December 26, 2016

Almost two months have passed since, for me,  the unimaginable and deeply worrying election of Donal Trump as the President of the United Staes.

Anyone who has followed my blogs will know that my attitude toward Trump's candidacy passed through several phases. In hindsight, it began as an all too superficial, even condescending view of Trump's campaign as a vaudeville act--unpredictably and bizarrely entertaining.

As the campaign wore on and Trump's Republican opponents fell by the wayside, I began to worry and to get angry. Not only about the substance of what Trump proposed--for example deporting 11 million people; making people's religious affiliation a binding criteria for entry to the U.S.; rejecting the truth of climate change; making blustering pronouncements which if carried out would risk a crippling trade war. Even more I rejected the crudeness of his manners, his meanness, his disrespect for others and his encouraging such disrespect among his followers, and his self-evident disregard for the truth.

 As I wrote the day after the election, "what troubles me to my bone is that the character he has lived throughout most of his life and the character and values he has expressed in the campaign are so utterly antithetical to what we seek for ourselves and we teach to our children". They would have immediately disqualified him for employment in any corporation or institution with which I have been associated.

The almost two months which have passed since the election have not changed the reality that we are facing a period of great uncertainty, more uncertainty than I can recall at any time of my life. Uncertainty domestically and in our foreign relations.

Trump's Cabinet and other key personal appointments are, with a few exceptions--General Mattis and Rex Tillerson for me personally-- not reassuring. While the "proof will be in the doing" he appears to be choosing people with little or no experience who hold policy views (e.g. on trade, health care, the environment, etc.) counter to what I believe, based on  history and the realities as I see them, are right for the American people and the world.

Trump's continued  ignoring of "truth" (e.g. claiming he won in a "landslide" and that there was widespread voter fraud); his continued non-stop "tweeting" on subjects of great  consequence (e.g. relations with China) and triviality (e.g. objecting to his treatment on CNN and "Saturday Night Live"); his making contrarian pronouncements on policy which remain in the province of our sitting President (e.g regarding Israel), all continue to portray a temperament unsuited for the Presidency of the United States.

Yet, with all this, I will not permit myself to be held back by a lack of hope for the future.

Fortunately, I found it easier to pursue a hopeful path in the midst of the promise of the recent Christmas Season.

One foundation of my hope for is that Trump shows no evidence of holding deep ideological commitments.  Above all else, he is committed to win. That is what drove his campaign and that is what has driven his business life.

I believe if he faces reality and listens to the best of his advisors, he is going to find that "winning" will require significant changes from policies he advocated in his campaign, including on health care, trade and immigration. We already see some signs of this. Only time will tell.

More  important to my hope for the future is my knowledge of the history of our country. We are fortunate to have a system of checks and balances. Most of what happens in our lives happens as a result of action at the State, Local and Community level. In the end, the American people as a whole usually figure out what makes sense.

We have been through periods of great threat to and attack on the values which lie at the foundation of our Nation's creation and continued existence. We have overcome them. We have not abandoned the values enunciated in our Declaration of Independence even though we have honored those values imperfectly and inconsistently.

We lived uncomfortably and tragically for more than a century with the institution of slavery before we abolished it. We witnessed the reversal of the short-lived, still- born conferral of Freedom on Black men and women during Reconstruction. We lived through and survived the depression and emergence of Hitler of the 1930s; the Cold War with its threat of nuclear annihilation, a threat which remains with us today. We survived the McCarthy era and the continued repression of Blacks which gave rise to the Civil Rights movement which continues today.

Still, while it has been written that  knowledge of history can protect us against what can be the fatiguing, hope- draining "hysteria" of the moment, it cannot allow us to become complacent. For it is true:  history, especially in the short and medium term, rests on a proverbial "knife-edge". It can go either way. And which way it goes is very dependent on individual leadership, for better or worse. Imagine if we had not had Lincoln or Churchill or Gorbachev or Nelson Mandela when we did. Recall the damage done by President Andrew Johnson or Hitler or Stalin.

Still, Hope alone is not enough. As General Gordon Sullivan aptly titled his book--"Hope is not a Method".

We have to put Hope into ACTION in our own lives.

And we have to demand that others act in line with the values of compassion, justice and respect for the dignity and Freedom of all.

I draw on these words of Langston Hughes in his poem, "Freedom's Plow" for inspiration:

Land created in common,
Dream nourished in common,
Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on!
If the house is not yet finished,
Don't be discouraged, builder!
If the fight is not yet won,
Don't be weary, soldier!
The plan and pattern is here,
Woven from the beginning
Into the warp and woof of America:
To the enemy who would conquer us from without,
We say, NO
To the enemy who would  divide us from within, We say, NO
To all the enemies of these great words,
We say, NO!

No one has articulated our individual responsibility and opportunity to ACT  more passionately than Robert F. Kennedy in his timeless charge to youth in South Africa a half century ago.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends out a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep done the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Finally, during this Christmas season at a service in Cincinnati , Ohio,  the Pastor of my church, Reverend Paula Jackson, also challenged us to act on Hope:

"We welcome the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christmas for revolutionaries is not a nostalgic recall of idealized images. It is not a superficial emotional response. In bleak days, we seek a blessed hope to motivate us; a glory that shines in the darkness and keeps us moving forward. We don't need to feel better. We need to change the world.

