Showing posts with label Ten Commandments. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ten Commandments. Show all posts

June 10, 2019

Why Only Two, Daddy?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Why Only Two Daddy?"
The father goes on to explain that these are the commandments that G-d gave to the Jews (when they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt). He enumerates just two examples: keeping the Shabbat and honoring your mother and father. The son asks, 'What are the other commandments?' The father hesitates either not knowing any of the other commandments or simply unable to remember any more of them on the spot. And all of a sudden, the little boy starts wailing to his father: 'Daddy, why do you know only two, why?'

Knowing the Torah and commandments is not only for ourselves to do what's rights, but also to pass on the torch to the next generation. It's not always easy to be good examples, but it's the challenge we all face. ;-)



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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February 9, 2019

Choosing Good Over Vice

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, called "Choosing Good Over Vice."
But yet, if everyone would just act out on each other based on their unbridled wants and desires, oy vey what a truly terrible world that would be...From uncontrolled desires for food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, honor, money, power, sex, and more–it seems like everyone has their little secret fetish. Whether it's coming from their head, their heart, or down below...the key questions is how much can they control themselves.

However, inside us, our soul, like the Ten Commandments in the Holy Ark, guide us so that we aren't just animals chasing game or tail, but are human beings trying to become angels.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 5, 2017

Thou Shalt Not

Interesting speech by the Rabbi today in synagogue. 

What stood out to me was when he talked about the Ten Commandments, particularly the 2nd set of five. 

And how some people hear what they want to hear. 

All of the 2nd five start with "Thou shalt not,"  but there are those people that only hear the part that comes after those words. 

So for example: Thou shalt not kill...steal...commit adultery...lie...desire.

But not everyone listens to the "Thou shalt not" and instead they just hear--selectively:

- Kill
- Steal
- Commit adultery
- Lie
- Desire

If you take out the "Thou shalt nots," you are left with a list of terrible and evil deeds.

How convenient for those who are looking for the upper hand and pleasures in life--get rich quick, get and maintain power, take whatever and whomever you want and when you want it--no matter who it belongs to or how they feel.

Like the good angel and bad angel sitting over our shoulders and one says don't do the bad thing and the other encourages us to do!

Who you going to listen to? 

Not everyone seems to care--they live for today and forget about tomorrow. 

Yet every misdeed leaves a tarnish on our soul, while every good deed adds a merit. 

And if there is no justice in the end then who the hell wants to be in such a world anyway. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 2, 2017

Greatest Museum of Them All

So the greatest museum of them all is scheduled to open in just 3 months!

The Museum of the Bible.

Right here in Washington, D.C.--a few blocks from the Capitol. 

There is a wonderful video on their website

It's 430,000 square feet and 8 stories floors. 

With two 40-feet-high bronze doors that look like the Ten Commandments. 

And an overall tall and narrow shape with a curved roof that reminds me of Noah's Ark.

It encompasses: 

Religion.

History.

Art. 

It all comes together here. 

There is an interesting display of all the different versions of the Bible.

But what it all points to is how similar we all really are. 

The emergence of faith in The One G-d who created us all--his children--and the foundation in the words of His book. 

Yes, we share in common much more than what separates us. 

If we can just see ourselves in His eyes and be the people we can be and were meant to be. 

The museum should be an inspiration to be better, to be brothers, to have peace, to partner and progress to the future.

With our faith sustaining us, and the Bible and our conscience as our guides, we can overcome. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 20, 2016

Please G-d In The Workplace

So here is a true story that happened to me at work.

You know how you put on your "out of office message" in Microsoft Outlook when on leave...

Well, I was responsible and did just that. 

My message was typical informing people that I was out, when I plan to return, and who to contact about urgent matters in my (brief) absence. 

But something astonishing happened then...

I actually got a reply to my out of office message from an executive scolding me about it--imagine this being how government time is spent. 

Yes and dun da da dum...here was my big offense to this senior executive, in my out of office message, I simply used the words "Please G-d," as in:

"I am out of the office and plan to return, please G-d, on [such and such day and date]."

The message I received back in my inbox:

"I'm not sure what the 'please G+d' reference means. It's a bit confusing. You may want to delete it."

OMG, I was being admonished in the federal government for using the words "Please G-d" in my out of office message--for simply respecting and recognizing Him/Her. 

- What is confusing about "Please G-d"?

- And how can anyone ask that I delete G-d from my message or in any way from my life???

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states under religious discrimination and harassment that:


 "Harassment, can include, for example offensive remarks about a person's beliefs or religious practices."


Further, "the law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employees religious beliefs and practices," barring an undue burden. 

What burden to the government was there in me saying, "please G-d."

And why did I get back a mocking message spelling it this way, "G+d," which I read as being a cross in the middle, mocking me as someone of Jewish belief.

Understand that I write the word G-d with a hyphen, because I was taught out of respect not to spell out ( or even say) G-d's name in vain, which is the 3rd commandment in the biblical Ten Commandments.

