Comments: Dirty Little Secrets: ACR's “Girly Man” Non-Controversy

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Dan DeStephen, Dayton OH   09/01/05
Robert is correct in labeling this a ‘non-controversy,’ as far as the conference committee was concerned. As co-chair of the Sacramento conference I can affirm that we never considered the involvement of the Governor to go beyond a brief, ‘welcome to California,’ at the opening of the conference. Even within the program committee there was concern on both a moral and practical level for making the Governor essentially the ‘first’ speaker people would hear at the conference. Other responses to the article have commended on the moral issues, let me comment on the practical limits of having a high-level governmental speaker. We were concerned that security issues would have meant that everyone attending the conference might have to go through some type of screening or that security sweeps would delay the opening of the conference. Governors also do not always control their schedule. We did not relish the possibility of having a thousand people waiting for the Governor to descend from his room for a five minute presentation. Finally, no matter how short the presentation, there was the question of who would introduce the governor, who would introduce the person introducing the governor, etc. etc. etc. Our goal was to have as short an opening as possible, move participants into the sessions, and feature the luncheon as the highlight of the day. The Governor’s ‘five minute’ appearance could have put the entire first day schedule into confusion. I suffered no anguish when the Board decided not to extend an invitation.

Sheryl Sears, Washington DC   09/01/05
Controversy for Controversy's Sake?
We should, of course, engage in meaningful discourse and debate of issues essential to mediation. When choosing speakers we need to hear from those who have mediation information and expertise to share. Inviting a speaker merely to incite controversy says that we have nothing else to talk about. Ethics, uniform standards for credentialing and behavior and models for mediation are on my mind. If a speaker has something to contribute to these or other relevant subjects, I'd love to hear it.

David Hart, Washington DC   08/31/05
ACR's Response
Please click on the following link to view ACR's response to this article.

Loretta Feller, Cleveland OH   08/24/05
Pandering to Prejudice
Let's get real about our terms here. The phrase "girly man" is a perjorative to imply someone is gay, and therefore not a "real man", with all the stereotypes that both terms imply. Had the Governor of California used racist terms or impuned someones religion, I doubt that people would clamor to have him speak at our mediation conference. If creating controversy qualifies someone as a keynote speaker, perhaps we should invite Pat Robertson, who recommends assassinating President Chavez. I commend the decision making by the Board at ACR for their refusal to overlook these kinds of destructive, prejudiced remarks by people who are supposed to be our leaders. There are ways for organizations to address controversy and stimulate interest without pandering to prejuduce.

Arthur Petruzates, Playa Del Rey Ca   08/19/05
Re: Arnold
Lets get Arnold back sometime He is what this organization needs. We need controversity in order to grow. With over 30 years handling controversity and over 80 years in this life controversity is what we thrive on.Even if he doesnt respond to questions. I live in California too and am proud to have him as governor.. Lets encourage controversity among us I have been in mediation work since 1954 when graduated from Wasnington University Thanks Art Petruzates

Marie Bader, Walton KY   08/19/05
In retrospect, if Arnold or some equally controversial figure would have been on the program I would have made more of an effort to attend the conference in Sacramento. As it was I saw little offered to justify the time and expense of such a trip. How much fun it would have been to participate in or witness a stimulating discussion with the Governor of CA. Like him or not, agree with him or not – he is an influential figure and a media magnet. I agree that we as professional conflict resolvers should not only be engaging in and modeling constructive dialogue but should be making news doing it. Marie Bader, Walton, KY 8/19/2005

Alex  , Maidstone UK     08/19/05
Is there a Wider Link
Here in the UK we also have one lead organisation. They have just made two staff redundant (from a very small base)at a time when the Government is apparently pushing ADR (but not funding infrastructure). Our organisation, Mediation UK, grow from small roots 15 years ago and has found it very difficult to cope with the new diverse pressures on it, low fees to members, and problems with meeting the needs both at a National and local level to have a modern representative, responsive organisation. There appears to be divisions within and a rather defensive box around it. Are these also the acting out of a mediators profile, an inablity to face difficult choices, new ways of dealing with the world and, as Robert suggest, a tendency to avoid conflict in our own day to day dealings? Although my own feeling is that this is also a reflection of our National culture whereas in the USA we, here, have a view (perhaps false) of you being more willing to instigate conflict - guns and wars - which are rationalised as being defensive !! Perhaps we have things to learn from each other and we ought to invite Arnold to the UK conference?

r.d. benjamin     08/18/05
What distresses me is less what Arnold Schwarzenegger or George Bush do in suppressing discussion or being unwilling to engage, but what we who profess to facilitate open dialogue do in the living room of our own profession. Even if the decision is to not invite him, why was that discussion kept secret? Why are the deliberations of the Board not open, with only well recognized exceptions such as personnel issues, appropriately closed?

Kathleen Clark   08/18/05
From: Kathleen Clark Message: One of my many problems with Arnold as a speaker is he is not the kind of speaker that anyone could question or have a dialogue with. So, why invite him??? He's no more thoughtful, informed or willing to listen to other's opinions than George W. Bush. Unfortunately, he is governor of my state, which is extremely distressing to me.

Z. Lewis, Dallas TX   08/18/05
Conflict Avoidance among Mediators
Mr. Benjamin's article stirred up in me a passion for my profession as a mediator in a way that hasn't been present for many years. With growth there is always pain. It is an integral part of growth, be it an individual or an organization. I applaud Mr. Benjamin's courage to look a problem in the eye and give it a name. How much richer a resolution could be if only those involved were allowed to feel and express what they feel and believe. Resolution frequently involves a settlement without either party changing their opinions, and that is okay. It is all right to agree to disagree on matters of opinions. It is what makes us search deep into our beliefs that gives them life and meaning for us. Every representative organization experiences turmoil and upheaval as it grows to new levels of professionalism. If it does not, it will not grow -- and if it does not grow, it will begin to die. It is a natural law. Thank you, Mr. Benjamin, for expressing so eloguently what many of us have wanted to scream out loud.