Beware of accepting the grace of God. You will need to share it with people who are not like you. It will make you a revolutionary in a dangerous time. You will not be able to make peace with injustice. You will not be able to harden your heart. You will run, and lift your voice, proclaiming Glory to God, on earth peace to all people".


Yes, as we begin this New Year of 2017, we face a period of  great uncertainty and challenge. But we cannot allow that to deter us. We have been here before. We must continue.

As I have said to myself many times when facing a challenge or set back, "I need to move forward with courage and determination to get done what needs to be done in my circle of influence; to do what I believe is right".

In the immortal words of Winston Churchill in this famous six word speech: " Never, never, never never give up".


December 21, 2016

I am reposting this talk from 4 years ago because I continue to believe it is the moral, social and economic issue of our time. Fortunately in the last 2 months the citizens of the City of Cincinnati have passed a levy which will dramatically increase the number of 3 and 4 yer olds receiving the life changing benefit of quality pre-K education. Now we have the challenge of executing that plan with excellence. And we need to provide  support for those thousands of families and children age 0-3 and those with children 3 and 4 whom we are still not covering. Thanks for considering and acting on this

Preparing All Our Children for the New Global Economy

OCTOBER 24, 2012

In thinking about comments I might make as Francie and I accept this award, Kathy Merchant suggested I go back to a talk which I gave 22 years ago.  The talk was titled:  “The New Global Economy:  Is the U.S. Ready?”   Why go back 22 years?  Because the focus of that talk -- the “education of our youth” and my assessment of our readiness to compete on the global stage are as centrally relevant today as they were 22 years ago and remain core to the work of GCF. 

I’ll start with the bad news.  The response I offered 22 years ago is the same as it is today:  “No, the US is not ready to compete in the new global economy. “ 

Why?  Because we are not acting on the truth that the future of our country is almost entirely dependent on our youth:  how they develop and how they grow.

The plain fact is that today we are failing to give -- not 10%, not 20% -- but 30-40% of our youth the preparation they need to succeed.    Far too many of our youth are growing up with huge educational deficits compared to other nations.

We talk of many deficits in this country.  Trade deficits, budget deficits, job deficits.  But – make no mistake – the deficit in the education of our youth is the key to fixing all the rest.

We all know it:  The future belongs to the educated.  When I was a kid, parents might tell their children, “If you don’t seize the opportunity for a good education, it is going to be your tough luck.”  And it was their tough luck.  But today, it is everyone’s tough luck.  It will be far more so in the future.

It’s a future other nations see the same way.  Young men and women from all parts of the globe are moving ahead.  We are not.

Historically, our nation was an economic leader importantly because our young people were better prepared.  The United States was the first nation to educate all its citizens.  In 1955, the United States was enrolling 80% of its 15-19 year olds in school full-time compared to only 10-20% in Europe.  Sadly, alarmingly, that position of superiority is gone.  

In 1990, our high school dropout rate was 25%.  Tragically, the number is no different today.  Test after test shows that our students’ academic proficiency is way below the proficiency of many other countries.  We are in the middle of the pack.

The education gap which exists in our country is crippling.  Just last week, Brad Smith, Executive Vice-President of Microsoft, wrote that Microsoft has more than 6,000 open jobs in the United States, 15% more than a year ago.  More than half are positions for engineers, software developers and researchers.  The situation at Microsoft mirrors our entire country.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a continuing annual need for 120,000 graduates with skills in the disciplines I just mentioned.  Yet, there are only 40,000 students graduating from college each year to fill these positions.  Graphic proof that we do not have the number of young Americans with the talent and skills to fill these high quality jobs – jobs which if not filled here are going to migrate overseas.  

We could see some of the global changes coming 22 years ago:  the emergence of China and India, the opening up of Eastern and Central Europe.  Few, however, could have envisaged how far globalization would advance and, with it, the competition for jobs. Think of it.  As the world has come together, hundreds of millions of young people are competing for jobs today that 20 years ago were reserved for U.S. workers in a closed economic system.

Even less, 20 years ago, could one have envisaged the huge investments countries like China are making in the education of their young.

Listen to these statistical comparisons of China and the United States as recently reported by Charles Blow in The New York Times:

n  Half of U.S. children get no early childhood education and we have no national strategy to increase enrollment.  In contrast, by 2020, China has committed to provide 70% of children with not one, not two, but three years of pre-school.  Guess who has a better chance of succeeding in the long run, us or China?  
n  And consider this – more than half of U.S. post-secondary students drop out of college.  By 2020, China is committing to more than doubling enrollment in higher education and ensuring that no child drops out of school for financial reasons.  By 2030, it is estimated that China will have 200 million college graduates, more than the entire U.S. workforce.

