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Changing times unchanging Principles

The world around us is changing faster than ever before. We live in exponential times. Such change is unnerving, confusing and disorienting. In this world of rapid and continuous change, can we hold on to our quintessential values? Should we deviate from the ideals that we were taught and grew up with. Friends, I found the answer when I listened to the Inaugural Address of President Jimmy Carter where the President declared, “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” When I learned more about the former president, all my doubts about the strength of humanity disappeared; the President showed me that it is possible to adjust to changing times, and yet hold to unchanging principles.

The unchanging Principles are the values that all of us share – respect for people, commitment to hard work, and service to others. When a new generation emerges do these Principles lose their value or should we let them waver? Friends, my own principles and beliefs were tested when a friend visited us recently. We know him and his family well and he fondly recalling about our visit to his San Francisco home – how his wife cooked delicacies, how his little ones shared the bunk bed with my daughters and those joyous memories. While my elder daughter Anvi was participating in the conversation, I noticed that she was also checking her iPhone. My friend noticed her distraction and made light of it by saying “The kids are really good in multitasking.” But I couldn’t accept her behavior and told her – “If a person is talking to you listen to him and look into his eyes.” Pointing to her mobile phone I said firmly, “You use your phone when necessary, but you should not let a human being be subservient to a device; you must show respect when another person is talking to you.” Fortunately, my daughter got the message; she quietly removed her phone and began participating in the conversation.

After my friend left, I was talking to Anvi about the early childhood years of President Jimmy Carter described in the book “Redeemer”. Mr. Carter was the son of a Peanut Farmer and grew up in the small town of Plains, Georgia. He was profoundly influenced by his high school superintendent Miss Julia Coleman; It was Miss Julia who told her class that we must adapt to changing times while holding on to unchanging principles.

Friends, life’s challenges may not be our destination, but they do make our journey more interesting. As it turned out, my daughter learned about the President, his wise perspective on life and she applied it when she was faced with a challenging situation. My wife was planning a trip to India and she wanted to give her mother a book of poetry which she had written herself. Anvi worked with my wife to create and print the book through an online publishing company called Shutterfly. When she finished, she ordered rushed shipping so that the book would arrive on time before my wife’s departure to India. But the book did not arrive on that date. The customer service informed us regretfully that the package was lost. They said – “We will issue a refund”. Anvi was disheartened but to my and everyone’s surprise she picked up the phone and called Shutterfly “It is not a question about the refund alone, it is a question about your credibility. When you commit something, you must do everything to fulfill it.” Her voice was firm and clear. The Shutterfly executive listened to Anvi, reiterated the company’s commitment to customer satisfaction and immediately connected her to their Global dispatch service. Finally, Shutterfly informed us – they would ship and deliver the book to India. It was unprecedented news; in this global marketplace and given supply chain issues companies like Shutterfly faced tremendous challenges, yet Shutterfly never deviated from their commitment to superior customer service. It was a long and arduous process; the book shipment had to go through custom clearance and other hurdles, but we finally received the lovely news- Anvi’s grandmother in India received the poetry book.

When your principles are your guiding light, you can withstand any difficult situation. And when you stumble upon roadblocks ,face failures or lose your direction, it is your principles that will lift you up. President Jimmy Carter lost the election for the second term. It was a huge disappointment for the President and the first Lady Rosalynn Carter. His family business in his hometown of Plains was in shambles; he was derided for his progressive policies, and most of his supporters abandoned him. But the president never abandoned his faith. He started a new chapter in life by establishing Cater Center. He opened himself to Life’s Great Adventure – his center helped farmers to increase their production and feed people in Tanzania, Ghana , Benin , Sudan , Togo, and Zambia, partnered with Habitat for humanity, and brokered peaceful resolution to international conflicts through diplomacy. In 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the former President.

A timeless principle is something that someone discovers in his own life and realizes it can be true for others. Thus, even at the age of ninety and despite cancer spreading to his brain, Jimmy Carter continued to teach at his Sunday school in his hometown of Plains, Georgia. He continues to inspire young generations. When an election was lost, the President refused to be defeated, he stayed steadfast in his principle, and he was bestowed the highest honor on the planet. When a poetry book was lost, a young girl refused to give up, she made a corporation fulfill its principle, the book was found and reached its destination.

Principles transcend generations, space, and time. They are the bright shinning light , the anchor , the fulcrum , the pivot. Friends, principles are universal, transcendental and do not change over time and when you hold on to unchanging principles, you can shape your destiny, you can change someone else's destiny, you can be a shining light to the destiny of many others.


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