The executive's comments to me were not only extremely rude, offensive, and discriminatory, but also illegal.

It is outrageous that this type of behavior should be allowed to go on in 21st century America, let alone in the federal government itself that writes and enforces the law of the land--the land of the free and the home of the brave--read it, it's in our national anthem and our constitution. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 21, 2016

Love Is Like Cows

So had three funny instances today of the tales of woe when it comes to love.

The first was when someone was telling me that they are trying to meet women through online dating. 

But he goes, "No one gives anyone a chance anymore."

It's like if there is one thing wrong, it's over.

He said, one lady wrote in her profile that if you are a fan of XYZ sports team, do not even bother contacting her.

Another was like if you're of ABC political affiliation, forget about it!

He said people just don't seem to want relationships anymore. 

Then I was talking coincidentally to someone else, who I knew was going out with someone already. 

I politely asked how things were going. 

He said, "Fine, but she is pressuring me to marry her."

I said, "So if you love her, what's wrong with that?"

And he responded, "Well then my whole life will change. I won't be able to go to parties or on vacations anymore."

Basically, he's just happy being with her but on casual terms.

Then I told him (considerably younger than myself) how years ago mothers would warn their daughters about men's thinking of "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free."

This guy was laughing like crazy when I said that. 

Finally, someone at the kiddush today told the joke about the Rabbi or Priest who lost his umbrella in the synagogue or church. 

His first thought was darn it, one of the congregants stole my umbrella. 

So he decided that for his sermon he would lecture the people about the Ten Commandments, one at a time from the beginning. 

But then when he got to the sin of adultery, he stops and says, "Oh forget it, I just remembered where I left my umbrella!"

Funny day for love and relationships--it's something in the air, maybe cow patties.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 14, 2016

Boarding 613

So this was pretty amazing with the mystical number 613.

Today, it showed up on the arrivals board for the trains, and I literally had to run down the train platform to capture this photo after my daughter saw it in the distance from the escalator. 

Under destination (DEST) and minutes (MIN) for wait, the first line says boarding (BRD)--although just a moment before it said arriving (ARR). 

Then the next two lines has the trains arriving in 6 minutes and in 13 minutes, respectively.

Also note that this same morning I saw 613 twice more (for a total of 3 times) on the train car/doors and in the phone number for a truck parked in front of the grocery. 

I am no prophet, but I believe that something important or perhaps cataclysmic is about to happen ("arriving") in the world. 

Interestingly enough, in 10 days is Passover--the redemption of the Jews from slavery in Egypt along with the giving of the 10 commandments (of the total 613) on Sinai. 

Now is a good time for faith, devotion, and prayer--that is my feeling for what it's worth. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 9, 2016

10 Commandments, 10 Plagues--What's The Connection?

-- Click on the image to read in large graphic --

___________________________________________________________

It occurred to me while listening to the Rabbi's speech at Magen David Synagogue today that there is nothing random in the Torah (Bible).

Since this weeks's Torah reading in Exodus was about the ten plagues in Egypt, I realized that this must be connected to the later ten commandments in a subsequent reading. 

This table explains how the commandments to the Jews (and all mankind) and the plagues on the Egyptians are connected one for one.

(Source Table: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 24, 2015

Appreciating G-d's Gifts


Today, I heard a fascinating speech from Rabbi Haim Ovadia of Magen David Synagogue that put a beautiful new perspective on the Ten Commandments.

He explained how the commandments are not just commandments, but actually a covenant between G-d and mankind.  

G-d gave man gifts of:

1) FREEDOM and choice (He is the L-rd who brought you out of bondage)
2) DIVINITY, a direct spiritual connection (Thou shalt have no idols)
3) PRAYER, heartfelt (Thou shalt not take G-d's name in vain)
4) SABBATH, day of rest (On the seventh day thou shalt do no work)
5) FAMILY (Honor thy father and mother).

In turn, G-d asks that we appreciate His gifts to us, and not take from others what isn't ours:

1) LIFE (Don't murder)
2) Another Man's WIFE (Don't commit adultery)
3) THINGS (Don't steal)
4) DUE PROCESS/JUSTICE (Don't bear false witness)
5) Someone else's BLESSINGS (Don't covet, and essentially bring an "evil eye" on them)

This interpretation is sort of the ah-ha in the Ten Commandments, which otherwise some would say, "what's so novel or special about G-d telling us not to do these bad things--wouldn't we already know (many of) these ourselves?"

But what is novel here is that the Ten Commandments is a whole philosophy of thinking about life, one where we appreciate G-d's many gifts to us, but where we control our animal instincts and in turn act spiritually.

Thank you G-d for the many wonderful gifts, and for giving us the opportunity to elevate ourselves and be satisfied with our lot in life. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 15, 2015

The Back To The Future Car

OMG, so cool...the Back To The Future car.

