All good things must end. Sometimes not just the way you expected

I taught my last professional development class at the college I work with last Friday. It didn’t start out that way, at least that was not my intent when I began the session, but the reality of the world we live in caught up with me at the end of the session.

A little background. Since retiring from the Navy over twenty five years ago, I have had a number of passions. Obviously writing this blog and writing in general certainly ranks up there with my most favorite things to do. But I have had many occasions to practice the other passions in my life.

Preaching, Teaching and Public Speaking. It has been an absolute blessing and joy to speak God’s word in many churches and public meetings. The mere fact that they will let a sinner like me talk to them about how we can all do a little better is nothing short of a miracle in itself. As a former submariner and someone who has enjoyed life with gusto, I am sure many people have wondered why I think I am qualified to give the message and even attempt to speak for God.

(Debbie, if you are reading this, skip to the next paragraph).

My opening line when preaching or praying to new groups is nearly always the same…

“You are probably wondering why I am up here about to pray for you. What could an old submariner know about praying? Well, to be honest, you have a good point. But the truth is that anyone who has ever ridden a submarine beneath the ocean’s surface on a boat that was designed by the government and built by the lowest bidder already has an intimate relationship with Almighty God. Now let us pray…”

(That is my standard line before asking people to bow their heads).

The Public speaking part has been one of my favorites as well. I have given hundreds of talks to many different types of groups through the last 25 years. The most popular have been on submarines and Navy history but I have an entire catalog of speeches for all groups and all occasions. Many times, I just get asked to be a master of ceremonies and it is delightful to be able to practice a craft that I have worked so hard to develop. I was a Toastmaster for many years and won a collection of awards both locally and at regional competitions. The friendships and joy I got from that experience helped me through some really rough patches in life.

But I have been most proud of my teaching.

First, however, a true confession.

I was a horrible student in high school.

There were so many other diversions and learning seemed to be an inconvenience. Even when I joined the Navy, studying was not my favorite thing and that was proven out time and time again as I struggled in the early years. Somewhere along the line, I realized that advancement in life was not going to come from my looks. I wasn’t that handsome. It also wasn’t going to come from my winning spirit. Frankly, at one point I had reached about as far as one could go in the self esteem department.

But I learned that teaching was the best way to learn.

Interesting phenomenon. After reporting on board my third boat, I really took an interest in how people learn. I began to teach myself how to train other people which forced me to learn more about the equipment than them. Then I shifted from individual pieces of equipment to systems. The knowledge finally took hold. I began to absorb like a sponge. I taught something called School of the Boat for the next few years and got better and better at it. Then I went to my one and only shore duty at Trident Training Command. The Train the Trainer Class helped me to understand that there was science behind the learning process. It inspired me to start taking college courses in my late twenties that ultimately led me to getting a Bachelor of Science Degree in Workforce Education from Southern Illinois University achieving Magna cum Laude status.


I also achieved a title called Master Training Specialist.

That title and my degree were very important parts of the work I did for the many industries I worked for after I retired from the Navy. The list is long and you can see most of the companies on my LinkedIn page but I have taught thousands upon thousands of students. I have had a tremendous amount of fun doing so.

When I retired a few years ago, I knew that I wasn’t quite done. While the speaking and preaching go on, I thought it would be good to be able to keep my hand in the game. I went to the local community college with my portfolio and an example of some of the courses I had written over the years. I asked them if we could partner together. The Workforce Development group manages a lot of the state education grants for businesses and we created a plan to market my services.

Its been really great. I have been able to teach leadership, communications, project management, lean and six sigma and team building and other classes to so many different companies. The work is just steady enough to keep us all engaged without making me feel like I was working full time again.

I have even been invited to come to the college and teach the college staff some classes called “Professional Development”. The first two sessions went very well. They must have since I was getting more invitations to teach. Including last Friday.

The class was a standard class that I have been teaching in one form or another for twenty five years. I update the material for the class and rework it using current information and research. The class name is Conflict Resolution. It has been my experience since starting to work in the civilian world that conflict is one of the most expensive and prevalent conditions that most companies and institutions have to deal with. I take the class very seriously and on Friday, I was proud to include at least two new sections that are so cutting edge they couldn’t help but walk away with new tools and new strategies.

At the end of the two hours, the group of professional educators seemed positive and I felt really good about the feedback I got in the room. Being that it was a Friday afternoon, most exited quickly with a few stopping by to thank me for my efforts.

That is when she walked in. By the way she strode up to me with her piece of paper, I knew she was not there to congratulate me on my comprehensive performance. To be honest, she kind of reminded me of that Swedish girl “Greta” that is running around the world telling people they need to put their leaders up against the wall.

I went through the afternoon’s talk in my mind rather quickly and felt like there wasn’t anything that controversial to fear. After all, I have been as respectful as I could remembering that I was working at a place that is very diverse.

Oh how wrong I was.

She introduced herself to me as the Student Issues Representative. (the actual title may have been something else, but you get the point).

