Friday, March 28, 2014

A Civically Engaged World

Nelson Mandela, Mary Braxton Joseph and Ambassador Joseph
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be a part of a talk given by Ambassador James A. Joseph sponsored by the UNCG Office of Service and Learning. His accomplishments include everything from the Civil Rights Movement, to appointments under President Carter, and Clinton. The moment the man began to speak I was enthralled with his experiences on civil service, however I kept having that nagging question in the back of my head about the use of religion to hijack civil service opportunities.  I'll admit, I was a bit more than cautious when I approached him at the end of the seminar but instantly felt connected with him as he assured me he struggled with similar questions as I did.

Perhaps I would have been more scared to  approach him on the subject if he didn't describe his time with Nelson Mandela. Mandela, who Joseph described as less religious and more spiritual, and who forgave his captors after 27 years of imprisonment. Joseph made it a point to clarify that civil service isn't not a translation of religious values into secular society but a responsibility and obligation "each generation has to improve the world" He states that this is what patriotism is, that its "praiseworthy competition with one's ancestors". In essence one does not require the moral convictions of religion to serve others or be moral themselves.

I rather like that, but unfortunately (especially in North Carolina), there's a lack of secular organizations for civil service. Those that exist are often unwelcoming to those without faith, or require proselytizing as a part of their service. I find such practices deplorable, and that service should be a gift. To give without expecting in return seems like the most honorable action of all, but in North Carolina this is the exception not the rule.

This needs to change, and as Joseph declares: "people are people through other people", and that civic service provides us the opportunity for a strategic intervention to solve problems before they occur. If we put ourselves at the service of society we are able to "transform community" and ourselves.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Greensboro's Airport: Ill Equipped for Weather

At one time we were a bustling hub, 
we even had our own airline (Piedmont Airlines) 
and we were one of the few selected airports
 in the nation used by NASA 
as an alternate landing site for the space shuttle.
 These days it's like Stephen King's Langoliers in there.
While my online persona has, as of late, been unable to find time to write on much of anything lately, the real me has been rather busy. Over Spring Break, I traveled with the School of Business at UNCG to Louvain La Neuve for a week of studious entrepreneurship education, and maybe a bit of late night revelry.

Unfortunately the week didn't start off to good for most of the class. I caught a Thursday flight out of Piedmont Triad International Airport without any conflicts, but hours later the rest of the class was grounded for nearly three days because of the ice storm. Sure it was the worst ice storm in recent history, but let's be completely honest... Greensboro is not the airport you want to fly from if you have to be somewhere on time.

Greensboro's airport hasn't seen that many
planes connected to sky-bridges since 1986.
I discovered this on my return trip where every flight into Greensboro was canceled. This seemed rather odd at the time since the weather, while bad in D.C. (8-10 inches of snow) was great in North Carolina. After a  rather fun night hanging out with stranded Duke students and several flight crews, it was suggested (by United employees) that Greensboro's problem is the lack of de-icing equipment and runway clearing equipment. In any case, if I hadn't re-booked my flight into RDU on Monday morning (I grabbed the last seat), then the soonest they (United Airlines) would have been able to get me back home was Tuesday evening. That's absurd. Further more there isn't a huge geographic difference between RDU and GSO. It's logistics.

I don't blame United, I blame PTI.  Greensboro's airport is great for reasons like convenience and easy parking, but when you consider it subtracted nearly three days out our (sans moi) study-abroad adventure in Belgium, and made for some rather interesting excuses for me to skip Monday's classes, I'm inclined to say I'm more likely to book out of Raleigh because of it.

 Long gone are the days when a jumbo jet taxied these runways.
No more do giant engines shake the concourse. 
I was able to micro-manage my flights for a couple of reasons. One, I flew by myself, separate from the class. Two, I pre-programmed United's number into my cell phone and continuously skipped the customer service lines because of it. Three, I got lucky. I flew out one day before everyone, and though I suffered similar problems as the rest of my class coming home, I grabbed the last seat to an alternate airport and had a friend pick me up in Raleigh.

How could someone in business confidently rely on PTI based on its lack of competitiveness in equipment and flight management during inclement weather? Climate change isn't going away, so where will you fly when it's important for you to be on time?