Home: What Unites Us as a Nation

At Commonwealth Club’s book signing event in Santa Clara Convention Center, the former Senator and Vice President Candidate John Edwards talked to a roomful enthusiastic crowd about his new book Home, and how our homes shape the ways of our lives and unite us as a nation.

The conversation with John Edwards quickly turned into political discussions. Many questions from the audience surrounded the issues of housing, energy crisis, healthcare, immigration, etc. In particular, people were most interested in his political future. When asked which room in his home is his favorite and which room in the White House, John Edwards answered “the kitchen” for the former and “don’t know YET” for the later.

In his short speech, John Edwards said that America at its best is much better than it is today. Being the most powerful country in the world, the United States has the responsibility to lead and should be a natural rallying point that provides a stabilizing force for the world. However, the US has lost its credibility to lead, and it has many severe consequences.

“The next President of the United States,” said John Edwards, “has the challenge to restore America as a moral leader – to lead by example and lead with integrity. If we do right things for right reasons, be moral and just, it will have good consequences.”

He talked about his plans to develop affordable housing that transcends ethnic and class boundaries for American people, conserve energy consumption at a global level, and deliver a universal healthcare that goes beyond providing access and reducing marginal cost.

He also emphasized that the next President should travel all over the world and meet people, not just the heads of states. I was impressed when I heard him say that there are 3 billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day and America has responsibility to do something about it.

I particularly like his theme of “One America” and his view on globalization. At the book signing, he took time to talk to people and personalize his autograph. Although I don’t know much about politics, I was convinced that John Edwards would make a good President of the United States. I am glad I was courageous enough to tell him in person!

The Speed of Trust

I have long been a fan of Stephen R. Covey for his famous books The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle Centered Leadership. Both are timeless classics, and I have kept them in a prominent location on my bookshelf along with my other favorite books.

When I was asked to write a book review for the newly released book The Speed of Trust by his son Stephen M.R. Covey, whom I mistakenly thought he was the father, I accepted immediately, partly because of my strong interest in the topic of leadership, and partly because of my curiosity: what else could be said after the “father’s masterwork?”

It turned out, reading The Speed of Trust tested my ability to trust. I was amazed at the author’s commending ability to make “trust,” a seemingly soft skill, something measurable and deliverable. In his 4 Cores of Credibility and the 13 Behaviors of Trust, Jr. Covey effectively lays out the detailed framework and roadmaps to develop “trusted” leaders and organizations that improve the bottom lines. He has made strong cases with his innovative terms “trust dividends” and “trust taxes.” The “trust tips” provided in the book to increase trust are practical and useful.

From a cross-cultural point of view, The Speed of Trust is an eye-opener as well as a challenge to the business communities in China where business is typically marked with low trust. As many Chinese business people are still focusing on short term gains rather than long term wins, the book could inspire the new generation of Chinese managers to develop their companies into world class enterprises. The caution here is that the cultural context and implications could be dramatically different, even though the fundamental principles are universal.

If there is one thing that I do not completely agree, it is the author’s claim that trust is “the one thing that changes everything.” I have heard similar things such as “love is the one thing that changes everything.” I believe these age-old virtues are all inter-related. For example, without honesty, there will be no trust; without compassion, there will be no understanding, etc. I see The Speed of Trust as a book anchoring one important virtue – trust to nurture other merits in our personal and professional lives, be it trustworthiness, honesty, respect, courage, loyalty, excellence, accountability, etc.

Nevertheless, the book is full of anecdotes and business cases that are interesting, reflective, and enjoyable to read. I was laughing to tears reading the story of his father accidentally leaving his mother on the freeway in the middle of night without realizing it, and moved to tears at his repeated effort to “right wrongs” for his abrupt behavior of dumping water on his nephew’s head at a basketball game.

Most importantly, the book makes me reflect on my life, my decisions, and how I can become a more trusted person – for that I am grateful. In addition, I see that Stephen M.R. Covey has worked very hard to outgrow his father’s shadow, which itself is very inspiring! After reading the book, I have to say: Stephen, you have succeeded and congratulations! I have placed your book side by side with your father’s on my bookshelf.