During the past few years the building community seems to have been thrown into a defensive position.
A few weeks ago I was attending the NAHB Spring Board and was in search of another meeting room in the Hilton Washington & Towers. While en route, focused yet still lost, I walked down the “Hallway of Presidents.” Washington, Adams, Jefferson ... Nixon, Ford, Carter ... their faces were mere passing images, almost decorative wallpaper. Then I looked at Lincoln, and it was like a whack on the head.
His face was a bit blurred, his eyes looked so deeply inward that I felt his self-doubt, and his battered being appeared so honest, so wanting to do what is right. His portrait made all the others look like political fabrications with their perfect haircuts and gleaming self-pride. Lincoln’s is the only face in that hallway that is dramatically different and dramatically human. His is the face that represents perseverance and tenacity.
I once worked for a boss whom a group of us did not respect. We joked that if he had been Lincoln he would have complained to everyone about the South’s departure from the Union and blamed everyone around him for not doing anything about it. “It is the country’s fault,” he would have said. “My presidency is the victim of these circumstances.”
Lincoln, though, took personal responsibility for the events at hand because he was the leader of the Union then. Despite all that led up to that moment, despite all the other choices made before him, despite all that was going on elsewhere, this was his time.
Later that day in Washington, I had dinner with a group of dynamic, close friends involved in our industry. One of the people seated next to me was builder Ron Jones. I told him what I had seen that day and how it had cut into me. He told me how Lincoln’s legacy has affected his own life, how Lincoln’s drive for meaning and personal strength are fundamental to who he is as a builder and a person.
How could one person take on so much hardship, so much pain, only to establish himself clearly as a true American hero? Not because he wanted to be a hero but because of an absolute desire to do the right thing no matter what the personal sacrifices might mean for him. The weight of not only his own sacrifices but those of the individuals and families for whom he had to make life-changing decisions were of the most extreme measure. How can any of us measure up to this hero?
During the past few years the building community seems to have been thrown into a defensive position. Certainly, every trade and profession, including ours, has members who do not perform to professional standards. But that goes unrecognized as special-interest groups focus on drawing the consumer media’s attention and time for their often unchallenged positions regarding our industry. Furthermore, an unsatisfied customer can launch a personal crusade despite a builder’s offers to correct matters in the best possible way. And competitors can spin public information to set themselves above other builders without backing up their stories with facts. All of these people can affect your company’s reputation and your personal reputation.
These issues bring to mind the image of our American hero, who, like us, made a decision to lead, to do something of meaning. Once again, you are reminded that this is your time to serve.
National homeownership has grown to 68%. The rate of single-family starts is among the highest in our nation’s history, and still the desire for a new home is projected to remain strong throughout this decade. To paraphrase Lincoln, it is up to us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us.