Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bill George Comes Out

Bill George is a Minnesota institution (and so is his wife, Penny). In a well written article in today’s StarTribune, Mr. George comes out against the proposed marriage amendment.
by Charlie Leck

I’ve committed myself to work pretty hard against the proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that is on the ballot this November regarding marriage rights. So, it’s heartening when people I admire show their courage and sensibility and also come out in opposition to the proposal. So, reading this morning’s StarTribune and finding Bill George’s statement in the business section started my day in just the right way. [You can read it here!]

Mr. George is a professor in the Harvard Business School, but he was, for many years, the CEO of Minnesota based Medtronic Inc.. He maintains an extremely good web site [click here to go to the web site].

My interest in this issue is twofold. First, I believe in freedom of association for all Minnesotans. Second, as a former CEO of Medtronic, I know firsthand how important and challenging it is to recruit and retain talented people. Doing so requires a culture that accepts people as they are -- not in spite of differences, but because of them.
Defeating this amendment is essential not only to provide civil rights, but also to ensure that Minnesota is open and welcoming to everyone -- regardless of religion, gender, race, national origin or sexual orientation. Would Medtronic's new CEO, who is a Muslim born in Bangladesh, have left General Electric had he not believed that Minnesota was open to people with diverse life experiences?

Minnesota is an important business hub. We have the largest number of Fortune 500 companies (per capita) in the nation – companies like Target, 3M, United Health Group, General Mills, Hormel, St. Jude Medical and U.S. Bancorp.

Mr. George argues that these companies need to have an open and inviting environment in the state so that they will continue to be able to recruit the top candidates in the business world to participate in the growth of business in Minnesota. He urges leaders of these other companies to speak out forcefully against the Marriage Amendment that will be on our ballots this November. It is significant that only a couple of these major and highly recognized business leaders have so far spoken out (Wheelock Whitney and Marilyn Carlson Nelson). It’s also sad.

I shake my head in wonder and disappointment when I regard the silence of corporate leaders here in Minnesota. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Gregg Steinhafel, the CEO of Target remains silent. He showed his extremely conservative stripes when he allowed his corporation to make donations to the coffers of extremely conservative political candidates – money, which I reminded him at the time, actually comes from his customers, who may differ a great deal from Steinhafel’s archaic viewpoints.

So, where is Best Buy on this issue? Where are Land O’Lakes and Thrivent Financial and Xcel Energy? Do you leaders of these companies want Minnesota to be a closed state, uninviting to some of the most creative and exciting business leadership candidates in the world?

Thanks, Mr. George! Thanks for your remarkably good and sensible statement about the dangers of supporting this constitutional amendment.

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1 comment:

  1. Good luck on defeating the amendment. I've always regarded Minnesota as the bastion of civil rights in the Mid West.