A Tradition of Excellence

Flag of the United States on American astronau...

Flag of the United States on American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s space suit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday we celebrated the life of a man who went (very literally) where no man had gone before. That man was Neil Armstrong. and we were are so proud of him, that day in 1969 and for the rest of his life.

In 2009, we watched on live TV as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger ditched US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson river and did it so well that no one was scratched.

Are you old enough to remember The Coach, when I was a kid that only applied to one man, that man was John Wooden, the Head Coach of the Basketball Bruins of UCLA. He won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period—seven in a row.

The thing that connects these three men is that they were supremely competent at their jobs. None of them seemed to think they are or were a hero. If you asked them, they were just doing their jobs.

Which they were, superlatively. Why?

First, because like the Duke of Wellington they “took pains”. They knew what they were going to do in nearly any situation and they knew how they were going to do it. You don’t count on luck if you are going to be the first man on the moon, or successfully ditch an Airbus in the Hudson river, or totally dominate a sport. You work hard, you drill, you practice and you work some more.

Second, you learn that lesson somewhere, for these men that somewhere was Purdue. (Although, I’ll readily admit they probably knew it before.)

Purdue is an interesting place, It’s a land grant school, just like University of Nebraska, Lincoln, or the University of Wisconsin, Madison, formed under the Morrill act. Most of the land grant schools are fairly good although not exceptional. Purdue is the class of the world, however in at least two areas, engineering, and agriculture. It’s also world class in math, veterinary science, and computer science. Do you see a trend developing here? Yes, you’re right, Purdue’s excellence is based on hard, objective science and math. You know, right or wrong, no gray. That’s the culture of the entire campus. It’s a mostly conservative school. When I was there was the height of the Vietnam protests but, at Purdue, ROTC cadets from all services were comfortable anywhere on campus in uniform. Words like duty and honor were used often.

That’s not to say we didn’t like to screw off, have fun, drink beer, and chase girls (what few there were at the time) we were still 18-22 year old guys but, even there, you could see it, my floor of the dorm probably had something like $20,000 (1972 dollars) invested in stereo equipment, plus ham radios and anything else you could think of. Most of it was world class equipment. We used to sit in our rooms and watch radio controlled model airplanes fly around the parking lot. But we worked for our grades too. Worked hard. I’d bet less than a dozen people in my class of about 8000 had 6.0 grade point averages.

It was, and I suspect still is, an oasis of the old American Midwest with all that implies. So while this sounds like, and in some ways is, a commercial for Purdue, it’s really more than that. It’s a remembrance of what we, in America, were, good  folks who worked hard, played hard, obeyed the rules (mostly), and got the job done right, usually the first time, too. We had feelings all right but, we had a mission too, and that was more important.

Let’s compare that to, say, Harvard, the oldest college in America, with alumni like the Adamses of Boston. It was probably one of the greatest schools in the world, and a Harvard MBA or law degree was the best in America. But now, most of us hold it in disrespect. Why? because it has cheapened itself, it has become ideological, not interested in proving its theories. considering it’s feelings before the objective conditions, so that now we have a constitutional scholar and the editor of the law review, who doesn’t understand that the constitution is the law, and when we elected him President of the United States he took an oath to enforce the laws, all the laws, of the United States, regardless of his feelings about them. It wouldn’t have hurt if he had taken a course in arithmetic sometime during his education either.

And so we have reached the point that if I had two resumes in front of me for a responsible job, one from a Harvard Law grad, with a Harvard MBA and one with a masters from the Krannert Graduate School of Industrial Management at Purdue, I’d shred the Harvard resume, he wouldn’t even get an interview. The Harvard guy might be qualified to run a shovel but, probably his sense of entitlement and self importance would get int the way. What a sad fate for a world class university.

Because that’s the way it is in the real world, facts (and the truth) matter.

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40 Responses to A Tradition of Excellence

  1. Ike Jakson says:

    Nebraska

    And what you have here is one of the great ones in Blogging. I ticked the “like’ button but would have ticked the “love it” one as well if were there.

    I love the story of Purdue. You must recall Kent State of about the same time? James Michener wrote on it and it was his first and only book I strongly disagreed with.

    Forgive me for my slackness; there is very little that I can do about it BUT I JUST HAD TO DO THIS ONE FOR YOU. It is great GREAT.

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    • Thanks, Ike. I think you overstate me a bit but, thanks. I do indeed remember Kent State, I was at Purdue at the time, my circles were surprised anybody gave the guard ammunition, other than that we tended to think when you were told to disperse, it would be a good idea to disperse.

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      • Ike Jakson says:

        Nebraska

        No, I don’t think that I overstated you; your article reminded me of the America that I fell in love with 30 years ago and where I almost relocated to in 1988; except for a last minute hitch of a rather personal family nature I would have been there. I have forwarded your entire Post to my private email box from where I can read it at leisure off-line and will do so many times to feel the stirring of the memories again.

