Tag Archives: Opinion

Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2014 by

Growing up in a Catholic elementary school, we took notice of holidays with religious connections, mostly involving saints. However, as a younger child, Valentine’s Day did not seem to fit into that religious holiday category. February 14th, skipped over as a feast day by most, is originally known as St. Valentine’s Day.

St. Valentine was a Christian priest in the third century, living in Rome. The Roman emperor at that time, Claudius II, decided that single men would be more useful for fighting, not falling in love. He issued a law forbidding the marriage of any young man. Valentine would not put up with this new rule, so he began to perform marriages in secret. Unfortunately, Claudius II found out about Valentine and put him to death.

Now, Valentine’s Day is known as a holiday celebrating love. Not much is remembered about the famous martyr and even less is actually cared about. Most people see it as a day to recognize all the people that you love in your life—and especially that one special person.

For teenagers such as myself, the holiday does not take over our lives. We shouldn’t spend hours upon hours figuring out the right gift and thinking of things to say to get someone else to fall in love with us. If you happen to be in a relationship, then it is perfectly fine to get your girlfriend/boyfriend a little something, but the holiday should not be blown up to be that big of a deal. Much of the reason teenagers like to make a big deal about Valentine’s Day is to make them seem more mature, but, in a sense, they are only mocking the original intent. The holiday is meant to celebrate everyone in real love, so I think we can leave that to the adults.

With all the pink and red hearts floating around, the holiday can be pretty cheesy, but there is some good to it. For adults, it is a great day to show their love for each other. Kids, well, just stick to the hearts and candy.

Daniel Jewell is a student at Mount Michael Benedictine School.

Anger

January 11, 2014 by

Anger and frustration are emotions everyone experiences. The ways we manage those feelings are what is important. Teenagers are not experts at managing their anger and frustration in comparison to adults. Every day is a learning experience, especially for teenagers who are involved in many activities.

School is what most teenagers, I find, get angry about. Whether it is because of their heavy homework load or being up early on a Monday morning, there is always someone complaining about school. It makes sense—school takes up the majority of our time. We spend seven to eight hours at school a day, not counting the clubs or sports that follow after the final bell rings. To the average teenager, school is like a second home.

I also get frustrated with the stresses of school and grades, but I understand how to manage it. My friends and family are always there for me, patiently listening to me vent when I have a bad day. They have my back and will sympathize and help me rationalize my anger. It is a healthy way to unleash my anger and frustration without taking it out on someone else or letting it overly affect me.

Teachers and counselors are also resources that can be used for teenagers who are angry or upset. If it is about a specific reason involving school, they are the perfect people to express concerns to. It is their job to be considerate and be understanding of the problems a student may have. It is also a healthy way to release that bottled up anger or frustration.

Being a teenager can be challenging and frustrating, but there are many ways to manage those negative emotions. Every day we learn and grow, and soon we will learn not to sweat the small stuff and find other healthy ways to deal with our anger.

Halston Belcastro is a student at Millard West High School.

Stress

September 24, 2013 by

Over the years, I’ve accepted that stress is a part of life—especially for a high-school student. Balancing work and play isn’t an easy task and will be something that I will have to do for the rest of my life.

There have been countless times where I’ve wanted to pull out my hair over an assignment or just give up on a late night study session and go to sleep. There have also been times where I’ve felt overwhelmed with homework and projects and figuring out where I can fit in eating, sleeping, and socializing. The one thing I’ve learned is that running away isn’t going to finish that assignment or project. The only choice you have to deplete that stress is to get it done and off your plate.

It’s weird to think that stress can be rewarding. After I complete an assignment that was stressing me out, I always feel a little proud and relieved. It’s a little weight off my shoulders and makes my steps a little lighter as I go about the rest of my day. The small successes of finishing that math homework or reading those assigned pages should be celebrated to keep up that positivity. Stress can take a toll on me, and without recognizing those small victories, there is no break from the constant stress of life’s hard moments.

Stress, whether we like it or not, is an inevitable part of life. A little positivity never hurt anyone and can go a long way when stress eats away at us. Celebrating those small wins over stress, no matter how unimportant they seem, can truly make a difference.

