I received notice today that I have been nominated for a prestigious leadership program fellowship. This, according to the letter and the website is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to be groomed by and engaged with a lot of powerful leaders in government, business and education. It is all paid for, requiring six different residential sessions over the course of two years, not counting the celebrations, dinners, etc
So, you ask, what is the problem? Or are you just bragging about how wonderful they think you are? The problem is that I do not know if I want to do it because I am certain that part of being around influential people is at least pretending that you admire them. I have great difficulty admiring people simply because they are “important.” Although I know some wonderful important people and have had the pleasure of knowing others who are no longer with us, like Dr. John Hope Franklin, most of the important people I have ever met are important because they are rich, not because they are wonderful.
I understand the power of money, it is good stuff to have and good stuff to be around. I have a rich friend or two, but they are not my friends because they are rich, they are my friends because they have other qualities that make them desirable as friends, like a great sense of humor or an ability to discuss something that is not on television or the ability to take a trip down “what if” paths, and no, they do not give me money, although they do give great birthday gifts!
I am worried that my relatively moderate bias against important people will flare up during this program. I will most likely approach the folks who are deemed important with an attitude of “show me”, no doubt part of my pathology caused by considering myself important people and, therefore, not subject to worshiping folks simply because they too are important.
Now, I definitely fail in one category of being important, I am not rich. I am kind of comfy, but not rich. I think I am important because I think I am smarter than many people (okay so modesty is not one of my virtues) logical, love learning, am fascinated by my fellow human beings of all stripes, and because I believe that I am true to myself, not to what is convenient or easy or popular, or for that matter, wise. I am kind, and caring–do not raise your eyebrows, I know I sometimes sound heartless, but sometimes people need to be told the truth, it will help them in the end, although it might sting at first.
I do not admire someone because he or she happens to be rich. Anyone can be rich, given the right opportunities, determination and work ethic, or almost anyone can.And, our society has become so enamored of money that it no longer seems to matter what other nasty habits the person has, as long as they are rich.
Money is not something that makes you smarter, nicer, kinder, more moral, well read, logical, reflective or anything else besides being able to take comfort in the fact you have more numbers in your bank balance than most.
A lot of people swear they are not impressed by financial wealth, but get them in a room full of wealthy people and they simper enough to put Uriah Heep to shame. The rich people I know who are worth knowing, and would be if they did not have much money, are not fond of the simperers. They like for people to be people and respect and like them for something other than their wallets and purses.
So, can I go around the important, rich people leading this institute and be appropriately grateful and impressed? We shall see, and I shall try–after all it is supposed to be an honor, but I would not bet any money on it!