Back in 1990, I emphasized the strengths we have as a nation -- our innovative capacity and individual initiative.  Our access to capital, rule of law and free competition.  Our diversity, leading I have found to a superior ability to adapt to other cultures.  These strengths have been evident as firms like Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Apple and Google, have led competition in developing businesses around the world.

And yet, as I said then, can we really expect to remain the leading nation economically and socially, a nation of opportunity for all, if 30-40% of our young men and women are less prepared than their counterparts from other nations.  Of course not.  This is our Achilles heel.  While our accumulated technology and values will attenuate decline, I am convinced that decline will occur slowly, but inevitably, unless we dramatically strengthen the education of our youth, starting in their earliest years.  

All right, some of you might be thinking by now, I get it.  We are in trouble.  You have hit us with enough statistics.  Remember, we came here for a celebratory lunch.  Do you have anything positive to say?

Yes I do.

And it is this.  We have proven programs in our community to help families and their children develop like we have never had before!  And like very few communities in this nation have.  

If we rally behind these initiatives persistently, with our volunteer time and more funding, we can and we will make breakthrough progress.

Allow me to briefly describe four of these programs.  I’m pleased to say that GCF has provided funding and leadership support to all four.

The first is Every Child Succeeds.  Partnering with Children’s Hospital and now in its 13th year, ECS serves 3,000 first-time at-risk moms and their families annually, through professional home visitors and community agency support.  These families live below the poverty line.  This program has dramatically increased average birth weight, cut infant mortality in half and put 90% of these babies on a normal development path.  Maternal depression has been cut in half and the percentage of young moms getting GEDs and securing employment has soared.

Yet, only about 25% of mothers needing this support receive it today because of the shortage of funds.  In fact, home coverage has declined over the past two years by about 10% due to cutbacks in government support which have not been fully offset even as the United Way has increased its support.

Do you know what it costs to support one family for a year?  $2,800.  Do you think it is worth $2,800 to change a parent’s and their child’s life forever?  I’m sure you do.  And so did a woman at Procter & Gamble where I spoke recently about this program at a United Way presentation.  She came up to me and said that she was going to increase her gift to the United Way this year by $2,800 to fund another family. 

The second program is Success by Six.  Now in its 10th year, led by Stephanie Byrd and propelled by its long-term chair Jim Zimmerman, Success by Six focuses on delivering quality child care for pre-K children with a particular focus on having all children ready for Kindergarten. I’d note that GCF was part of the initial funding that got this program off the ground, and continues its support today.

Imagine entering Kindergarten already behind other children and unable to understand what the teacher is saying.  Talk about an invitation to opt out. 

With Success by Six, students achieving target Kindergarten readiness in CPS have increased by thirteen percentage points, from 44% to 57% in just five years.  Impressive, but still way short of the community’s bold goal of 85% by 2020.  To get there, we need to both improve the quality of existing pre-K education, and we need more funding to provide programs in more neighborhoods.

Helping do this will be a new campaign, “Read On.”  Its goal is simple:  to ensure that every child is reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.  Why is this important?   If a child is not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade, he or she is four times more likely to drop out than a child who is.  Add poverty and living in a depressed neighborhood as variables and a child is 17 times more likely to drop out.  We don’t have to live that way.  As Greg Landsman has said:  “We can begin to break the cycle of poverty by getting a child prepared for Kindergarten.  We all but break it if that child is reading successfully by the end of 3rd grade.  The statistics are that compelling.”

Teachers cannot achieve this goal on their own.  Volunteer tutors are crucial.  The Strive Partnership, Cincinnati Public Schools and the United Way have teamed up to recruit 1,000 new tutors as part of a campaign called Be The Change.  In just a couple of months, over 500 new tutors have signed up against a goal of 1,000.  Over 26 CEOs in our community are launching workplace campaigns to recruit more tutors.  Trust me:  tutoring is not hard to do; it is incredibly rewarding.  Training is simple and relatively short.  There is flexibility on location and time.  You will find information on how you can participate in this critical initiative in your folders.

The fourth program I will say a word about is the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates, which have recently merged.  Their mentoring, tutoring, college access and job placement programs are reaching over 3,000 students each year with a 95% graduation rate.  Individual lives are being changed forever.  

Still, we need more volunteers and, yes, more funding.  

Mary Ronan tells me that there are another 500 students at CPS who would benefit enormously from being part of Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates.  What will it take to make that happen?  About $1,000 per student -- $1,000 to change a student’s life forever.  How could you help make that happen?  By making an extra gift to United Way or directing a grant to the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative through your GCF donor advised fund.

The hour is getting late, but there is one more initiative I need to talk about.  The Strive Partnership.  It is the most promising organization catalyst to transform the development of our youth that I have ever seen.  Led by Greg Landsman and chaired by Kathy Merchant – it brings together people and support from pre-natal through post-graduate education – cradle to career --   to invest their collective time, talent and funding in what works – to the end of creating the most robust talent pipeline in the country.

The Strive Partnership focuses on the most important outcomes such as kindergarten readiness, student proficiency, training principals and teachers and locating community support resources in our schools. 

