Quaker College – Part I

On Friday we accidentally posted part II of a story about a Quaker College during the Vietnam War.  Please read Part I today, and forgive us for the oversight!

I once saw an interview clip conducted with the former president of a Quaker College.  Because it was a Quaker institution, a core value of the college was nonviolence.  The president talked about a particularly important moment in his tenure.

It was the height of the Vietnam War.  Protests were frequent, and they often turned violent.  The fatal shooting of the students at Kent State had already occurred.  Word came to the president that a group of his students were going to hold a protest.  They were going to take down the American flag and burn it.  He also heard that his football team had gathered around the flagpole to prevent the burning.

Imagine his feeling at that moment.  Nonviolence, a core value of his institution, is about to be violated.  He wants to preserve that value and prevent the conflict from taking place.  What would you do in his situation?

Most people would suggest taking control, perhaps calling in security and a large police backup.  Yet all such alternatives are likely to increase the probability of a conflict and violence.  Another normal reaction is to accept the reality that conflict happens and withdraw.  Stay out of it, and let nature take its course.

So what did the college president do?  He walked out of his office and toward the flagpole.  He had no intended strategy.  He did not know what to do.  He felt helpless and vulnerable, but he knew that to be true to himself, he had to go to the flagpole and try to enact the value for which he and the institution stood.

At that moment he was exercising adaptive confidence.  He was moving forward into uncertainty not knowing what he was going to do.  Because he lived in authentic engagement and because he was willing to put the good of the institution ahead of his own well-being, he moved forward.  He would learn and adapt in real time.

(Please read the conclusion of this story in Friday’s post.)


What would you do in the president’s situation?

Have you ever moved forward in adaptive confidence? What was the result?



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