She wanted me to know that two of her folks had walked out in the very early part of my talk. I had not noticed it since the auditorium is quite large and there are several exits in the back. Apparently my first sin was using the word “drunk” in relation so a story I was telling about a conflict that actually happened in my life. I have used the story many times as an illustration of unusual situations you find yourself in that go beyond normal conflict resolution. I did not promote the use of alcohol or condemn it. I just called a man who destroyed a lot of people’s lives a drunk. Which he was. Apparently “drunk” is a word that offends people who are recovering from the disease of alcoholism and substance abuse. This particular use of the word triggered the people who walked out and they were highly offended. Enough that they went to the Student Issues Representative to demand that I be told.

The next word that I used was “slaving”. Apparently I spoke about some of my shipmates that were slaving over hot engines in the engine room of a US Navy ship we worked on while we were out sailing on the ocean. Defending the country. Many of whom are African American and Caucasian working side by side. Of course the engine room temperatures average over a hundred degrees and I had not thought about the connection to actual slavery. She was quick to point out that of course I would not understand the offensiveness of the word since I was an older white man.

Item three: Jesus Christ. I am normally pretty good about not including my Lord and Savior in a public non-denominational setting. Believe me, I am very sensitive about this issue. But apparently my reference to the conflict that can happen around Christmas time with families led me to mention somehow obliquely that I am sure the birth of Jesus Christ was not meant to be a source of conflict. That offense got me blasted for my complete insensitivity to people’s beliefs. I am still shaking my head on that one.

Finally, I was led to understand that my reference to my loving wife of thirty nine years on three occasions created an atmosphere that might be considered to be non-inclusive. In a general setting like the one that I just presented in, I should have been more understanding of the sensitivities of the participants.

To be fair, “Greta” was very even tempered as she schooled me.

She neither raised her voice or her fist. But it was obvious that she was enjoying telling the old white guy all of my faults and indicating that a new day had arrived even on this small college campus in the hills of Western Pennsylvania. I walked over to my Department Head’s office and let him know I would not be teaching anymore classes. He told me that she had stopped him on her way in to see me and let him know how unhappy she and her friends were.

I still consider him a friend. At one point, I was in consideration for a full time position working under him as a Director of Workforce Education. The money never materialized and I stayed retired. I love the way God sees things in the future and trues his best to protect us.

This morning I was blessed to give a sermon on Joy.

I don’t think I could have given it Friday afternoon. But this was Sunday. In Advent. I was reminded that Christ will return again and make all things right. That was my Joy for the day.

To be fair, one of the things I have taught for years is having the self awareness in knowing when it was time to stop doing something. Maybe I heard the voice on Friday afternoon.

Mister Mac

(Oh, I forgot to say this earlier: GO NAVY… beat Army)


18 thoughts on “All good things must end. Sometimes not just the way you expected

  1. I sucked in High School and loved being a Navy Instructor, which led to my career behind a radio microphone, which doesn’t happen if the Navy doesn’t “decide” that I should go to instructor School and then teach Mk88 Mod 1 Fire Control…

    Amazing how things work out.

    And just how much joy can be sucked out of it by the Greta’s of the world.

    Keep on writing!

  2. Like you I wasn’t a good student in high school. I also spent 8years in the Navy. The Navy took me in and trained me. Later in my Navy career I was a instructor. Left the Navy became a Beltway bandit and then went back into the government. During those years I went to college and several technical schools. Pretty good for someone who was told I wasn’t college material. But thru Jesus Christ everything is possible!!! Thank you for sharing

  3. Keep on teaching in whatever avenue presents itself. The generation is killing it self with such strict behavior and norms.
    Pray for them.

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. I am an even older retired white submarine sailor who also became a teacher in high school and middle school. I discovered I learned more by teaching ( trying to answer student questions and make my answers easier to understand) than I ever did as a student. I want to tell you that I find one the most interesting writers that I have had the pleasure to read. You write with knowledge and passion making what you write about much more interesting and dare I say entertaining than most who do not write fiction. Please continue to write, speak and teach and spread your knowledge and faith with a world that badly needs it. Thanks from a very pleased reader.

  5. Mac: Some truly great, inspiring ideals come through in your blog posts; especially the heartfelt ones like this one.

    And without genuine ideals to look to for inspiration… many a life would be near empty and in constant hunger for something to hold on to.

    So please, never let your passion to show, teach and inspire cool down as these indeed serve a purpose in ways that are not always obvious.

    Oh… and trust me… you weren’t the only one who sucked in High School. I barely made the cut to graduate.

    Yet somehow, I was blessed with having the privilege of supporting our men and women at the point of the spear for over 35 years, helping make them safe for sea and mission ready.

    Of all the things I’ve ever done, that was one of the most fulfilling.

  6. How sad the poor little children were offended by simple ordinary words because THEY are the ones attaching such extra meaning to them. It’s a testament to the stupidity rampant in our country these days. I thank you for your service, my spouse was a sonar tech on a destroyer at the end of the Vietnam war in Saigon harbor and on the destroyer sent to participate in the Mayaguez incident (yes, a target). I think we need to take our language back and stop letting people with little life experience or understanding dictate what words we use. Please keep writing.