It unites early intervention programs like Every Child Succeeds and Success by Six with K-12 curriculum.  

These and other programs are working.  But we need to scale them.  We need to support them with more volunteers and more funding to close the enormous gaps in coverage that exist today.


Ladies and gentlemen, here is the bottom line.  Providing the support for all of our children to grow up to be successful is the social justice and moral issue of our time.  It is also the economic issue of our time.   We can see political ads and hear campaign slogans until we’re blue in the face:  “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”  But it all comes back to education.  

The late David Kearns of Xerox once said:  “We cannot have a world class economy without a world class work force.  And we cannot have a world class work force without having world class preparation for all our youth.”  He was right.

The world is on the move.  We must act.  The shocking shame and cost of the poor preparation of so many of our youth is clear in our inability to fill open jobs and in wasted lives.

The only way our nation will maintain its leadership is by dramatically improving the preparation of all our youth.

I will conclude my remarks as I did 22 years ago by asking you this:  Do we in our community have the wisdom and the will and the stamina to act on what we know to be true?  Will we change our expectations and fuel the effort so that we don’t have just 70% of our youth growing up to be fully productive men and women?  But virtually 100%?

That is our task.  That is our opportunity.

Ladies and gentlemen, we can do this.  We must do this.  We have better programs and we are integrating them through Strive.  We have seen again and again that children have the God-given potential to succeed.  We have the opportunity and, yes, the responsibility to help them achieve that potential.
We owe that to them and to ourselves.  We owe it to our children and to our grandchildren.  Failure is not an option.  We must succeed.  Our economy and our very way of life as a nation depend on it.  

Please take up the cause.  Do not let go.  Do what you can that, 22 years from now, someone will stand here, addressing an audience like this, able to say that we made good on the social, moral and economic issue of our time.  

Thank you very much.


December 13, 2016

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 12th Annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.

Jody Williams, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for leading the instatement of an International Treaty banning anti-personnel land mines, spoke eloquently about the power of moral courage.

"Each time you stand up for what you believe is right, it makes your muscles stronger. Doing this will define how you will be seen. Far more important, it will define what you see in the mirror".

Jody Williams said something else that day which I will never forget. Looking at the many fellow Nobel Prize winners on the stage, she observed that there were many differences which marked their lives. But, she continued, there is one thing we all have in common.

"We didn't ask for permission".


November 19, 2016

I wrote this in 1995, having recently been appointed CEO of Procter & Gamble.  I believe it still applies to any leader trying to build a company today.

As I think about the subjects which we so often discuss - innovation, cost effectiveness, system improvement,  people - I arrive at questions which I expect all of us have asked:

What type of company are we becoming?  What will change?  What will not?

The answer to those questions will lie ultimately in our actions and our behaviors.  But the character of what we aspire to become is very clear.  It grows directly out of our history and our purpose. 
  • We will be a company where, even more, innovation flourishes and quality and value are our guides.
  • A company in which individual initiative and respect for teamwork are honored together.
  • A company where our systems and processes are being constantly renewed to be the best in the world.
  • What will not change – and we must never let change – is what brought us to this company – and what makes us proud to say “I work for P&G.”
  • The bone-hard commitment to doing the right thing, no matter the sacrifice.  Saying what we mean…and living what we say, to the best of our ability.
  • The commitment to serving the consumer and supporting our communities.
  • The commitment to leading and improving in whatever we undertake.
  • The commitment to people in the broadest sense…their ideas:  their views; and particularly as it concerns those who work for us, their personal growth and satisfaction.
  • To me there are four summary testimonials that will tell us we have done our jobs very well.
  • The first from a consumer:  “I always use P&G products.  They’re the best value I can find and they never let me down.”
  • The second from an investor:  “Am I ever glad I own P&G stock.  I’m going to buy more.”
  • The third from a member of a community in which we work:  “Thank heavens we have P&G people here.”
  • And the fourth from hopefully all of us and certainly me:  “I am proud to be a member of this Company.  I can’t imagine a more rewarding career or working with a finer group of people.”


November 16, 2016

While I wrote this book almost 10 years ago, I think its principles have stood the test of time.

The following is from the Amazon book site.

"The fundamental question in business and in personal life is the same: What really matters? In this book one of America’s most widely admired business leaders distills a lifetime of experience, including failures as well as successes, to reveal his answers.
John Pepper, president, CEO, and chairman of Procter & Gamble for a combined 16 years, underscores the importance of continuous change, innovation, and renewal as prerequisites for growth and sound leadership. In What Really Matters he suggests that a preparedness to alter perspective, rethink assumptions, or change course is central not only to understanding customer needs and keeping costs under control but also to developing talent, organizing global businesses, and supporting communities. While he discusses specific business tactics, he notes that they all center on fundamental tenets: listen to and respect the customer, engender personal accountability and passionate ownership, encourage diversity, and create a vibrant, trusting institution that incorporates employees and their families. In his own years as an executive, Pepper has demonstrated that a profitable business can create and sustain a culture that shapes—and is shaped by—ethical behavior. His profoundly important advice and counsel belong in the lexicon and practice of every leader".

