Michael Cooper-White


In classes and seminars on leadership, I have taught that even the most collaborative organizations have some degree of hierarchy. When we speak of “those at the top,” the mental picture is usually that of a pyramid. I point out to students that the higher one moves up the pyramid, a cross-section offers a smaller and smaller dance floor. Those at the very top may have a better view, but they have very little room on which to maneuver.

Assuming an office, particularly one in the public service arena, requires an individual to accept the reality that as influence may be expanded, personal freedom is reduced. While a neophyte in a field of study may spew erroneous facts or ill-informed opinions, one who holds a Ph.D. cannot just say any darned old thing. The more you know, the more responsibility you have. The more responsibility, the less personal freedom to spout off ignorantly or in an inflammatory manner. A horse in the harness doesn’t have the same freedom to frolic as one running free range.

An Adams County resident who also lives part-time in New York City, Cooper-White is President Emeritus of United Lutheran Seminary and Director of Lutheran Formation at Union Theological Seminary. The opinions expressed in these columns are his own.

(1) comment

James Rife

" But refusing the microphone to one whose rants may cause further mayhem is not censorship. It is responsible boundary-setting." ---Sure it is, until it happens to you, and then you complain mightily about it.

"Honoring constitutionally guaranteed personal freedoms must be balanced with safeguarding the common good." ---Hmmmm....I don't see anything written in the Constitution about "balancing" free speech with "safeguarding the common good." So who gets to decide what the "common good" is anyway? You??????

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