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  • From The Spouter-Inn

The Daily Dick: A Study in Leadership

"He [Peter Coffin] did this in not only a civil but a really kind and charitable way. I stood looking at him a moment. For all his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal. What's all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself—the man's a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian."


Study: Although the last half of this quote is the most famous, the first half of the passage is what interests me. Leaders, we hear, engage in civil discourse, civility, civil service, etc etc. I have never cared for the word "civil." I tend to prefer Melville's description of the business owner Peter Coffin - he goes beyond civil and behaves in a real and honest way. What Coffin does is bring two men, Ishmael and the cannibal Queequeq, together. And Coffin, as a business leader, exhibits true compassion, not dutiful civility. Although civility is severely lacking in our governmental leadership today, I'd like to go beyond civil discourse and find true understanding in our leaders.

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