“No one should accept a position of responsibility without reading this book. John Pepper provides ground-zero real-world insights into managing the dilemmas that confront every leader—including ethical dilemmas. The business world might be quite different today if this book had been required reading for those CEOs of the past decade who lost their way.”—Norman R. Augustine, Retired Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Former Undersecretary of the Army, Former Chairman of the American Red Cross.
(Norman R. Augustine 2006-12-27)

What Really Matters is a wonderful antidote for executives who make excuses for their bad behaviors: ‘it’s complicated out there;’ ‘the pressures are enormous;’ etc., etc. In practical, clear, and compelling terms, John Pepper lays out how to lead with integrity, humility, and —not instead of —effectiveness.”—Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
(Roger Martin 2006-12-27)

“John Pepper’s What Really Matters may been written for a Procter and Gamble audience, but it should be read by other companies and business school, as well as those in government. Not only was John Pepper an extraordinarily creative CEO at P&G, but he also has an unusual ability to communicate what I call ‘character-based leadership.’”—David M. Abshire, President and CEO, the Center for the Study of the Presidency
(David M. Abshire 2006-12-27)


November 9, 2016

Incredibly, worryingly, Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th President of our Nation last night. 

Volumes will be written about this campaign and how he won and why Clinton lost. It took an unimaginable confluence of circumstances for a man rejected by much/most of his own party, representing by his own words and actions values and a character which would not even have allowed him to be interviewed by a major Corporation and whom parents would have warned their children to ignore as being a bigot and mean to become President of this great Nation.

Sadly, above all, this was in my view a rejection of  Hillary Clinton and what she was seen to represent. The accusations of her being self-interested, part of the establishment and continuation of the "Clinton era", being "crooked", all hyped and repeated again and again did their job. 

The e-mail controversy and accusations about the  Clinton Foundation (which has done so much good),  the I believe irresponsible insertion of the FBI at the last minute, the dislike of Obama (framed as Obamacare) and the  belief that Clinton would be more of  the same-- all this added up to a gut level reaction of "we don't trust her, we don't like her and we're ready to try something different even though we know he is unprepared and are very worried about his temperament". In the end,  an act of frustration and desperation on the part of a large percentage of the American people. 

What's especially sad for me it that in her heart and mind I am certain that Hillary is not only a highly intelligent, careful thinker and very experienced but a thoroughly caring, moral and decent person who above all loves our Nation and its people, all of them.  

What troubles me the most about Trump, and it troubles me to my bone, is that the character he has lived  throughout most of his life and the character and values he has expressed in the campaign are so utterly antithetical to what we seek for ourselves and we teach to our children. He has disrespected others, taken advantage of them, it has been about him.  

When we say at P&G and life as a whole that it all comes down to "people and values", we mean it. And we are right. 

 Fortunately  we are a big and strong and diverse country. We will get through this. 

My hope is that in spite of so much of his campaign rhetoric and (ill informed and dangerous) proposals he will act to bring the country together in spirit and policy. I hope he will follow the path of Lincoln and bring a few strong Democrats into his inner circle and cabinet. He needs to make some substantive and highly visible moves like this.

I hope people like Paul Ryan will be able to influence him with positive ideas which the Democrats can align with like infrastructure investment and sensible tax reform. I hope he avoids "doing harm" like walking back the good parts of Obamacare. 

For Francie and me, the blessings of our lives remain undiminished and incredibly positive above all because of our wonderful family and our closest  friends. 

We will carry on, trying to do what is right and helping others in our own circles of influence wherever we can. There is no other way.

 We will remember my favorite 6-word Winston Churchill speech. "Never, never, never, never give up"--in doing what is right and what we are called on to do.


November 8, 2016

For the first time ever, with great intentionality,  I am devoting my blog to sharing an inspiring and wise message I received this morning from my 39 year old daughter, Susan. She is married and the mother of two children ages 3 and about a year and a half. 

As for many of us, this long and emotionally draining Presidential election has impacted her deeply. I embrace every word she writes as she looks to the future we must forge. 


 I’ve taken several things from this Election so far.

#1 One, women have a long way to go!
The release of Trump tapes demeaning women really brought home to me the all-pervasive sexualization of women and girls in our society. Like Michelle Obama said, it really touched something in so many of us to hear these comments coming from this presidential nominee, and it did hurt. When this election started, I wasn’t “all about the women” but I am now. We have a long road to travel to a place where women and girls are fully respected, empowered and actualized, but I am confident that the good fight will continue—and we will get there.

#2 Every voice counts, and I need to do my part speaking out.
Those of us who have been shy, harmony-seeking, not wanting to step on anybody’s toes…it’s time to speak out!

#3 No matter who wins, we need CIVIL discourse.
Let’s agree to disagree, but let our love for each other, our communities and our country over ride a tendency towards mean-spiritedness, violence and anarchy. We need to listen to each other, respect our differences, and find common ground.

