Once again this Thanksgiving, the President carried out the ritual of pardoning the White House turkey. It caused me to wonder about the history behind this annual ritual. As I soon learned, the practice was formally instituted by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. The ritual is intended to draw upon the ideas and ceremonies that encourage forgiveness, as practiced in many of the world's religions. The value of such rituals is to periodically reaffirm a social group's identity through the exercise of collective values, according to late 19th century sociologist Emile Durkheim.
Putting this practice into current day terminology, I would assert that the intent is to exercise and emphasize a society's espoused set of core values. Thinking of the Baldrige Core Values and Concepts, I believe they also fit as societal values for all of us. At this time of year (and important all year long), I particularly think of valuing people, societal responsibility, and ethics and transparency.
As we close out the year and look to holidays that celebrate the spirit of goodness in all of us, I will reflect on my focus on the three core values I mentioned. It is a time to reflect and re-energize my focus on valuing the people close to me, those I come into contact with, and those in need of help. It is a time to rethink our own commitments to society and social responsibility, and to reflect on our behavior during the past year. Have we treated all people ethically? Is there some change we want to make? Are there any missteps for which we should make amends and seek forgiveness? And are there people who we perceive may have treated us less than fairly, whose needs we should better understand?
At this time of year, should we pardon those who we believe have not treated us as well as we would like and should we seek pardon from those we have not always treated with the most respect and kindness?
Let's follow the American ritual and reaffirm our societal values through our personal actions.
I wish everyone a joyous, thoughtful, and peaceful holiday season!