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Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean

I want to note the remarkable work being done by healthcare professionals across the U.S. Their courage is inspiring given the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 and the potentially severe symptoms of the COVID-19 disease. Doctors and nurses were not well supported when the virus first showed up in California, and they’ve been forced to play catch-up ever since. Lack of preparation and lack of resources have resulted in enormous strain on healthcare facilities and personnel. Despite this, doctors and nurses in New York and elsewhere are rising to the challenge. We are especially grateful.

There will be much to study and improve when this pandemic is over, and it will start with the abysmal leadership of the World Health Organization. This is the now famous WHO tweet on January 14, 2020:

"Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China."(1)

Not surprising that the Chinese Communist Party went into narrative control mode, adopting Jean-Claude Juncker's(2) approach: "when it gets serious, you have to lie." But it is extremely disappointing that the organization entrusted to protect public health around the globe, the organization whose primary objective is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health"(3), allowed itself to be so blatantly co-opted. Surely, we can all conclude that the WHO failed its mission and major changes are now needed to improve pandemic preparedness.

These kinds of disconnects feel commonplace today. Say one thing, do another. Make a promise, pretend you didn't. Facebook comes to mind (warm and fuzzy ads about being connected but sells our data) but there are many others, in business, in government, even not-for-profits who are not as committed to their mission as their promotion would imply.

The good news is that there are organizations out there that stand for something. That care about adhering to purpose - even when it's difficult. That make promises and keep them. That care about little t "truth." Organizations that show up, consistently, to try to make things better.

More good news: it's easier than ever to find those people, communities, and organizations. We choose each day who we interact with, who we do business with. If we choose to interact only with people and entities that make promises and keep them, we set new standards for what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not. We raise the bar.

It's a difficult time right now, but there's no better time to begin. In our businesses, communities, and governments: mean what you say, say what you mean, and expect the same in return.


2. Juncker is former President of the European Commission


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