Halston Belcastro is a student at Millard West High School.

Grassroots Organization

August 26, 2013 by

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Peter F. Drucker

The thought of community organizing has been something that would raise my ire with thoughts of…well, you know the kinds of thoughts. When it was suggested that the same efforts might be useful for purposes I’m interested in, I was taken aback. If you read further, you might find that there is something in community organizing that you may find useful in your business endeavors, too.

In the U.S., there are a couple of companies that have been extremely professional in their approach to getting candidates elected: motivating the citizens in districts to participate in a meaningful manner to get a candidate re-elected or elected to office; changing apathy to active interest, and, on occasion, to participation. It was one of these companies that approached me to help with a difficult zoning matter.

Over a three-week period, we had people meet with and discuss a project for which I was seeking governmental entitlements with fully half of the registered voters in the city. Armed with a tablet computer, the door-to-door people knew who they were approaching, as well as the citizen’s voting participation, history, and party affiliation. This level of knowledge made their approach more of a “warm” contact. With each citizen contact, responses and interests were recorded for our use later. Citizens were asked to sign a postcard, which was pre-addressed to their specific council person. Hundreds did so, which resulted in a deluge of postcards to every council representative.

Just before the council hearing for the zoning matter, we called every residential telephone in the city, asking whether the resident wished to participate in a Tele-Townhall. Hundreds did choose to participate. This participation allowed us to poll the citizens again, as well as secure a huge city council attendance.

With this being my first such use of a political company to generate grassroots support for my business interests, there were several lessons learned.

Spend time with both the field people and the managers to be certain that they understand the big picture. Each person making contact with citizens needs to have a feel for what the hot topics are in the local community. They need to understand, with a moderate level of detail, the project being promoted. To be able to use local landmarks to describe location, and how the project will impact the community on a practical and emotional level.

Accurately describe the project from the perspective of both the opposition and the proponent. By offering both perspectives, one can stand before the governmental and political body and show that the presentation was neutral. More than a typical promotional approach, like selling a home or a car, this must be balanced. This is because when the citizens appear in the public forum and hear the impassioned presentation of both sides, they should find that what they were told was indeed balanced. This keeps your supporter’s positions solidly committed.

Unlike regular elections or product purchase, governmental action on many large issues will affect communities for generations. If a property is zoned for industrial, that use will be carved in stone for many decades. Citizens will step up to the gravity of the situation and the importance of the decision if they are informed and invited to participate. Every communication with citizens must convey the importance of the matter, as well as the part each citizen might play in that decision. You will find that many will grasp this opportunity to break from apathy and participate in a meaningful way.

Local government workers, and especially elected officials, may resent this grassroots effort. An awakened citizenry is a threat to their typically unquestioned authority. While this may be something you are accustomed to in business, the participating citizens may be better served by being forewarned that their reception may be rather cool.

For the modest expense involved and relative ease in this effort, I think that a well-planned and prepared grassroots effort is just what most communities need. Too many citizens have been lulled into apathy, cocooned in their daily routine. You may find that your project inspires great community support. Support that will result in you prevailing in securing necessary governmental entitlements.

I know that I’m being a bit vague by not naming names. The point of this topic is to be thought-provoking, not a step-by-step instruction. My direct experience has led me to the conclusion that I will involve the community with every big project.

Any views and/or opinions present in “The Know-It-All” are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of B2B Omaha Magazine, or its parent company, and/or its affiliates.

Curfew

June 20, 2013 by

Curfew establishes freedom and trust. It’s one of the many building blocks to adulthood. Getting that taste of freedom is what every teenager craves. It’s a huge responsibility, but that is what makes freedom so worth it.

As for my own curfew, my parents are very laidback. They don’t have a set time for me to be home. The important thing to them is that they know where I am at all times. My parents have placed a tremendous amount of trust in me, and I would never disobey them. I enjoy having the freedom of no curfew with few exceptions, and I don’t want that privilege to be revoked.

Of course, on school nights, there is a curfew. My parents don’t want me to stay out late on a school night, unless it is for a school event. During the summer, they don’t mind me being out as long as, again, they know what I am doing at all times.

