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January 2012 Blog Archive

My archived blog articles for January 2012 are below. You can also click the respective links for my current blog articles, my featured blog articles, and my complete blog archives.

Riding Off Into the Sunset
10 January 2012, 15h00 EST (GMT-5)

Office of the Equine Canada CEO

Equine Canada
Click image for the official public advisory

After meeting with Equine Canada's staff this morning, I issued the letter below to the federation's Board, Councils, and Committees. I have served as Chief Executive Officer of EC, Canada's national governing body for equestrianism and the executive arm of the Canadian Equestrian Team, since 2008.

* * *

This is certainly one of the most difficult letters I have had to compose since Equine Canada did me the honour of inviting me to serve as Chief Executive Officer.

I am writing to let you know that I am standing down as CEO of our federation.

When I accepted the post in 2008, I did so committing to serve for one quadrennial cycle. The time has slipped by too quickly, but nevertheless, the time has come for me to make good my pledge.

Few people find a vocation that allows them to combine their ideals, passions, and profession, and fewer still discover it amongst friends. I know, therefore, what a rare gift I was given, in having the opportunity to strive alongside each of you in the service of our sport, our sector, and our country. It is an honour I have always tried to be worthy of, and now, at the end of the path, I can only hope that you feel I justified the faith of our federation in choosing me.

Although I know many people find it quaint to the point of absurdity, I believe deeply that each of us is nothing if not a living memorial to the generations of men and women who came before us, and that if we are to be deserving heirs and worthy stewards of our heritage, then our first responsibility is to build upon our inheritance. My work at Equine Canada has been a passionate effort to live up to that creed, to leave Canadian equestrianism stronger – howsoever modestly – than when I arrived.

There have certainly been dark moments, times when this job felt like one of the trials of the damned, when a great national institution seemed beset on all sides, and when high ideals were assailed by low pettiness and vulgar jealousies. If I ever had any doubts before, I certainly have none now, that not every horse’s ass is connected to the front of a horse.

But the moments of light have been far greater.

I have served with professionals in the Equine Canada office whom I am proud to call my colleagues. I have worked with athletes who have taken an unsuspecting world by storm. I have witnessed our federation emerge as a leader in the international equestrian and national sport movements. I have had the extraordinary good fortune to live through a golden age of Canadian equestrianism. And I have enjoyed it all with new friends and kindred spirits.

It is hard to leave all this behind. In many ways, leaving is the last thing I want to do. But I always knew that leaving would be my final debt of honour to Equine Canada.

All institutions stagnate and wither if they do not deliberately rejuvenate themselves. A culture of regular renewal is not only essential to bring in new perspectives, new talents, and new ideas; it is also vital to ensure that serving leaders do not become locked in a jealous embrace with the status quo.

An over-long tenure for a CEO in a federation like Equine Canada would surely be a mark of failure, because it would suggest a love of office rather than of service, a hesitancy to expend political capital in pursuit of important goals, and an excessive willingness to suffer fools gladly. I am guilty of many, many faults – but not these ones.

I envy my successor, because I know what a glorious opportunity awaits him or her: to look upon an established institution with new eyes; to perceive its future with a new imagination; and to work towards new triumphs with new zeal. It is the gift I received from my predecessor; it is the gift I now pass on with a happy heart.

The Equine Canada Board has been directing the CEO transition process through its Executive Recruitment, Retention, and Review (ERRR) Committee. Although the timing and timelines the committee has chosen are certainly eccentric and astonishingly compressed, they assure me of their confidence that they have matters well in hand, to prevent any undue disruption or loss of institutional memory. In the immediate term, they will be delegating the CEO responsibilities to our CFO Mike Arbour and our COO Craig Andreas. I know that each of you will be as supportive and helpful to them as you were to me.

Equine Canada will be issuing a public advisory to our members and our partners later today, formally announcing that I am relinquishing my post as CEO.

I am looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the Equine Canada convention in St John’s, Newfoundland, in February, and offering you my thanks in person for your confidence and kindness during my tenure as your Chief Executive Officer.

Resistance is Not Futile
27 January 2012, 20h00 EST (GMT-5)

My YouTube Video
Click image to play the video

Gandhi humbled an empire and sacrificed his life for his ideals; pressing "like" on a Facebook protest page does not quite measure up. My first televised essay of 2012 for TVOntario's The Agenda discusses the democratic imperative to stand up for justice, and the ethical imperative to do so in a meaningful way. The broadcast is available via streaming video through my YouTube Channel and via podcast through iTunes, as well as directly above. My original text is below.

* * *

In any democracy worthy of the name, it is not merely the right, but the responsibility of every citizen to resist unjust laws.

In Canada - a nation that defines itself through the comparatively docile pursuit of peace, order, and good government - we have too often suffered from a national impulse to defer to authority. Yet, I believe Canadians would still agree that those who do the greatest good in the world are those who are least willing to yield before evil.

Mahatma Gandhi responded to colonial oppression through a massive campaign of civil disobedience, striking a non-violent blow that would lay low the largest empire in the history of civilisation. Rosa Parks refused the command to move to the back of the bus, with a quiet dignity that would sweep away American segregation laws. Vaclav Havel set his intellect and artistry against the bullets and barbed wire of Communism, and breathed life into the bloodless Velvet Revolution that would end two generations of bloody tyranny.

Each was a person of profound humility, but each found the courage to live out his or her convictions, and each had the strength to change the world by refusing to submit to injustice.

All three were vilified. All three were imprisoned. And this Monday’s anniversary of his assassination is a stark reminder that Gandhi paid for his non-violent ideals with a violent death.

The credibility, virility, and nobility of their struggles lay in their willingness to suffer the consequences from those their lives defied. It was their example more than their words that inspired hundreds of millions of others to follow where they led, creating irresistible movements for justice.

Today, the rise of online communications has enabled information to outpace distance and censorship, and made it far easier to create vast virtual communities of interest. At this moment, there are probably more self-described dissidents opining in chat rooms than have manned all the barricades in all of history.

But the very speed and ease with which modern protests can erupt, is frequently complemented by the speed and ease with which they disappear.

It takes little courage and still less personal investment to languidly press “like” at a Facebook page. When that is their full extent, such protests are nothing more than consequence-free, self-indulgent exercises in soothing the consciences of individuals unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to effect real change in the real world.

Although times have changed, the fundamental principles of civil resistance have remained timeless.

There is a contrast between making a scene, and making a difference. There is a choice between the comfort of self-righteous illusion, and the peril of self-sacrificing commitment. There is a hard journey between railing against unjust laws, and living out a life that models justice.

Fundamentally, everyone who aspires to be a person of conscience faces a deeply personal challenge: if we truly wish to change the world, are we prepared to begin by changing ourselves?



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