Thinking Only Of The Milestone Isn’t Enough

I saw two excellent movies this weekend. The first was Lincoln and the second was 42. Both dealt with racism. (I was thinking to round out the story I needed to watch Armistad 🙂

Lincoln was very good and Daniel Day-Lewis was excellent. The other actor I thought did an incredible job was Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Lewis, the ardent abolitionist and Congressman. In general I thought the movie was well done except the ending. The movie covered the period of Lincoln’s presidency dealing with the passage of the 13th amendment that abolishes slavery and the end of the Civil War. These issues were intertwined. Spielberg tacked on Lincoln’s death and a speech at the end, which I thought diminished the movie. It should have ended a scene or two before, with Lincoln walking down the steps at the White House.

42 was excellent. The acting was superb and the writers/director did an excellent job of summing up the story. 42 covers the period of time where Jackie Robinson is “drafted” by the Dodgers through his first full season in the Major Leagues. To start, I easily rate it one of the best baseball movies ever. 42, though, is more than just a baseball movie and Robinson was more than just a baseball player. Jackie Robinson, really, was the beginning of the end for Jim Crow and segregation.

What I couldn’t stop thinking about through both of these movies was something asked of one of the black housekeepers in Lincoln. To paraphrase, the question was, what happens once you have your freedom? And the reply was, we’ve thought so long about freedom we haven’t thought about what to do with it. It struck me that by the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, this was still not answered because of Jim Crow, almost 100 years later.

This led me to think about role models and how we each build ourselves, how we know where we come from and what we stand for. And I couldn’t help but wonder what is next, in our modern times, for our communities. The trials are clear: high unemployment, children born without two parents. How different would our world be today if those leaders could have thought about what to do with their freedom?

I don’t mean to only harp on societal issues, though. It also made me think about work. I think a lot of us in start-up land fall into this trap. It isn’t good enough to just think about release or funding or whatever that next big milestone is. It is critical to think about what we are going to do with it, how we are going to build the organization, and what qualities we want to instill in it.