        There is a spelling error in the third line of my previous comment; won’t you please edit it for me? Where it says the storey of Purdue should obviously be the “story” but it’s the eye, you know. It happens all the time with words that pass through the spelling checker when the incorrect spelling is a valid word on its own.

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        • Of course I will, Ike. Happens to me all the time.

          Yes, that was the America I loved as well. Perhaps we can restore some part of it, we will try is all I can say.

          But, Ike, the thing is, that America is here, you just don’t hear about it, the problems get solved, life goes on. It’s just that nobody talks about it anymore, because the people with the megaphone would like to forget it.

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        • Ike Jakson says:

          Thanks Nebraska

          God Bless America; and I believe there is hope while people like you are there.

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        • Thanks, Ike, and remember there are a lot of Americans like me. We’ll be back.

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  2. JessicaHof says:

    Great post my dear friend. You, and millions of Americans like you have never gone away :)

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    • Thanks, dear friend. Nope we’ve never left, we just lost our megaphone or a bit and are busy building a new one, soon we’ll have a prototype and the whole world will hear from us again. :-)

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      • JessicaHof says:

        Let us hope so – we’ve heard enough from the glory-hunters and the loud mouths :)

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        • Boy, is that the truth!! :-)

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        • JessicaHof says:

          All ‘spin doctors’ should be put away somewhere dark and dank! If a politician cannot even write his own speeches, what’s the point of him?

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        • Agreed. I don’t have a real problem with speechwriters if, like Peggy Noonan, who wrote Reagan’s Pointe du Hoc speech, if they can write in the authentic voice of their principal. I do have a problem with anyone who needs a teleprompter to tell him what he thinks, however.

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        • JessicaHof says:

          Well, I guess it is a problem for poor old Obama, as he needs to be kept up to date with whatever is ‘trending’, and for Biden, as he can’t think :)

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        • I read somewhere that if you are insecure in a job, you look for someone who is enough of a buffoon to make you look good. If your secure in your skills you look to someone to strengthen you skills. Pretty much sums up the presidential race to me! :-)

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        • JessicaHof says:

          Alas, yes, it is hard for an outsider to believe that these two are the two best men in the States. Ryan seems a man of substance – will there be a ban on him debating Biden under the ban against cruel sports? :)

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        • Nah, he doesn’t seem to know or mind. Sarah handled him very roughly last time as well. :-)

          Unconscious is as unconscious does, I guess.

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        • JessicaHof says:

          Yes, but this time he’s up against someone he can’t try to patronise – no, wait, how silly of me, that’s what he does :)

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        • He can try but he’ll just look even more foolish. :-)

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        • JessicaHof says:

          That should be an interesting phenomenon – Biden looking even more foolish? What next, Obama looking even more arrogant? :)

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        • If he tries that he’s likely to rip his nose off on the overhead :-) Still, I almost feel sorry for him, must be hard to know that you’ve failed in every assignment given to you and you are about to be fired.

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        • If he tries that he’s likely to rip his nose off on the overhead :-) Still, I almost feel sorry for him, must be hard to know that you’ve failed in every assignment given to you and you are about to be fired.

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        • JessicaHof says:

          That’s where his arrogance saves him – he doesn’t even know that :)

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        • You’ve a point I expect, particularly living in his leftist bubble.

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        • JessicaHof says:

          That too :)

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        • There’s an article in my inbox detailing how everything he does (or doesn’t do) he runs past Valerie Jarrett, a very corrupt Chicago slumlord and politico who Mayor Daley ended up firing for incompetence. Just what we need for an American Rasputin.

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        • JessicaHof says:

          Birds of a feather, perhaps?

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        • I’d say so, the other thing is that she got them into the big time radical left, black society in Chicago. It’s been around for years, I was introduced to ‘Liberation Theology’ (Rev. Wright’s nonsense) when I was in confirmation. Even in 8th grad, I was revolted, that’s when I started turning conservative.

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        • JessicaHof says:

          I can understand that :)

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        • I can too, It’s important to remember your friends but, still I wouldn’t ask you how to wire a factory. :-)

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        • JessicaHof says:

          Very good :)

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        • Thanks :-) Now if I was going to make cookies, that a different thing !!:-)

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        • JessicaHof says:

          Very much so :)

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        • Which is good, cause nobody has ever accused me of being a baker!! :-)

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        • JessicaHof says:

          Well, as I may have said before, I am a great believer in specialisation – you fix stuff and make it work, I’ll cook :) xx

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        • That’ll work, cause I’m good at eating, and I suspect you can break stuff!! :-) xx

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        • JessicaHof says:

          It has been known :). Good night dear friend xx

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        • :-) Good night, dear friend :-) xx

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        • JessicaHof says:

          :) night, night xx

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        • Night, night :-) xx

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        • If he tries that he’s likely to rip his nose off on the overhead :-) Still, I almost feel sorry for him, must be hard to know that you’ve failed in every assignment given to you and you are about to be fired.

          Like

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