#4 No matter who wins, I need to work harder to do my part for the greater good.
I protested the war on Iraq traveling to D.C. on a bus. When the war broke out, I was so  disillusioned with government and the powers that be, I withdrew from participating in political activism. I withdrew period! No matter what happens today, I don’t want a country of disillusioned people. I want us to roll up our sleeves, come together and get to work rebuilding, unifying, and beautifying our neighborhoods, communities and nation.


November 3, 2016


We read about the sobering, indeed horrifying statistics documenting the growing epidemic of heroin overdoses and fatalities. We read about he tragic impact of drug addiction on those addicted and on those who  care for them.

I was confronted personally with the life-upending reality of this trauma by an unpublished manuscript written by my mother a half century ago. I did not even know  she had written it until  my wife discovered the manuscript a couple of years ago in a dust-covered unopened box stowed away in our basement.

The book tells the story of how my mother worked courageously and mainly alone to help my sister, Elizabeth, overcome her addiction to pain-relieving drugs  which she had succumbed to after a long series of operations on her knee resulting from a field hockey accident in high school. 

Through its moving and cinema-like narrative, my mother provides a sorrowful,  chilling description of what it is like for a parent to try to care, moment to moment,  for a drug-afflicted child. She reveals the loneliness of the role; the urgent, often unexpressed need for help and companionship. She reveals the intertwined feelings of hope and desperation, of doubt and frustration, buoyed by unyielding courage, determination and love. 

I decided to publish this book--"The Fourth White Gown"--for several reason.*

I hope that this story will not only sensitize readers to the devastating impact of drug addiction on the lives on those afflicted but on those--parents and friends--trying to help them.  I hope it will encourage us to provide the help we can be to these care givers by better appreciating the extraordinary toll it is taking on their lives and, even if not requested,  their need for support.

I also hope that this story will stimulate further action--in both policy and funding--to address the causes of drug addiction and provide effective treatment to those afflicted. The epidemic of drug addiction and drug fatalities surrounding us today demands greater action. It must be treated as a medical issue, not one a criminal one. 

Personally, the story reveals the depth of parents' love for their children-- in this case my mother's love for my sister and her love for me, her son.  

I had just joined Procter & Gamble when my mother wrote this manuscript.  Over the course of the next three decades, I rose to become CEO and Chairman of the company. 

I was of course aware of my sister's addiction. But I had no idea of its depth nor the deep feeling of aloneness which my mother experienced in contending with it. As she did throughout her life, my mother did everything in her power to help me succeed, including  protecting me from the unsettled conditions in our home. She insisted that I go away to school and to work. 

I can't read this book without wondering--and yes, worrying about-- what more I could have done to help my mother and sister. I know I could have done more. However of this I am sure, I know my mother (ands sister and father too) would be thrilled by my wonderful family. I know my mother would say: "this is what I worked for; this makes it all worthwhile". 

This is what all parents work to achieve. 

This is what my mother and so many parents give their lives for.  There is no greater love. 

Again, I hope that this story will make us all  even more aware of the drug epidemic which surrounds us and touches so many lives, including people we know who are caring for loved ones who are suffering from addiction and whom we can help.

*"The Fourth White Gown", was written by my mother,  Irma O'Conor Pepper. It is available on Amazon and other book sellers. I wrote a Preface and an Afterword to provide a personal context.    


October 25, 2016

Two of my grandchildren:

3 1/2 year old Hubbard to 1 1/2 year sister Rhoda.

"Rhoda, I love you. I am very proud of you".



October 21, 2016


It’s hardly surprising that this book, written 25 years ago, won the Pulitzer Price and the National Book Award.

If there is ever a story that illustrates the flawed judgment of even the wisest, well-intentioned men and women, this is it.

The Vietnam War is one we never should have entered.  It grew from a tragic misunderstanding of the situation in Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh, a died-in-the-wool nationalist; Vietnam fearing China throughout its history; having already beaten the French.  Despite President Eisenhower's clearly seeing the trap of re-imposing colonization, we picked up the war, indeed encouraged the French to continue its war, at an eventual cost of almost 60,000 U.S. servicemen and over 1.5 million Vietnamese. 

When Lyndon Johnson succeeded John Kennedy after his assassination in late 1963, there were still only 17,000 U.S. servicemen in Vietnam and less than 120 had been killed.  The number of servicemen eventually in Vietnam exceed 500,000.  Yet, even in late 1963, it was already an “American” war.  We had already committed ourselves to the protection of South Vietnam under a corrupt leader.

There are so many things revealed by this story that find their place in history, not just of nations but of business. 

On-the-ground insights from John Vann and other leaders which Generals Harkin, Taylor, Rostow, McNamara and others in command refused to hear.

A delusional view of anecdotal victories became a template to believe in our overall ability to win. 

A refusal to measure what the long-term cost of victory would be in light of the commitment of the adversary and the resources that it had and the numbers of people at its command. 

The history of Vietnam itself, having overcome so many invasions, mainly from China, on the path to achieve its freedom.

