Appreciative Inquiry of the Conservative Movement

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It turns out that Johnny Depp and I have something in common. (It isn’t looks.)

The right–that includes me–learned nothing from Reagan. Instead of being the sunny optimists who speak of a shining city on a hill, we have become Bob Dole curmudgeons lamenting the lazy, fat, vapid youth and spoiled Baby Boomers.

(Stay with me.) I was reminded of the need to focus on what we do right on the right by two things personal experiences:

First, my dotted-line boss is leading his teams through a transformation. Under the leadership of the best business leader I’ve ever worked for, the business unit I work within is emerging from three years of self-flagellation that would have made an S&M club blush. He’s using Appreciative Inquiry and the ideas expressed in “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life,” to help us to look for what we do well.

Second, I just read “How to Wow” by Frances Cole Jones. This is the best book I’ve ever read on working a room, even if only two people are in it. (If you ever interview for a job, date, meet the future in-laws, give presentations in school or work, or give speeches, this is appointment reading.) Coaching you through the process of preparing for an important speaking assignment, Ms. Jones tells you that “embodying the qualities of someone they admire can be very helpful.” In preparing for the role of Ed Wood, Johnny Depp told James Lipton on Inside the Actors' Studio that “he wanted to combine the blind optimism of Ronald Reagan with the overt geniality of Casey Kasem.” Earlier, she’d pointed out that Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill view of America trounced Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” America.

Perhaps I’ve forgotten who taught me the technique, but, as an actor, I do the same thing Depp does. When I played Lewis in Pippin four summers ago, I thought of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean when I was in the character of a Player. (Not that kind of player.) Last summer, I did Noel Coward’s Long Island Sound, a small role, but I thought of Clark Gable being Clark Gable.

To keep this post short, I’ll leave you with this: the conservative movement needs appreciative inquiry more than it needs to win the White House or the Congress in 2008. I will try to demonstrate this here over the coming months.

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