I think it’s important for teenagers to have some freedom with friends. It gives them a taste of what it would be like to live on their own. They also have to manage that responsibility of earning or building on the trust of their parents.

Curfew is important, especially for teenagers. It’s another responsibility to manage, but it’s a stepping-stone to adulthood and making bigger, independent choices in life. Having some rules set in place as the foundation and building trust is a good idea. Freedom is important to teenagers, and it prepares them for the future.

Halston Belcastro is a student at Millard West High School.

Is Our Liberty to Succeed or Fail in Jeopardy?

May 25, 2013 by

It’s an issue that affects small businesses—the push for more and more sharing with others who don’t have as much as you do. This trend can be seen in many business practices, too. For example, the sales commission question below:

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This Benjamin Franklin quote, with its many derivations, points toward a simple fact that, for one to expect a government to guarantee something, a part of one’s liberty will be the price.

The questions is: How much of your liberty will you gladly trade for an increased level of governmental protection? In other words, is it the responsibility of government to feed you, house you, educate you, care for you, etc…if you are sick, unwilling, or incapable?

Most of us feel that it is the obligation of government to provide us with some of these needs and desires. Others feel that government should do that and much more.

This is the age-old contest between those rowing the boat and those along for the ride. The sales adage says 80 percent of the sales are made by 20 percent of the sales force. In school, grades tend to follow a bell curve with a few students getting excellent marks while most are average, and a few bring up the rear. Should the sales staff getting 80 percent of the sales get the same commission as the rest of the team? Should the top students share their grades with those less fortunate, thus everyone getting a grade of C? What level of “sharing” do you consider fair?

What if you were a doctor who endured many years of school with considerable effort and expense? Economic justice would dictate that the doctor’s earnings be shared with those who were not capable, for whatever reason—even laziness—to achieve the same degree of earning capability. Would you be willing to have the government decide how much of a doctor’s income gets redistributed? If so, what incentive would current medical students (or anyone considering entering into a lengthy and expensive effort) have to continue becoming a doctor only to have their efforts taken away?

To the consternation of so many, life isn’t fair. Is it the role of government to make life fair? This exact precept was explored throughout the 20th century. The direct result of these experiments offered two class societies: the ruling elite and everyone else. Sadly, the ‘everyone else’ class was considered expendable by those ruling. China squandered the lives of over 60 million in an effort to purchase world power status. The average Chinese existed and died on a daily caloric intake smaller than that of the slaves of Auschwitz. Russia bartered the lives of their bread basket Kulaks by the millions in exchange for the materials of industrialization. No, the only way a government can enforce equality is by reducing the living standard of the ‘everyone else’ class.

As America celebrates the 4th of July, a time for quiet contemplation of the uniqueness of this American experiment is due. All throughout history, tyranny is the norm. The liberty Americans have is truly unique. The thread that holds this together is the Constitution. I contend that the freedoms across the globe are there only so long as Americans remain free. Free to succeed, free to fail, free to risk their all in the pursuit of personal happiness. If Americans lose that desire for liberty, the rest of the world will lose as well.

Any views and/or opinions present in “The Know-It-All” columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of B2B Omaha Magazine or their parent company and/or their affiliates.

Fear, Then and Now

Fear is a tricky thing to discuss. It occurs in every human, yet we know so little about it. More often than not, the cause of our fear is a mystery to us. Other times, the source of the fear can be traced back to a single incident or a series of tragic events from our past.

As a child, I had many fears that are common. The main fear that I remember is being afraid of the dark. This is easily the most common fear for kids that I have heard of. This could be because kids are afraid of what they cannot see. I was afraid of what may be hiding in my closet or under my bed.

The fears that I have now as a teenager are mainly about my future and where I will end up as an adult. And now, being a sophomore in high school, I have to start thinking about college and where I might want to attend. Contemplating your future from the mere age of 16 can be very scary, but it’s necessary and all part of growing up. This fear comes from the possibility of choosing the wrong college major or making the wrong life choices. This determines my path for life, which is scary and stressful.

Dealing with the fear of growing up and becoming an adult is tricky because it takes place in the future. I try to think of the possible outcomes before I make important decisions. I compare my decisions and make sure they are similar to the choices that other adults, who I look up to, have made.

