction over rote memorization and provides it as one of the maxims to ensureappropriate growth and health. In On Leadership Gardner implicates explosivecrisis situations (as opposed to creeping crises ) as being the precipitating factorfor the development of great leaders. Gardner s train of thought has evolvedsomewhat over the years to encompass pressing current difficulties but hissolutions have remained essentially the same(Rasberry, 1992). In a recentspeech for example he acknowledged the devastations of such complex societalproblems such as AIDS but revealed the secret to their solution as being no
more complex than societies willingness to take whatever steps are necessary toresolve the particular problem (Rasberry, 1992). He stated: “Every informed American understands thegravity of the problems we face today. Yet theproblems themselves are not as perplexing as thequestions they raise concerning our capacity togather our forces and act – a capacitycommonly and much too vaguely described aspolitical will. (Rasberry, 1992) . Gardner is devoted to the thought process that as a group we have largelyforgotten how to act in common. This is for the most part due to the fact thatindividual and special group interests have taken precedent over larger groupinterest (Rasberry, 1992). Our shared values, on the other hand, have fallen bythe wayside in the wake of the values of a few select interest (Rasberry, 1992). Gardner defines shared values as those on which are built the edifice of groupachievement (Rasberry, 1992). With the disintegration of these shared valueswe as an overall group have no worth common purpose to which we can musterthe energy and attention to devote ourselves to (Rasberry, 1992). Gardner expands on the concept of shared values by proposing thescenario that these values, in reality, no longer exist (Rasberry, 1992). Thisscenario would leave us with institutions that could no longer adapt to a changingworld and with a sense of community that would be weakened by unresolvedinternal conflicts (Rasberry, 1992). Gardner suggests: “If we turn for a moment from the greatsubstantive problems of the day to deeperquestions having to do with our values, oursense of common purpose, our use and misuse ofavailable talent and energy, we may be able toanswer the question underlying all the otherquestions today: whether we have it in us tocreate a future worthy of our past(Rasberry,1992) . His suggestion offers hope for the future. In this day when many of ourpublic leaders are questioned not only on their leadership skills but on theirmorality the words of John W. Gardner offer true hope. Though his works weare able to ascertain that it is not any one leader or group of leaders who will bullthe world through, it is instead a collaboration of the people. When the peopledecide to turn their collective group effort towards solutions, solutions will befound. Our leaders are merely puppets and we are the puppet masters. Bibliography Gardner, John W. Excellence : Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too? W.W.Norton Company: New York, 1984. Gardner, John W. No Easy Victories. Harper and Row: New York, 1968. Gardner, John W. On Leadership. The Free Press: New York, 1990. Gardner, John W. Self-Renewal : The Individual and the Innovative Society. New York: Harper and Row, 1964. Rasberry, William. Was Clinton Created By Our Times? , Newsday, 10 Dec1992.