Carl Mays: Stand strong during time of economic war

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 12:06 AM

Legendary humorist-philosopher Will Rogers (1879-1935) delighted his audience when he said, “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” Contemporary humorist-philosopher Jay Leno’s Tonight Show audience cheered, whistled and applauded when he recently quipped, “President Obama’s handicap when he played Tiger Woods in golf is that he doesn’t understand economics.”

Such philosophical humor may take appropriate jabs during our nation’s current sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts resulting from budget deficits that our government’s legislative and executive branches have not (as of this writing) resolved. But it is no joke for Americans most affected by it. Having made presentations to and worked with numerous groups during my speaking and writing career, I have received sequestration-related comments from several leaders in government agencies, the healthcare field and other sectors. These comments have not painted a pretty picture.

If sequestration continues, one group to suffer greatly is Customs and Border Patrol Protection (CBP). When I presented the keynote address at Homeland Security’s Border Patrol Chiefs Conference in El Paso, July 2006, “Operation Jump Start” had been initiated in May by President Bush. Charged with defending America from terrorists, weapons, narcotics and illegal aliens, CBP’s responsibilities had never been greater. Thus, the goal was to recruit and train an additional 6,000 agents by the end of 2008 to bolster the 12,000 agents patrolling 6,000 miles of land border with Canada and Mexico and 2,000 miles of coastal border.

“Operation Jump Start” consisted in aiding CBP by deploying 6,000 National Guard troops along the Mexico–United States border to help enforcement of border security and construction of a border fence while new CBP agents were being recruited and trained. The rules of deployment were defined in an agreement between Department of Defense officials and the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, as well as Mexico. The troops systematically would be withdrawn as new agents came aboard. By the July conference, over 30 states had responded to the call.

But now, CBP agents, among those that could be the hardest hit by sequestration, are scheduled to receive through unpaid furloughs and other pay cuts up to a 40% reduction in income. Along with this, of course, is the question of how this trimming of on-duty agents will affect our country’s protection.

CBP agents, already with difficult tasks and often without the appreciation and respect they deserve, need to be encouraged and inspired by people like you and me to “keep on keeping on” during these challenging times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” In America, we are in the midst of an economic war and the need for courage and sustainability is called for – on the parts of those in battle, along with those who can help encourage and sustain the warriors.

All of us who are affected by America’s economic war must continue to hope and pray that our politicians will successfully collaborate and do what is best for our country ASAP. These elected leaders, along with all Americans, must keep in mind that the only long-term competitive advantage for any organization is the collective brain power, passion and work ethic of its people. Organizations cannot win unless there is intelligence, appropriate technical and people skills and a commitment to excellence on the part of everyone in the organization. We must buy in to what we are doing and must buy in to each other.

© 2013 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author, whose mentoring site is based on his  “A Strategy For Winning” book and program. Contact or view