I heard an amusing, and revealing, if not insightful, story the other day. It sheds some light on several public figures I know, so to speak, or at least know of. One or two you may or may not know of or remember. At least one you will know of for sure.
But first the story.
The room was full of pregnant women with their husbands. The instructor said, “Ladies, remember that exercise is good for you. Walking is especially beneficial – it strengthens the pelvic muscles and will make delivery that much easier. Just pace yourself, make plenty of stops and try to stay on a soft surface, like a grass path.”
“And gentlemen, remember — you’re in this together. It wouldn’t hurt you to go walking with your wife. In fact, that shared experience would be good for you both.” The room suddenly became very quiet as the men absorbed this information. After a few moments, a man at the back of the room raised his hand. “Yes?” said the Instructor. “I was just wondering if it would be all right if the wife could carry my golf bag while we walked, at least until her water breaks?”
Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? This is the kind of sensitivity that probably can’t be taught.
Or can it?
You may know of Simon Cowell, the English reality television producer, entrepreneur and judge. On English TV, he has judged on Pop Idol, The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. On American TV, he has judged on American Idol, The X Factor and America’s Got Talent.
Whether or not you are familiar with Cowell, he is a voice to be reckoned with. In 2004 and again in 2010, Time named Cowell one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph ranked him sixth in their list of the one hundred most powerful people in British Culture. His net worth is rumored (or should I say rumoured) to be in the nine figures.
Back in the American Idol days, Cowell was very blunt and hurtful, regularly making wisecracks and comments that brought the singing contestants to tears and the audiences to jeers and hisses. But for Cowell, it worked, and worked well. Nevertheless, a decade later, in America’s Got Talent, Cowell has mellowed, softened, even shed a tear on occasion. It’s as if he wants to be liked rather than disliked. But make no mistake about it. He built his fame and fortune by being disliked (but still very talented).
Another who fits the Cowell mode is Muhammed Ali, originally Cassius Clay. In his time, Clay-Ali was the heavyweight boxing champion of the World, first a gold medal winner in the 1960 Rome Olympics and thereafter many times over on the professional circuit. In his early days, like Cowell, Clay-Ali was every bit as obnoxious as Cowell, maybe even louder. But he admitted that all of his bluster was nothing more than an act.
True to his conscientious objector beliefs, Ali refused to serve in the military at the time of the Vietnam War. He was committed to his beliefs. He gave up his titles and his wealth and went to jail—until the U.S. Supreme Court vindicated him and set him free. He rose from the ashes to rebuild his wealth and his titles.
With age, like Cowell, Ali also mellowed. He grew to become a world class statesman truly known and revered in every corner of the planet.
Harking back to the story at the opening of this blog, Cowell and Ali are two examples of men who were indeed able to learn something about sensitivity.
Which brings us to the third champion of (questionable) sensitivity and catcalls I want to mention. His initials are DJT. You know him. C’mon, you do. Depending on your political persuasion, you may call him our President or you may call him The Donald. Or you may call him something worse, perhaps a lot worse.
One thing on which most people can and will agree about [plug in your name of choice] is that he is unquestionably his own worst enemy. What is not so clear is whether he is genuinely as hopeless as the golfer who wanted to know if his wife could caddy for him until her water broke or whether he is just acting, much like Cowell and Clay-Ali in their earlier years. On that we certainly will not be able to agree.
And as in the case of the original narrator of our above golf story, one can only wonder whether our President’s sensitivity just comes naturally to him or is rather an acquired taste that has come to him later in life, and whether he might yet learn anything from studying the sensitivity journeys of Cowell and Ali.
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