There is also the heroism and the horror.  The heroism of Marines not leaving the battlefield until the last of their dead and wounded were retrieved, even at the cost of their own lives.  The horror as, in the name of war, we destroyed hamlets, killed innocent victims and sometimes said, as General Westmoreland did, that this was not a bad thing because we were at least destroying the population of our enemy. 

There was also the reality that the Vietnamese peasants were looked at by their own generals as not worthy of life, as being expendable.

The history is yet another illustration of believing that a “new battle” could be won in the same way that led to success in the “last battle.”  Generals Harkin and Westmoreland and others felt that the sheer force of bombing and tanks and infantry would wear down the enemy, as was the case, at great cost, in World War II, in fighting the Japanese and the Germans.  Yet, this was a different war, in a different geographic environment, against a different enemy.  No one thought deeply enough about that.  Oh, there were some but they weren’t listened to.

And there was the tragedy of Secretary of Defense McNamara.  No one smarter; no one more persuasive, carrying the cause to extend the war, only to be one of the first top leaders to recognize that it was a dead end.  And recognizing this, telling President Johnson that this was the reality.  Johnson, still not willing to accept it, found a way to have Mr. McNamara appointed to the World Bank getting him out of the way and, at least as I read it, McNamara accepted, knowing there was nothing more that he could do.  It wasn’t until years later that he acknowledged the deep pain, of knowing that he was wrong.

Vietnam was also a classic case of “doubling down on failure.”  With the unexpected but devastating Tet offensive in January 1968, which saw uprisings by the guerilla Viet Cong forces in all the major South Vietnam cities, it became clear, if not to all to most, that the war was unwinnable.  McNamara declared as much to Johnson.  A couple of months later, Johnson announced that he would stop the bombing of North Vietnam and not run for the Presidency in 1968.

From that point, when the war clearly was unwinnable until five years later, when the treaty was signed—a treaty basically ceding all of Vietnam to the north—another 20,000 American soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians died.  We just couldn’t pull away.

When Nixon came in in 1968, he started what was called “Vietnamization,” a euphemism for the hopeless task of turning the war over to the Vietnamese.  It never had a chance.

Then, in a desperate effort to succeed, we encouraged the regime that had overthrown Sihanouk, the hereditary ruler of Cambodia, to attack Vietnam.  From this grew the Communist Pol Pot.  Hundreds of thousands more people were to die.

As Sheehan writes, “Cambodia was to suffer the cruelest consequences of the American war in Indochina.”


Just as the case with the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, there lies in this story many lessons, including that one can never ever give up on advancing a position they believe is of critical importance to the future, even knowing that one may not succeed.

I’ve seen this lesson borne out in business, and elsewhere, personally again and again.


October 10, 2016

A message to Donald Trump and myself and all of us:
"Watch your thoughts; they become your words.
Watch your words; they become your actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."
Frank Outlaw


September 30, 2016

In reading the recent biography of Robert Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy:  The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye, I have acquired a very different understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis and its relevance to the challenging geo-political situation we face today.  
I had always looked at this crisis rather simply.  The Soviet Union had been continuing to extend its military reach, planting missiles in Cuba, threatening the United States.  In terms of fact, that was a reality.
But the background to it needs to be understood.  In the first days of John Kennedy’s presidency, we had launched an aborted attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro.  A fiasco.  But the effort to overthrow, and indeed assassinate, Castro didn’t stop there.  Under the leadership of Bobby Kennedy, we pursued what was known as “Operation Mongoose.”  It involved the CIA and other operatives, again with the intent of overthrowing the Castro government, including plans to assassinate him.  Russia was well aware of this.  To stave off this continued effort to overthrow the Castro government and put in place one of our own liking, Russia decided to put missiles in Cuba as an overhanging threat to dissuade us from regime change.
The resolution of this crisis also needs to be understood.  As most famously told, we threatened to attack Cuba to wipe out the missile facilities unless Russia agreed to remove them.  And, in a tension-filled encounter, their ships, carrying more missiles, turned back and they agreed to withdraw what they had placed there.  
But this only happened because of a balanced, negotiated agreement.  The United States agreed to never invade Cuba.  And while this was not to be announced, we agreed that we would, within six months, remove missiles that we had in Turkey, which Russia looked at as a threat to their country.  It was a “quid pro quo” agreement.  
Flash forward to today.  Russia is extremely concerned about missiles that we are stationing in Eastern Europe.  They are concerned about what was a genuine effort at one point to have Ukraine become linked unilaterally with the West and very likely proceed toward participation in NATO.  This was more than Russia could stomach, just as having missiles in Cuba was more than we could stomach.
The overhanging risk of nuclear war played a major role in bringing both sides to the table back then in 1962.  It should be no less of an incentive to do so today.


September 17, 2016

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never fully gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency?"
Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954
These were the words which went through my mind yesterday as I heard Donald Trump acknowledge that President Obama was born in the United States after years of fueling the Birther movement with no apology or explanation. Not only that he went on to blame Hillary Clinton for starting the rumor and claimed that he had ended it. Such outrageous disregard for the truth is mind-boggling. 
But that wasn't all. On the same day he recklessly incites a crowd saying that Hillary Clinton wants to get rid of all guns (of course a lie) and goes on to ask bombastically -- why doesn't she take away all the guns from her security guards and we'll see what happens to her. 
Mr. Trump: have you no sense of decency? No regard for the truth?



