The Courage of Maya Angelou and The Baton She Passed to Us
Kathleen Kelley Reardon is Professor Emerita of Management at University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.
She earned her Ph.D. summa cum laude and with distinction at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst after receiving her BA degree with honors from University of Connecticut at Storrs. Kathleen is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board.
Her primary areas of scholarly interest have been leadership communication, persuasion, politics in the workplace, negotiation and interpersonal communication. Public Opinion Quarterly described her first book, Persuasion in Practice, as a landmark contribution to the field.
Kathleen has taught negotiation, leadership and politics in the MBA, Executive MBA, and International MBA. For 15 years, she served on the USC Preventive Medicine faculty, developing interventions aimed at changing health habits among high-risk populations. She also served as associate director with Warren Bennis of the USC Leadership Institute.
She has authored 10 books and numerous articles, including three for The Harvard Business Review. Her 2001 book The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle (Currency, Doubleday) became an Amazon.com nonfiction and business best seller. It was followed by The Skilled Negotiator (Jossey-Bass, 2004), It’s All Politics: Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren’t Enough (Currency, Doubleday, 2005), Childhood Denied: Ending the Nightmare of Child Abuse and Neglect (Sage, 2008), and Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation (Harper Business, 2010).
Her first novel, Shadow Campus, is an inside look at the politics of academia, a mystery-thriller and a love story. Forbes described it as a “masterful debut.” The sequel is underway for publication in 2015.
Kathleen was awarded the 2013 Humanitarian Award by the University of Connecticut Alumni Association based on her contributions to underserved groups, especially in originating and working to develop college prep academies for foster teens (www.firststar.org).
Kathleen is a signature blogger at Huffington Post (since 2005) and also blogs at her website (www.kathleenkelleyreardon.com).
She did not, however, leave us only with beautiful poetry and stories of positive things. She reminded us that it is only by having the courage to “win back our finer and kinder and healthier selves,” to educate our children about purity, temperance, goodness, worth, and moderation that we will stem the rising tide of immorality.
We need to examine what the absence of those qualities has done to our communal spirit, and we must learn how to retrieve them from the dust heap of nonuse and return them to a vigorous role in our lives.
The task she passed to us is a massive one because we have too often allowed degeneracy, indifference, vice, greed, and cruelty to take the place of virtue. We have rewarded those who become famous or wealthy, no matter the how of their rise, allowing meanness to invade our minds and actions as we adulate or imitate their ascent.
It takes cognitive awareness and communication skill to avoid doing this – the ability and courage to stand up to those who act solely in their own best interests. It takes uncommon introspection and people like Richard Martinez, who lost his son in the Isla Vista killings of six U.C. Santa Barbara students, to stand up and say “No more!”
As we remember and honor Maya Angelou, let’s also bear firmly in mind the task she set before us to counter the slippage of our culture into acceptance of dishonesty and selfishness. She did not intend for us to be oblivious to vicious politics or naive in the face of abuses of power. Angelou did not expect the task of correction in our society to be an easy one or that those gentle of spirit would, without exhaustive effort, win the day. She left us with an actionable calling to do our part today and everyday – to notice evil so that we might face it down and keep it from consuming us.
In Maya Angelou’s own words, the goal is this:
I would like to see us go on calling on the good example and upon virtue itself with the purpose of inviting them back into our communities, our businesses, our homes, our lives, to reside in those places as favored friends.
To the extent each of us stands up in our corner of the world to the dismissal of virtue and goodness, we will depart this life as Angelou did with dignity having lived a life of positive purpose. We may trip along the way, but by holding firm with courage we will have made a difference.
photo: Gil C/Shutterstock.com
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