I’m Lost; I’m Wrong; I’m Sorry: What Men Can’t Say

By

Leonard Zwelling

It’s so sad.

Most men are just incapable of saying those six little words.

They won’t ask directions; won’t admit a mistake; and won’t ask forgiveness.

Let’s think about that in a few critical contexts. Let’s start with my favorite of all-time—Watergate.

If on June 18, 1972, the morning after the break-in, while I was doing sit-ups in our first apartment in Durham, North Carolina, Richard Nixon had gotten on national television and said that he had heard about the break-in the day before it occurred and had not stopped it because he was confused about what he was being told, it was a grave mistake, and he was sorry, my guess is that would have been the end of it. After all, the 1972 campaign season was in full swing and there was little chance that Nixon would lose. Instead, he covered up his misdeeds, sent all sorts of people off in various directions to do different nefarious things and then lied about it. Two years later, he was out.

Let’s move forward 45 or so years.

What if Donald Trump had said, my campaign has been approached by Russian operatives who want to help us get elected. This is a threat to our system of democratic elections and against the law for my campaign to take assistance from a foreign power. OK, he didn’t say that. What if he had said that firing Jim Comey was a mistake and that it was wrong to pay off the porn star for having sex with him and that he was sorry about some of the things he said on the Access Hollywood tape. (He kind of did the latter to his credit, but at that point, give me a break.)

You get my drift. In both cases, the country would have been spared a lot of turmoil if only these men had not acted like men.

Now as we are seeing in the City of Baltimore, this behavior is not limited to men at all. The mayor there, a woman, is being investigated for corruption and the FBI has joined the show. Maybe it’s just people in power who cannot say the magic six words.

I wonder the latter after the mess being made at MD Anderson with regard to the FBI’s insertion into the emails of the 23 faculty members (only 23?) and the expulsion of at least three plus the exodus of many others—all of Chinese descent.

What if Dr. Pisters would say, I got confused when the feds knocked on my door and wanted access to the emails of the faculty. I thought I was doing the right thing letting them in the door. After all, they were threatening our federal grant money. Perhaps I made a mistake letting them in and I’m sorry I didn’t hold the line on their intrusion and do the full investigation myself with complete transparency rather than let the institution get pushed around by the federal authorities. What if I had gotten up before the faculty and told them about the purported threat to intellectual property and that anyone who has had contact with foreign operatives needed to come forward immediately and we would work out a solution rather than scare the heck out of everyone with tactics usually used by the very adversaries about whom we are worried? What if he had said the magic six words, even now?

I fear the lack of leadership at MD Anderson may have singled out the institution for strong-arm tactics by the federal government when the institution should have asserted its rights as a state agency to fix this on its own. If people were hired who shouldn’t have been, let’s own up to it. Who are they and how did that happen? How can we prevent this in the future and how do we assure an open environment of research and integrity without conflict of interest and research misconduct? These are not new problems. We just may be facing a new threat.

The confusion on the part of leaders about the direction to go, the errors they make and the forgiveness they request is part of being a leader. Own up to it and you will grow in the job. Blaming the federal government for decisions that you have made makes you look small and weak. MD Anderson cannot look small and weak.

Repeat after me: I’m lost; I’m wrong; I’m sorry. See—that’s not so hard, is it?

Leonard Zwelling