September 3, 2016

My wife, Francie,  and I have offered stipends to students at Xavier for many years so they can spend their summer working for non-profit organizations. At the end of the summer, the students write us letters summarizing their experience, many of which have been life and career changing for them. 

One letter we received this past week was particularly mind opening and inspiring.

It came from a student who had worked for an agency supporting people who are blind. The student shared what one of the clients of the organization had shared with her. 

"You know being blind",  the women said, " I don't judge people by the color of their skin, or by how they look in any way. My view of them comes from what they say and how they say it and how they make me feel".

I had never thought about that before. We have heard of "blind" admissions and "blind" performance appraisals, 
Obviously  not making up in any way for the tragic loss of sight but offering a thought of how to approach other people--avoiding the instinctive unconscious bias that can sometimes arise from appearances. 


August 26, 2016

Jean Edwards Smith’s, Bush, the newly published biography of George W. Bush, demonstrates the reality I’ve come to appreciate more and more: each of our lives is made up of things well-done and not well-done; “ups” and “downs.”  We recognize some of these contradictory experiences; some we don’t.  Some are invisible to us, but they are realities nonetheless. 

Happily, over time this realization has provided me with a deeper sense of humility and peace. 
In Bush’s tenure as President, there was, above all, the imprudent and, in hindsight, all too clearly irresponsible decision to invade Iraq.  The decision to do this in the name of bringing “freedom and democracy” to countries that didn’t have it and to rid the world of Hussein was in President Bush’s mind even before 9/11.  Contrary to evidence that was being provided by the CIA and the UN Inspection team he insisted we needed to invade Iraq and depose Hussein to avoid the risk of his proceeding with the use of weapons of mass destruction.  
The decision ignored the lessons of history and the on- the- ground realities as to what the consequences would likely be (e.g., the historical animosity between the Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds ).  Bush’s decision supported strongly by Cheney went against the advice of almost all of his counselors.  
There was not only the decision to begin the war, but then the execution of what to do after Hussein was driven out of power.  The total dissolution of the Baathist government and the Iraqi military preordained massive Sunni unrest and, in important measure, laid the foundation for what became ISIL and then ISIS.
There was also Bush’s decision to cut income taxes massively, which led to major deficits, especially with the significant cost of war.  
Smith’s book does do a good job of illuminating the many courageous acts and programs which President Bush led.  Many I had not adequately appreciated.  
His personal leadership in the attack on HIV/AIDS was singularly important in the sharply reduced incidence of that disease.   His courageous reaction in 2008 to the economic crisis following the advice of Secretary of Treasury Paulson and bailing out financial institutions stopped what could have become a truly great depression from happening.  
His “No Child Left Behind” program, while flawed in some areas (too much testing) advanced the recognition of the huge racial disparities in our children’s educational outcomes. That has been and will continue to be a driving force in attacking those disparities.  

His expansion of prescription drugs for seniors, while a costly improvement, was a greatly needed initiative even as it was controversial among many Republicans.
President Bush's strong advocacy of sensible immigration reform, while not ultimately successful, was a brave and correct undertaking which displayed President Bush’s courage and genuine compassion. 
There is no question of Bush’s single-minded and brave pursuit of what he thought was right.  I believe his ideology and faith-based fervor led him to see himself and the nation's being able to do more than it practically could or should try to do in terms of improving what he perceived to be the desired outcome in people’s lives.  This I say with particular reference to the invasion of Iraq and his overall “Freedom” agenda.  

I find the conclusion of Smith’s book to be “too cute by half,” as he writes:  ”Whether George W. Bush was the worst President in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American President.”
First of all, I can’t imagine history regarding Bush as the “worst” President in history. No way!  He has lots of winning competition on that front . I would place Buchanan and Pierce at the head of the list. 

When it comes to foreign policy decisions, while I can’t think of one worse than invading Iraq,  I regard our entry into and expansion of the war in Viet Nam as being at least at the same level.  As Iraq represents for Bush, Vietnam represents the chapter in Lyndon Johnson’s tenure as president which will likely forever overshadow his many accomplishments.  Chief among them was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, something that never would have happened if it were not for him.

These Presidents’ lives illustrate what’s true in all of our lives, and certainly in my life.  Some things I’ve done well and some I haven’t.  Some I take pride in; others I look back on with regret. We do the best we can; we try to do what we think is right--what, at least in some measure, can make the world and other people’s lives a bit better.

 Smith’s biography of George W. Bush (like most biographies) doesn't attempt to probe other differences George Bush’s life made in ways that perhaps count the most. These are the differences which will be manifested in the lives of his and Laura Bush’s children, and their children.  Nor the positive influence he brought to others with whom he was associated closely during his life.  

For many, if not most of our lives, these will be the biggest differences we make,  for the better or for the worse.  We should never forget that.