I am a huge Anne Bancroft fan and was surprised this weekend that I had never seen her performance in The Miracle Worker (1962). This of course is the famous story of Anne Sullivan Macy (known as "Annie Sullivan," who in the late nineteenth century helped Helen Keller, a deaf and blind girl, learn to communicate.
It's sort of about Helen Keller, true, but the most fascinating part is the character of her educator. A human being of incomparable will who seems tough and mean but is truly full of selfless love for the child.
The breakfast scene is horribly painful to watch. And yet I am transfixed by it. I can watch it again and again.
I love that Annie was completely unselfish.
I love that Annie didn't give a damn about getting an award for her work.
I love that Annie physically threw herself into the task.
I love that Annie didn't know what she was doing, but let the child be her guide.
I love that Annie didn't care about how she looked.
I love that Annie knew how to get tough without getting angry.
I love how Annie saw through the girl's behavior to the light inside her soul.
But most of all, I love how Annie believed that Helen could learn and join humanity, even when the rest of the world was negative about the child. Even when they let her run wild out of pity and hopelessness. They had labeled Helen an animal and so that was what she became.
Annie proves that there is nothing new under the sun. She embodies the management philosophy of the future. In particular, she epitomizes what has to happen right now in order for large bureaucracies to adapt effectively for the future.
Unfortunately in 2011 we are obsessed with everything being camera-ready and "nice." It has to look good for the cameras every single second or we don't want to get our hands dirty with it. We would rather be pessimistic and be proven right - keep the trains moving on time even if they're going nowhere - rather than put up our hands and yell "Stop! Nobody's got the map!"
If Annie Sullivan were a CEO today she would get in the trenches and find out what's going on. She would relentlessly inquire at all levels of the organization where the pain points are and why we aren't being profitable. She would go into business, government, educational institutions, hospitals and she would ask why there is so much inefficiency when we have some of the most innovative workers out there.
And then she would kick some ass.
America today needs a "Supernanny" like Annie Sullivan. We need some tough love. It's time to get rid of the misplaced compassion, stop living down to our worst fears about ourselves, and start demanding more of ourselves and our organizations.
We are not as incapable as we fear we are - we do have the possibility to get better - but it is going to take hard work and it is time to change.
Let's get out there and work together and be the change that we seek. Anything else is unforgivable, especially when there is so much at stake.
Have a good evening everyone, and good luck!