At the 31st S.C. HIV/STD and Viral Hepatitis Conference in Columbia last month, I saw a photograph of a billboard that Hope Health Edisto posted in rural Bamberg County to educate viewers about the impact of HIV in that rural area. Why? To get people to realize that they need to get tested and, if HIV positive, into care.
When adhering to their medical regimens, people with HIV can live long, productive lives. Working people contribute to their communities not only by the value of their labor, but also through the taxes they pay. Billboards like that one benefit the economic vitality of our state.
That same week, I heard a radio interview with Richard Rieckenberg, retired chief engineer on nuclear submarines. He told how he continued his service to his country at the American Red Cross by teaching courses on leadership and managing relief efforts. A principle he cited regularly in his training courses was Gen. Colin Powell’s statement that if “you are unable or unwilling to solve the problems of your people, you are not a leader.”
It was against this backdrop that I stumbled across a clip from a speech by Gov. Nikki Haley at Rural Summit South Carolina. She said that we want to “make every community healthy.” She focused on ways to bring much-needed job-creating companies to rural communities to improve the economic health. She asked the audience to drive through their counties as if they were CEOs of prospective companies, to view everything as a newcomer might. Good advice so far.
Then she noted that she had seen that HIV billboard, and shook her head as a kindergarten teacher would to tiny children, saying, “You can’t do that.” The audience laughed in support. She added, “because a CEO’s going to make a U-turn as fast as anything else, and we won’t get any companies in there.”
Am I missing something? Would a CEO worth having not research an area before moving in?
Wouldn’t a real leader, seeing such a sign, react by saying, “I didn’t know that,” do more research, then come back with, “Here’s what I intend to do to address the problem”? Instead, she wants to sweep unpleasant issues under the rug.
Perhaps Gov. Haley needs to remember (or to learn?) the difference between true leadership and building a Potemkin village.