Good luck to all of you who are dealing with fear. We all must face it, and it follows us throughout our entire lives.

Connor O’Leary is a student at Creighton Prep High School.

Bringing Community Responsibility to Life

Pythons. Hooded Pitahuis. Pygmy Marmosets.

Omaha is known by many across the nation because of Wild Kingdom, Mutual of Omaha’s primetime television show that brought animals to life in our living rooms.

But the show’s impact has been more profound for us (Omahans) than it has ecologically speaking. We identify with and claim the show’s reputation as our own. We feel community pride because, after all, it’s Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. This pride generates a strong sense of community responsibility. So maybe not coincidentally, community responsibility is accepted as one of the five Omaha City Values.

Wild Kingdom is one of the coolest examples in Omaha of what is called “traditional philanthropy.” This kind of philanthropy refers to the age-old practice of companies making cash donations or in-kind contributions to worthy causes. Most companies participate in traditional philanthropy because of their sincere desire to be involved in their communities and/or to give something back. Traditional philanthropy promotes reciprocity that produces important business benefits, including increased customer loyalty, higher employee retention, and enhanced corporate reputation.

As compared to traditional philanthropy, strategic philanthropy is a concept that has grown in prominence since the 1990s. This kind of charity involves a process where companies align their community relations initiatives with their core business products and services. Instead of a Wild Kingdom animal television show sponsored by an insurance firm (What’s the connection there?), corporations donate to specific community projects that align with their core competencies. For example, ConAgra does strategic philanthropy by focusing its charity on food and hunger issues, like Kids Cafés.

Some organizations are finding ways to impact their communities through employee engagement practices. Firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) recognize that young professionals crave choice. So they’ve created an innovative program for performance incentives that offers a choice to support a cause in their name. Every staff member gets to choose how they receive their incentive—cash, a charity match, a tech package, or a gift card. This is an ingenious way to bring community responsibility to life.

At the furthest end of the community responsibility spectrum are social enterprises. These organizations flip the capitalist model on its head. Maximizing profits is no longer the purpose of these businesses. Profit is a means to a broader end of enhancing the well-being of the community. Nonprofits, as well as for-profits like Herman Miller, Grameen, and PlanetReuse, are bringing community responsibility to life in this way. Their employees and clients are supporting their model with extreme loyalty.

From traditional philanthropy to social enterprise, we challenge Omaha businesses to continue to enjoy the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that come from bringing community responsibility to life. And don’t forget—a sense of community responsibility starts with our kids. One of the ways the Business Ethics Alliance has promoted this is with our team of moral superheroes who live in the Itty Bitty City at the Omaha Children’s Museum. Take your kids to the museum and kick-start their sense of community responsibility by spending time with superhero Reese.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Business Ethics Alliance and Chair of Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University’s College of Business.

Creativity, Ingenuity, and Work Ethic

February 25, 2013 by

The United States is like no other place in the world because of the environment we maintain for providing incentive for those willing to think outside the box. As I travel, talking to individuals who have taken a crazy idea all the way to a profitable venture, I am struck by how few of us even know about what these Americans do.

Here are two examples which you will never see on even The Science Channel:

First, there is a small division of a larger American company that uses patents developed in Star Wars labs to make possible that which was impossible just a few years ago. A small research team has developed the ability to use lasers to destroy incoming missiles, airplanes, or even mortar rounds—instant, accurate, and very powerful lasers to heat and destroy in order to make us safe from these threats. In accomplishing this task, an idea emerged that a spin-off use of this kind of technology would be easy. As they say, tactical to practical.

This small division uses powerful lasers to hammer metal into complex shapes and to stress metals in a manner that extends their useful life fivefold.

What if the U.S. military purchased a fighter which cost $350 million…a fighter that, after a mere 800 hours of flight time, risked having the mounts securing the wings fail and the wings fall off? What if these mounts could easily be made many times stronger, and last many times longer, by hitting them with powerful lasers?

What if a large, multi-national aviation company determined that the aluminum frame for their aircraft would begin to fail after just a decade of use? What if the use of a powerful laser could extend the useful life of these frames fivefold?

