A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 29, 2009

Are Politicians Born With Their Fingers and Toes Crossed?

As a high profile CEO I am often asked to speak about the issue of leadership. Are leaders born or taught? Are there ethical responsibilities required of a good leader? What is the skill set involved, and so on and so forth. Frequently, the questions come to me from students forced to find the answers as part of an end term project or as part of their search for a mentor. In thinking about these issues and brooding about our future leaders, I must ask – are politicians born with their fingers and toes crossed?

I understand the ethereal quality of campaign promises and the motivational character of stump rhetoric. I understand that it is impossible to control all variables and not be able to affect a pledged outcome. I absolutely understand the prerogative to change one’s mind. I do not, however, understand breaking promises that can be kept, the denying a past statements despite the fact that they can be resurrected, edited and converted into an ad in a matter of minutes, and the apparent notion that expected leadership skills and ethics don’t apply when said “CEOs” are government officials.

We are in a difficult time. Two wars, a poor economy, global warming, nuclear arms threats, increasing poverty pockets, terrorism, a pandemic and a nation that simply distrusts every other word uttered by our political leaders, media pundits and even government officials vouching for the safety of swine flu vaccines.

On the eve of a new year, can we not ask our politicians, from the top down, to resolve to lead from the front of the pack rather than the foggy dark of a back room and to simply tell the truth? As the most visible leaders would they not set an example to those in the private sector as well? Could they not say:

I campaigned on this promise – but I couldn’t get it through this session.
I promised to do this but I changed my mind for the following reasons.
The system didn’t work and I’m looking into why.
I made a mistake.
Or, as Steve Martin put it – excuse me.

The consequence of not so resolving is a nation suffering from stagnation, fear, protectionism, and an inchoate sense of isolation. Simply put – the populace remains frozen in place in a heightened state of distrust and a psyche that rationalizes any action to survive – or win. This example of leadership produces nothing at present, and murders future generations of leaders by teaching them nothing.

Dec 20, 2009

Buy And Give Simultaneously

In a holiday season set against a landscape of recession, unemployment, fear and malaise, discretionary funding is small while real needs are great. In fact, the demand for charitable services is increasing exponentially in an inverse ratio to the ability to supply them. Animals and people need more help than ever before, and there are fewer resources than usual to help them.
One solution is to buy and give simultaneously. Shop in stores run by charities. Purchase items that share a percentage with a cause you support. Make corporate and personal holiday donations in the names of employees, friends, and family. Buy a little less than usual and share the difference where it matters.
These are just a few of the multitude of ways that you can still indulge yourselves while helping those who can't.
Remember, if everyone gave a little something, it could mean everything to someone or a pet with nothing.
Have a happy holiday season and thank you for all your support.

Dec 13, 2009

Poaching Is Bad For Elephants And SPCAs

Did you know that your spcaLA created an at risk youth anti -violence program that is being used nationally in states like Oregon, Kansas, New York and Georgia, and internationally in Europe, Australia and Canada?  Piloted, and ongoing in Southern California schools, we work with youth, using shelter dogs, to teach them conflict resolution, anger management and empathy.  Empathy is the cure for violence against animals and people. It began here with your spcaLA.
Did you know that your spcaLA has a domestic violence program that assists victims who need to leave a violent situation, but won’t if they have to leave a pet behind? This program has assisted pets from as far away as Florida because no other spca has such a comprehensive program.  You have it here with your spcaLA.
Did you know that your spcaLA developed a comprehensive shelter management software program that is being used throughout our country and, just recently, at a shelter in Dublin Ireland?
Did you know that your spcaLA has a state of the art disaster response unit that responds locally to fires, (most recently the Station Fire-the largest fire in California) floods and earthquakes as well as nationally when requested.  We were one of only 8 first responders called upon to assist in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Ike and only one of 2 (the other was a Missouri SPCA unit) deployed to Galveston – the worst affected by the storm.
Did you know that every SPCA in the country is a separate legal entity despite confusing commercials and advertising campaigns? The New York spca was the first to form in America in 1866 and aptly named itself. Your spcaLA opened its doors in 1877. Throughout the country different spcas were allowed to form as the laws in each state so permitted. However, only one spca solicits donations away from all the others under the misimpression that they are an umbrella entity that sends funds to non existent chapters.  It is the same with any humane society not based in Los Angeles. Their funds are not mandated to support the animals in our community based upon the zip code of the donor.  Though there are now complaints, inquiries and investigations into the ethics of such fund raising tactics – the responsibility ultimately lies with you, the consumer/donor, to know where you are donating your hard earned money despite attempts to confuse you. spcaLA applauds work that is carried out on behalf of animals any where in the country and hopes that you can afford to donate to multiple organizations. Your choice must still be an informed one. 
Your spcaLA actually has a local, national and international footprint with boots on the ground serving animals that need us.  In these trying economic times it is particularly critical that we work together, and educate others who are confused about where their funds are going so we succeed in our mission.

Dec 6, 2009

Friends for Life and Ever After.

Freud maintained in his book "Jokes And The Unconscious" that essentially there is no such thing as jokes and that they all conveyed truths wrapped in a safer form of communication, or,  in most cases, revealed a persons' real opinion - even if news to that person. Someone sent me the following joke: 
A  dead traveler and his dog were walking along a road. They came to a high, white stone wall  along one side of the road that looked like fine  marble with a mother of pearl gate, which led into a place with golden streets and remarkable beauty.  He and the dog  walked toward the gate, and saw a man at a desk.  The traveler called out, "Excuse me, where are  we?" "This is Heaven, sir," the man answered.  "Would you happen to have  some water?" the traveler asked.  "I'll have some ice water  brought right up."The man gestured, and the gate  began to open.  "Can  my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in,  too?" the traveler  asked.  "I'm sorry,  sir, but we don't accept  pets."
The traveler  thought a moment and then turned back toward the  road and continued on. They came to a dirt road with an open gate and saw a man leaning against a tree.  "Excuse  me!" he called to the man. "Do you have any  water?" The man pointed to a pump with a dog bowl beside it.  The traveler and the dog drank."What  do you call this place?" the traveler  asked. "This is  Heaven" the man answered.  "The man down the  road said that was Heaven  too" said the traveler."You mean  the place with the gold street and pearly gates?  Nope. That's hell" said the man.  "Doesn't  it make you mad for them to use your name like that?" said the traveler.
   "No," said the man.  "We're just happy that they screen out the folks  who would leave their best friends  behind." 
This joke reminded me of the incredible human animal bond shared by people and their pets. A bond so strong that some would choose death rather than leave their pet behind during a disaster evacuation, risk bodily harm to save a pet in danger and would grieve for a lifetime after the loss of this cherished family member. Our work is to obtain such a relationship for all homeless pets, support humans in their effort to provide such and to allow this bond to flourish free from acts of cruelty and derision. It is not a junk bond and certainly no joking matter.