Nine years ago, I had the privilege of listening to an amazing man tell his story and ask very insightful questions.
While his stories were then 60 years old, if you listened carefully, you could hear all of today’s themes: trust, integrity, transparency, social obligations, human resources, too few resources to accomplish way too much, and more.
He talked about information issues, privacy and hacking when discussing how British mathematicians broke the Nazi wartime code using a captured Enigma machine.
He talked about social obligations, trust and transparency by asking the question: “Churchill and Roosevelt then knew what was happening. Why didn’t they do more?” He wasn’t angry. I don’t think this gentle man ever got angry. His question was more of a lifetime search through confusion and conflicting truths.
He would be told that if these leaders had done more, they would have tipped their hand to Hitler that they had broken the code. So they sat on their hands, and watched.
“Why didn’t they just bomb the tracks?” he asked. “We now know that they knew, at the time, exactly where those tracks led and what happened every day because of them.”
The tracks he spoke of led to places like Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buchenwald, and Dachau.
This gentle man with very deep questions and few answers was Elie Wiesel; Auschwitz Holocaust survivor, writer, teacher, Nobel Peace Laureate, and humanitarian.
I mention this not to compare our discussions to his. There is no comparison.
But, to me, his questions cut through the clutter of the moment. What we’re really talking about is leadership. And tough choices. And doing the right thing when faced with multiple paradoxes, enigmas, and conflicting needs.
Regardless of the technology or challenge or economic needs of the moment, we’re really talking about mapping a journey where there are more questions than answers, and all the answers require character and a will to do things just because they’re the right things to do.
Again, on almost all levels, no comparison. Please don’t take the mental leap I’ve made the wrong way.
Yet, when it comes to looking inside ourselves, and standing up for the rights and welfare of others because it’s the right thing to do: that’s a journey we must all face every day of our lives. Whether we’re tackling something the whole world must never forget, or whether we’re just trying to make it through another day.
Making a difference matters.