What if the U.S. nuclear power facilities learned that the steel reaction chambers were being harmed by the radiation in a manner that failure was likely? What if these steel chambers could be strengthened by hitting the surface with powerful lasers, thus extending the useful life greatly?

These and many more equally fascinating problems are being solved by this small group.

Another example…There’s a unique American metal-working company that is capable of pressing hot alloys into complex shapes using pressures of 5.2 million pounds. The press weighing in at 5,300,000 pounds with three of the heaviest components weighing almost a million pounds each. Aerospace industries so rely on this company for its unique capabilities that they require back-ups for each of the press components to be kept on-site, so that any component failure can be quickly replaced. There is no other press like this in the world.

Wouldn’t you consider these companies something to be heralded by the media? I, for one, find this infinitely more interesting than what fashion some actor prefers.

These two companies, and the hundreds of other unique American companies, cause me to ask, what is so different about the United States that entrepreneurs are willing to risk all to chase their dreams? Profit, of course. The ability to bring a great idea, or capability, to market and be compensated for the passion, perseverance, and hard work it takes to overcome the myriad of obstacles every entrepreneur faces daily.

So, when I hear the Occupy Wall Street types and short-sighted legislators say that the capital gains income tax rate should be the same as ordinary income, I want to scream out that we only need to look at what’s occurring in France now that their long-term investment tax rate is 60 percent. If we remove the profit incentive, we will remove the incentive to innovate, create, and work as hard as it takes to overcome the challenges of a new business venture.

Any views and/or opinions present in “The Know-It-All” columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of B2B Omaha Magazine or their parent company and/or their affiliates.

Politics and Moral Distractions at Work

November 25, 2012 by

The elections were over in November, but the political conversations continue in the workplace.

“How did this happen? I can’t believe he’s President!”

“When is Congress going to get over the bipartisanship and get to work?”

“Those Super PACs completely changed the game. All they did was lie, and no one held them accountable!”

“I am so angry about the political climate in Washington that I could burst!”

It’s not just employee conversations over the cubicle walls. Employers are talking politics, too. For example, David Siegel is the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately owned time-share company in the world. He sent a memo to his 7,000 employees before the election stating that they need to worry about their jobs if Barack Obama gets re-elected. Obamacare and higher taxes, Siegel argued, are running his firm into the ground (Bloomberg Businessweek, October 10, 2012).

When should employees and employers feel comfortable expressing political views at work?

The Business Ethics Alliance held its fall dialogue last October about politics, business, and ethics. One reocurring theme was that political conversations at work are morally acceptable, as long as they do not take away from the real purpose of business. In keeping with this idea, the point was made that business leaders can, and should, educate employees about how to unify their voices on political positions that can greatly affect the stability of the firm or its industry.

So the bottom line is—stick to business. Don’t get distracted from business while at work. Focus, focus, focus.

But there is something unsaid here, some unspoken truth that is left out of this bottom line picture. This unspoken truth was beautifully expressed after the Business Ethics Alliance Dialogue by Stuart Chittenden on his SquishTalks blog:

“If businesses’ inflexibly require employees to engage only in subjects or topics that are…purely related to work, then the outcome inevitably is minimal breakthrough success for that business, a bland organizational culture, and impossible personal growth and fulfillment for the employee.”

Stuart helps us recognize the unspoken truth of the bottom line paradigm. When we focus only on business at work, we deny the human yearnings that deeply engage us. In one sense, being whole people at work is actually advantageous for business. Success in business can be measured by the numbers, but also by enlivening cultures and human flourishing. In other words, politics and moral distractions can positively feed business success.

Yet…is there more to the unspoken truth? I cannot help but press our reflection one step further…because thus far we are making the “business case” for why we should break through to our deeply held political and moral values at work. But what if, just what if, human dignity and flourishing is not merely an instrument for business success but is, rather, its raison d’etre?

And these human yearnings are the real source of the ethics that drive us to do and be better.
Respect
Freedom
Human dignity
Deeper
Being human
Breaking through to the real

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Business Ethics Alliance and Chair of Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University’s College of Business.