Dear Ms. Brinker –
Last week while leaving my apartment building at the same time as my 50-something male neighbor, he told me he’d just written a check to Planned Parenthood. In fact, the next day, Susan G. Komen for the Cure was the topic at happy hour and two days after that I was discussing it with other friends at a bar while waiting for the Super Bowl to begin.
What an amazing tribute you have built in the name of someone you love. Now you have chosen – yes, chosen – to bring it to a moral crossroads. If things happen for a reason and all your decisions up to this point have brought you here, it’s time to dig deep and ask why.
Notice that last sentence doesn’t say, “It’s time to hire the best publicist around to strategize and assess what move you could make that looks good or puts your organization in a positive light.” Hogwash. You need to get real. So real it sets some people’s hair on fire.
It’s time to make a decision that feels right, not looks right. The way I see it, you’re being called on to pay attention to your spiritual beliefs and figure out where they play in your company. This is big. Let the truth chips fall where they may.
According to a recent Huffington Post article relaying information from leaked emails from someone in your organization, it’s clear you’ve been lining things up to cut Planned Parenthood funding for a while. You hired staunch pro-life vice president Karen Handel-- who resigned this week -- as part of that mission. A Los Angeles Times piece tells a story from a former advisory board member’s vantage point that illustrates what has been happening between pro-choice and pro-life camps within Komen.
But rather than stand in your truth and for what you apparently believe is morally correct, you agreed to the creation of a new grant eligibility guideline you could hide behind. Moving stridently forward one minute, ducking behind a curtain the next.
I know, I know, it’s business. Your resume in this arena is stellar on a global level. You’ve worked for George W. Bush as United States Ambassador to Hungary and Chief of Protocol. President Obama presented you with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for goodness sake. You’re not some startup operating out of a basement. You’re on the international stage. We can see you.
Here’s a sign you’re heading for trouble. When you start having meetings trying to figure out what to tell people about what you’re doing instead of telling them the truth. It’s a big fat flashing red light that you have lost your way. If you are staunchly pro-life and you are standing in that, then stand in it.
Façade is your enemy.
You get this is seen as political on your part because you took on an organization that isn’t doing anything illegal, right? You made a decision that would essentially demonize a place that so many women remember as their source for checkups, information and birth control when they were in college. These are women of every stripe and affiliation, probably living away from home for the first time, perhaps just becoming sexually active or getting real talk about sex. And this is an organization that is doing nothing wrong from a legal standpoint. Abortions are legal in the United States of America.
Looking to change that is your right as a citizen. Using Susan G. Komen for the Cure is your right as its founder. But it is advocacy no matter how you slice it because you are making an executive decision based on a belief that a law needs to change. You can opt to keep it out of your business and take it up with your god or you can stand by it. You tried to somehow play it down the middle.
How does all this feel in your gut? Not from a business standpoint but a personal one. As a sister? And I mean that in a much bigger sense than just your organization’s namesake. Because your supporters over the years – people in the throes of the worst health battle of their lives or those who love them – see you as “family.” You, as in the plural form, have been their hope, their rock and their place to go when they didn’t know where else to turn.
What a tribute to you and all the people who have worked tirelessly over the years to make that so. But maybe this is a call to be a whole different kind of company. You’ve inadvertently drawn a line in the sand for yourself. Maybe you’re supposed to operate on a smaller scale, but a more authentic one. You followed your instincts up to a point, but then went off the rails to cover up intent.
I didn’t know your sister, but this is about her, yes? Would she be cheering your decision to cut the Planned Parenthood funding? Or your decision to bring it back? Doesn’t your next move lie in that?
People so often criticize celebrities who take stands on major issues, but I find it admirable in some ways because they’re willing to risk alienating supporters to stand in their truth. There’s a lesson in there for you.
If your aim is to take a stand against what you consider baby killing, then what were you doing giving to Planned Parenthood in the first place? If your aim is to give support and bring awareness to a disease that affects women of all stripes and class, then stare down the pro-life movement in the name of business.
This may be your make-or-break moment. Manipulate or lead? Lie to people giving you money or be transparent and above board?
One restaurant in New York has already revamped its pending fundraiser and taken Susan G. Komen off the recipient list. I imagine this is the tip of the iceberg.
Truth is pretty much your only option now. I’d go with that.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.