  7. I started college Sept 2000. I was told by two professors that it was a shame the government was squandering it’s resources by sending vets to school when there were so many more deserving candidates available. University of Wisconsin. I broke my back and was service connected 40 percent.

  8. Better that you speak the truth that may be bitter than to be seduced into uttering the sweetest lie. After everything is stripped away like Job, and your integrity is left then you cup overflows.

  9. There will come a time when REPUTABLE businesses will refuse to hire any ‘snowflake’ who has a degree from leftist indoctrination centers (AKA – colleges and universities) – unless the degree is in solid STEM fields. (Even then – a careful interview will be required to determine if the person actually learned things – or merely occupied space and was given degrees as a ‘participation trophy.)

    Far too many college graduates are dumber than dirt. The fact that you have ‘management’ in these colleges and universities working hard to ensure the snowflake students never encounter ideas that might upset them is scary. The management, if it was really trying to do a proper job – would tell snowflakes that in college, like in the world – one might encounter thoughts and ideas that differ from what they believe – and they had to learn to listen and think, and not whine and curl up in a fetal position because they heard something that upset them.

  10. fantastic, bob. ….no caps on my keyboard….hadn’t know of several of your many talents. ‘conflict resolution’ conferences — international attendees — initiated at kent state university — my alma mater — in the aftermath of the may 4 shootings. rather like ‘making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’ ksu received accolades for ‘conflict resolution’ …you can find my written thoughts about the shootings in the ksu library archives online. may you have a blessed ‘christ’–mas and a healthy and happy new year. as submariners/undersea warriors would say..’.god bless’. from the sister of a late sub skipper and tomahawk prog. mgr.

  11. Hey Bob,

    You handled that quite well, with poise, elegance and humility. However DO NOT quit. We need your voice out there, especially in the college environment. I would like to add my part at to Greta’s incorrect analysis.

    I am a Recovered Alcoholic and have been sober for 12 years. I currently hold the elected position in AA of Secretary for the State of Oregon. I have worked with hundreds of men and women who suffer from the same disease as I. I can ensure you and anyone reading this that the word “drunk” is routinely used within our circles. We constantly refer to our “drunk” actions, we call ourselves “drunks”, we talk a great deal about our “drunk” antics and experiences. We share our “drunk stories. I, personally find it offensive that a non-alcoholic is going to tell me what words I can or cannot use in my recovery program. Additionally, the solution to alcoholism is God. Period!

    If slaving over a task is somehow demeaning and insensitive, then we need to inform Webster that their dictionary is incorrect, for it states the “act of working hard”. Nothing is implied as relating to slavery. As to “older white man”, she obviously has never lived in another country where being white is the minority. I can show you class pictures of my kids and they are very easy to identify as they are 1 of 2 or 3 white faces in a class of 20+. Being discriminated against on a daily basis because of the color of our skin. Plus the fact that I did hold the position of EO Officer on 3 ships with a large number of female, black, Filipino, and many more of other ethnicity’s.

    Bottom line, DON’T quit Bob. You have some great content here to work with in the comments of this edition. Don’t let them win, this is our fight as well and we need to establish the boundaries for we have the experience and knowledge. Lets use it!


  12. Mac, like you and many others who joined the Navy, I did not pay much attention is high school unless it interested me. When I retired from the Navy, I had served on three different boomers, two submarine support commands, and a tender. I got my BSEE while on active duty, once I figured out no one else was going to give me anything. Since then, I have told my children that if I ever won the lottery, I would become a professional college student. There is still so much I want to learn, and there are so many liberal college professors I want to piss off. After all, I won’t need the grade, and I can stand up to the best of them. Keep on Preaching Jesus to everyone, teaching those who want to learn, and write about your experiences so others can laugh with you and learn from your wisdom.

  13. Nothing much left to say, Mac. The previous commenters have said it all, and I agree with all of them. But you know, us older white guys have been through it all, and those that choose not to listen will learn the hard way, as we did. I can’t really say about you, but I never thought I was better than anyone, although perhaps more skilled, and I held my own. Why, because I spent my days off in high school working with guys you had had the eagle on their button. The lessons I learned are beyond price, and you have, over the years added to them. Keep up the skeer, my friend, we’ll win this one too.

  14. Well, I think your probably already know that I would not have been offended by any of the specific words you used in your talk to the auditorium filled with those supposedly in search of higher understanding. Recall back on the boats when we would make decisions that were acceptable to all but 10% of the people (usually the same 10%). Should the perspective of the 10% have validity, we would at times make a change, only to alienate a different 10%. Still, we listened and we adapted to the feedback. In your case I suspect what the two folks who left early did was to hear only specific words, and not the context they were used in. Had they dome so (had they been able to) I strongly suggest that they would have remained. This represents that your remarks and their early departure did (or should I will) result in a learning event for them. Should they continue to make their way through life without the ability (or desire0 to comprehend context, then they are likely closer to their plateau now, this early in their education, than would be were they to sit, listen and think. We call people in this place “exclusionist’s”. When we exclude people and ideas from our engagements we lose out. Keep Charging, those who departed pre-maturely will, at some point, recognize that it is they that need to change. That, is education.

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