My 2009 Everyday Leader of the Year

Dee Lindeman of Center Line, Michigan is my Everyday Leader of the Year for 2009. She was so upset about cuts to education that she said she was going to the Capitol in Lansing and she was going to talk to the legislature and the governor. In fact, she said, if they didn’t fix the cuts she would stay there for 10 days and 10 nights to show how strongly she felt.

She brought her tent and stayed in it about 17 hours per day. One day it was so muddy that she spent all day on the cold steps. Capitol rules prohibit sleeping on the law overnight, so she spent most of the ten nights sleeping in her car. A friend of ours who heard about that quietly paid for a night at the Radisson – another act of everyday leadership.

It’s kind of cool to march on the capitol. It’s fun to be part of something – big crowd, lots of signs, chanting and all. That too takes organization and sacrifice, and kudos to West Bloomfield which turned out 2,000 folks to make themselves heard. But to do it on your own initiative and to execute it alone, now that is truly something.

Maybe in 2010 we can all find our passionate concern about our world, take a bold step, and follow-through with the promises we make. It’s pretty obvious why Dee Lindeman is a model, for each of us to

Lead with our best self.


    • Great choice but why does she have to do it. Have we all forgotten that the Lottery was supposed to be extra money for education and not part of the State appropriations for schools? This is the same trick that keeps the Social Security system broke as Congress raids it for other purposes. If a real serious court case was raised I am sure that all of the pilfering of Lottery Monies over the years could be recouped and buy into a fund that in time could sustain education indefinitely but that would require honesty and transparency from our elected leaders. Not very likely!

  • Sometimes we find ourselves not listening to each other. As long as our legislature evaluates proposed ways to spend our money based upon good or bad then we are lost. I suspect that 99% of the ideas proposed from Republican and Democrats alike are good ideas. Buying my wife a replacement for her 2000 Subaru is a good idea. Not having to lay off three employees this year at Michigan Heart is a good idea. However when I prioritize my funds available then we keep the old car and I have to have very difficult conversations with great employees. Politics to me is all about the fight over dollar three. I believe that the broad majority of our citizens conceed that the wage earner or employer having three dollars should be allowed to keep the first dollar (33%). We also agree that society and our own protection and well being need the second dollar (33%). The traditional political fight tends to be over how much of the third dollar (33%) goes to the earner or to societies needs. The need for the draconian cuts we are seeing in Michigan is that the total revenue is significantly reduced from what was raised in better times. Unless our state government makes the same sacrifices our citizens are needing to make in these difficult times then we destroy hope by taking their first dollar. People without hope leave to find a better place. Should schools have been cut – I don’t know. Should expenses have been cut to balance to expected revenue – absolutely YES. We just have to trust that the right expenses were cut.

    • David,
      This is a thoughtful commentary. I’m totally cool with your 3/3 concept. I suspect you are way more generous than most when it comes to being willing to cede 1/3 to protection and public needs, let alone arguing over the middle third.
      The state government is down about 15,000 workers since 2000. On the other hand many public services grow in hard times – unemployment, training, child protection, etc., all rise in hard times. This is not to say we’re done with efficiency. And this level of cuts is consistent, as you say, with a private sector – businesses and individuals – who also have had to cut. Schools need to keep figuring out how to get more efficient, but at the same time they are so tight that they are cutting things like transportation, arts, music, sports – all of which contribute greatly to creating strong citizens. Tough choices abound!

  • Dan, Thanks so much for focusing on an “everyday” leader. You successfully removed the politics from the situation and demonstrate the power of standing up for what you believe. You also showed the sacrifices that are made by everyday people when they seek to have their voices heard and to make a difference. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to get the attention away from all of the partisanship. Thanks to Dee for her leadership. And it is difficult to not notice the irony in the name of her town – Center Line. Seems like that might be a place where our politicians could spend a little more time hanging out!
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

    • Dave,
      The other irony, I have to point out, is that Center Line is a city and has its own district. The city has about 8,000 individuals in it, and they have an identity around their schools. But how efficient is it to have a district with perhaps 1,500 students? I don’t know how much they are sharing services, but it seems like there could be efficiencies with the surrounding districts.
      The issues are complex. But as you say: good for Dee for pointing attention to the issue, apart from the politics. I wonder if behavior like this can help lower the decibel level so that we can hear each other and think through the tough choices.

  • Dan,

    A long time ago, when I was still at John Glenn High School in Westland, I lost an argument with a teacher — right in front of his history class. I lost, not because I was wrong, but because my opinion differed from the teacher’s about the human cost of a particular battle during the Civil War, and he outranked me. (I was a pain in the backside, even then.) I did not sit down immediately, but remained standing until he ordered me to sit down. A friend nearby whispered: “Why’d you just stand there, with your face hanging out?” I just shrugged.

    I wish now I’d had the presence of mind to tell my friend that I left “my face hanging out,” because I needed, with every fiber of my being, to make it absolutely clear to the teacher that I did not agree with either his opinion or his methods. Right or wrong, I had an absolute right to disagree and to say so. My face was my flag, and I’d let it hang there long enough for him to see it, and to know that he had not changed my mind. Oddly enough, that teacher and I were friends by the time I left for the bleak midwinters of the U.P.

    Dee Lindeman left her face hanging out for all the Michigan legislators and the governor to see. It saddens me to note that, in this age of instant communication, such courage and determination are needed to communicate clearly one’s opinion. Yet, she was absolutely right, because in the momentary silence after the chaos and cacophony in the Michigan halls of power, a whisper in the gallery may just touch all those abused ears, and her face hanging out may just capture the attention of those weary eyes.

    Leadership should be more about participation than power, about veracity than volume, and about integrity than influence. A great choice, Dan.


  • Dan, you made a great choice. Thousands of young Michigan residents and their families are better off today due to the actions of Dee Lindeman and people like her. I think most of us think about making a stand like Dee did, but very few people actually pay the price (in her case, days and nights in all kinds of weather, and very uncomfortable conditions).

    If we think about the future of Michigan and its people, we have to continue to improve education. The teachers in Portage Public Schools very generously took a pay cut last week in order to keep 53 teachers and others from losing their jobs. The loss of 53 teachers and staff would have meant lower-quality education, loss of tax revenue for the state, and another damper on our state economy. Thanks to people like Dee and the Portage teachers, at least the day of layoffs will be delayed in some districts.

    Happy Holidays to all.

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