No matter how you feel about the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen laid out his personal position with great clarity and calm last week – an approach all too unusual when public figures talk about hot issues like gays in the military.
“Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen said. “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
“For me, personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution,” he added. And later, when he was pressed on the issue by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, Mullen said he has “served with homosexuals since 1968″ and “a number of things cumulatively” led him to support a new policy. “This is about leadership, and I take that very, very seriously.”
Clear as a bell. And strong.
In support of the admiral’s position, Colorado Senator Mark Udall quoted the late Arizona Republican and conservative icon Barry Goldwater, “You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.”
This kind of plain, persuasive language can occasionally be found in the corporate world, too, reflecting the notion that some organizations sound as if real people work there, even in the ranks of upper management.
Speaking to a Chief Executives Club meeting in Boston recently, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, “[The economy] we see today feels like a new normal. It doesn’t feel like we took a one-time hit in any way, shape or form.”
Clear, straight-forward language. Words and ideas that have been thought out but not overly processed like a fast-food hamburger.
Plain-speak gets across the point the way no formal language ever does. Could this be the new normal? I hope so.