SHRM11 – Day Minus 5 – Michael J. Fox – Rant or Rave?

When it was announced last year that Al Gore was going to be one of the keynote speakers at the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference, the HR web exploded with a firestorm of  negative comments on his selection, and a whole rash of people claimed they weren’t going to attend because of his persona and his politics. I even chimed in on the issue, although my blog post argued against avoiding an entire conference because of one speaker.

So I was a tad surprised when no one seemed to care this year that the speaker chosen to close the conference and send 15 or 20 thousand attendees forward to impact the HR field was Michael J. Fox. Seriously?

Don’t get me wrong – I loved the guy as Marty McFly in the Back To the Future movie franchise, and I applaud him for starting a foundation to address Parkinson’s disease after he was diagnosed with the illness. But in this day and age, when jobs remain scarce and HR is increasingly addressing its corporate relevancy, do we really need to hear a semi-retired actor talk about Parkinson’s disease?

SHRM says Michael J. Fox will “close the 2011 conference with his incredible story; he will talk about his struggle, his outlook on life and how to remain positive, even in difficult times.”

I would rather have a dynamic leader – or several of them – talk about how HR can help create jobs and give  workers a better career experience.  The Dallas Mavericks Cheerleaders Dancers shaking their pom pons didn’t help that team win an NBA championship, organizational excellence did.

I’ll be flying home Wednesday morning and missing his speech, and I can’t say I’m too unhappy about that.


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Broadway Musicals and Al Gore

I like all kinds of live theatre, but I am particularly fond of musical theatre  – what many people call “Broadway musicals”.  I like musicals so much that I read books about them, listen to cast albums, and attend performances at all levels, including local high schools.  I follow many musical-related sites on Twitter; my favorite is @DailyShowtune.

Unfortunately, I am also hyper-critical, which sometimes makes it very difficult to enjoy watching shows.  If a musical takes place in 1958, like Bye, Bye Birdie, and the actors are wearing 1995 shoes, I go a little berserk.  Don’t even think about using a 1960’s radio as a prop in a show set in the 1940’s.  I don’t like the concept of  jukebox musicals (musicals that are written around a song catalog of one artist, like Jersey Boys) at all.  When I see these things, I see so much red that it is hard for me to concentrate on the rest of the show.

So when I am squirming in my seat, trying to ignore Emile de Becque (you know, the guys who sings Some Enchanted Evening)  wearing a Detroit Red Wings tie in a local community theatre production of South Pacific (yes, this really happened), I take a deep breath and say to myself:  What can I find to really LOVE about this show?

Inevitably, I will find something I really love – like the costumes, or a particular performance, or the sets.  Turning aside my critical feelings and finding the good stuff – it’s always there somewhere – keeps me in my seat for the whole show, even though the accepted theatre-goers response to show dislike is to get up and leave.

So what does this have to do with Al Gore? Or HR?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) announced that Al Gore was going to be the featured speaker at their big, brassy annual convention in San Diego in June 2010.  There was an immediate amount of backlash and negative discussion prompted by his selection, including negative bloggers and a highly critical discussion on LinkedIn.  Many people said they would not go to his speech, or to the convention itself, because of his selection.

See the connection?  These people are letting this one small piece of hyper-criticism destroy their love of the whole.  And if they don’t love the whole, why do they care if Al Gore speaks or not?  I hope these people re-evaluate their positions and decide that it is not worth walking out on SHRM Annual just because they don’t like or agree with Al Gore and/or his politics.  If they LOOK FOR SOMETHING TO LOVE, even in his speech,  I bet they’ll find it.  Maybe he’ll be wearing great shoes.

Audience walks out – why do they come back?