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The Official Baldrige Blog

American Medal of Honor

When I first heard about the new television show entitled "American Idol" some fifteen years ago, I thought this was a series I would enjoy watching. I thought it would be the good news story that rarely gets media coverage. I was envisioning a series of shows about true American heroes, those that fight for social causes, that are models of great citizenship, or Americans who are great and trustworthy leaders in business or public service, or maybe even great scientists, whose discoveries have benefited health, the economy, or furthered our basic understanding of the natural world. (I kind of favored this last category of potential idols, based on my background in chemistry; but I was not so naive as to assume this would appeal to a wide audience!)

But now in its nominally last season, it hasn't met my preconceived images of American idols. While identifying great new entertainers, they are not the "American idols" I thought the show might identify, the people our whole country should be admiring and respecting for their contributions.

I googled "American idol" and based on a quick review every entry on the first 20 screens (I gave up after that) referred to the television show and its contestants. Smithsonian Magazine had a special issue in 2014 devoted to the 100 most significant Americans. Twenty percent were pop icons (including Michael Jackson and Madonna) and athletes (including Secretariat). The other 80% were the famous and infamous who contributed to shaping our country.

This led me to thinking about our U.S.idols of the future  (I will use this identifier to indicate the country's idols broadly, not just the television show winners) and what characteristics I would like them to possess. Certainly, they should make significant contributions to the betterment of our country and to its contributions globally. They should display a sense of comity.

However, when it comes to a bedrock component of my U.S. idol, I cannot envision that title being conferred on anyone who does not display the Baldrige core value of Ethics and Transparency. My idols needs to know right from wrong.  They need to role model what's right and build trust that can endure. They need to be paragons of fairness and integrity. They need to communicate openly and honestly.

Maybe I am still naive, but wouldn't it be great if all potential U.S. idols had to first pass an ethics and transparency screen? What do you think? Are there other requirements you have?  

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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I believe your thoughts are shared by many. Thank you for putting them to pen.
Absolutely agree with your thought. So do our "Indonesian Idol".

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