By Kimberly Schwartz
My daughter’s sixth-grade English class is studying “base words” and “non-base words” this week. For those of you who haven’t had to deal with this particular concept lately, “non-base words” are words which we might also call “derivative words"; that is, they are derived from, or based upon, “base words.” Last night, the homework assignment (raced through in anticipation of receiving permission to get online and spend the Christmas I-Tunes gift cards) was to sort the vocabulary list into “base words” and “non-base words” and define the differences between each pair. So, for instance, adapt is a “base word” and adaptation is a “non-base word.” Excel is a “base word” and excellence is a “non-base word.” We discussed the moderately interesting (to me, anyway) fact that the word derivative is, itself, a “non-base word”, as it is based on the word derive.
All of this got me thinking today about the “non-base word” executive, as in Chief Executive of the United States. The word executive is, of course, derived from the word execute, which means, in this context: to carry out; to accomplish; to perform or do. An executive is one who executes or one who carries out, one who accomplishes one who performs or does.
Imagine for a moment that you are the personnel director of a business. You have been charged with the responsibility of hiring someone to fill a crucial executive position . . . say, the head of a division within your company that’s not doing very well. You know you really need to get this one right. You have files on several applicants before you. You review the first several. You know, or have at least heard of, these people. Maybe they have worked somewhere within your company or a similar company previously. They went to the right schools. They belong to the right clubs and social circles. They know the right people. In fact, they have letters of recommendation from the right people. You are impressed.
You open the next file. This applicant doesn’t quite fit comfortably into the same mold as the others, and frankly, you’ve really never heard of him. He’s a bit of an outsider. Because of this, it would seem like kind of a long shot for him to have even applied for the position you are seeking to fill.
And yet, as you study the file closely, you discover that this applicant has actually accomplished a tremendous amount. He started his adult life by achieving his master’s degree from a respected university. He’s been married – to the same woman – for over forty years. After college, he worked his way up to the position of vice-president of a major international corporation. After that, seeking a new challenge, he started over – literally from the bottom – in another division of the same corporation. Eventually, he worked his way up again, and was assigned to oversee operations in a geographical region where the company was failing. Within three years, he had built that failing region into one of the leading regions in the whole country. After that, he was assigned to oversee operations of yet another division of the company which was about to go bankrupt. Within fourteen months, he restored that division to profitability. By this time, he was respected enough by his peers to be elected to the board of directors of a nationwide trade organization, and ultimately to be hired as president and full-time CEO of that organization. Following this, he started yet another career in public communications, and successfully built yet another national following for himself. It’s clear from his application that he believes in the potential of your business.
Chances are, you’d be thinking to yourself, at this point, “Hmm . . . here’s a guy who knows how to get things done. This is a guy who knows how to accomplish things. This is a guy who knows how to perform and lead others to perform. This is a guy who knows how to execute. This is exactly the person I need to fill this position.”
It seems to me that, when we cast our vote for President of the United States, we are, in a very real sense, hiring an executive . . . a Chief Executive. For the next four years after the election, we all chip in to pay this person a salary to do a particular job: to determine what the country’s problems are, figure out what’s causing them, come up with a plan to solve them, put that plan into action, and successfully carry it out.
At this point, with our country in the dire straits in which it finds itself – economically and in many other ways – wouldn’t it be prudent to hire somebody who has actually proven that he knows how fix problems? Don’t we need somebody in the White House who knows how to accomplish . . . how to carry out . . . how to get things done . . . in other words, how to execute?
I think so. That’s why I’m supporting Herman Cain for President in 2012.
Assistant District Attorney at Office of the District Attorney – Macon (Georgia) Judicial Circuit; Studied Law at Mercer University and lives in Macon, Georgia