It's the DeLorean sports car on display by Smithsonian Magazine in Washington, D.C.

I love the winged doors that go up, the cool muscle body, and of course being able to time travel. 

The past--I'd like to stroll through the Garden of Eden, witness the splitting of the Red Sea and the giving of Ten Commandments, see Samson bring down the pillars on the Philistines, meet King David and worship at the Holy temple, shake hands with Ben-Gurion, and talk with and hug my parents and grandparents again.

For the future...its got to include space travel to other worlds, the eradication of disease and hunger (and by the way the national debt too), and the coolest technology to do everything. ;-)

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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September 8, 2012

We Are Driven!

Riots
We are driven to do what?


Some of us to succeed and others, seemingly, to various destructive behaviors that thwart our success.

In the book, The Charge, by Brendon Burchard, he argues that we need to harness our drives to increase our success rate. 

Burchard categorizes our drives into baseline and forward drives--and has 10 of them--almost like the Ten Commandments (Cs)--five in each area (or on each tablet). 

Baseline drives are those which he says make us happy:

- Control
- Competence
- Congruence
- Caring
- Connection

Forward drives are those which help us evolve:

- Change
- Challenge
- Creative Expression
- Contribution
- Consciousness

Wonderful--10 C's, all nicely packaged. 

While I generally agree with these human drives, something is not satisfying about these--they seem academic, stale, and the fodder of a marketing brochure.

Where is the energy of humans to live, love, and laugh? 

Where is the longing for spirituality, purpose, and meaning?

Where is the drive to do good and occasionally, to do what we know is wrong. 

Where are the vices--the drives to conquer, to own and to hoard, to go crazy at times?

Burchard has provided a very one-sided picture of human nature--maybe the side, we would rather acknowledge and focus on, but in ignoring human frailties and tendencies to veer off to the other extremes as well, he is missing an important point--and that is the human nature is a fundamental push and pull. 

Yes, we are driven to happiness and evolution, and on one hand these drives manifest in the rosier side of human nature such as care and contribution, but on the other side, people drives to happiness and evolution may mean their taking what they want, when and how they want it, and to the exclusion of others who are competing with them in a world of limited resources.

It is nicer and easier to envision a world, like the Garden of Eden, where there is plenty for the few, and everything is provided and just a pull from the fruit tree away. 

But in the real world, it is wiser to recognize that our happiness and evolution may mean someone else goes hungry tonight--sad, but true; and only when we are real, can we work to overcome this and to provide plenty for all--through safeguarding of basic freedoms and human rights for everyone. 

Happiness and evolution can be different for the individual and society--for the individual, one's gain may come at another loses (e.g. the stock market, competing for a spot in top-tier school, or beating out the competition for that plume Wall Street job), but for society, success means creating win-win situations where everyone can go to bed with a full stomach and knowing that they have a fair shot at opportunity tomorrow. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Beacon Radio)

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June 2, 2012

Which Five Do You Keep?

So my father used to teach me that the Ten Commandments were divided with the first five being between man and G-d (e.g. "thou shalt not take the name of the L-rd, thy G-d, in vain") and the second five being between man and man (e.g. "thou shalt not Kill").  
Note: The fifth one of "Honor they mother and father" is viewed as between man and G-d, since we honor our parents as partners with G-d in our creation and upbringing. 

My father said well that some people keep the first five and some the second, but very few keep both sets. 

I am aware of many examples of this from the "religious" Rabbis and Priests who sickeningly molest children to "unreligious" people who give charitably and do good deeds to others in countless of ways. 

I do not know why most people cannot be both faithful to G-d and good to other people--are these somehow mutually exclusive in people's minds? Is it somehow blasphemous to both worship G-d and genuinely respect and care for our fellow humans? 

Perhaps, some think that if they are close to G-d, then other people are sort of besides the point, while others believe that if they act kindly to their fellow "man", then they will be considered righteous in G-d's eyes anyway.

The funny thing is that both--the ones that follow the laws having to do with G-d and those having to do with other people--seem to think that they are the "truly" righteous ones.  

Today, I saw a an event that reminded me of this whole lesson and spiritual question, as follows:

A car pulls up in front of the house of worship and in the driving lane, just stops and double parks, even though, right there--and even closer yet to the house of worship--is an empty oversized space to just pull into. 

The driver gets out and his wife gets out on the other side.  

The car behind him beeps to let them know they are waiting to pass. 
 
The man throws his hand up in a gesture of "too bad" and proceeds to escort his wife into the house of worship--all the while leaving his car blocking the driveway and the car behind him. 

After about 5 minutes, the first driver finally comes back to move his car.  

The second driver--of the car that has been waiting--goes up to driver of the first car and asks why he just left his car in the driving lane and didn't even bother to pull over.

The first driver says that his wife can't walk well and he wanted to escort her into the house of worship, and so the other car could wait until he returned. 

The second driver is startled by this and says "but you saw I was behind you waiting and wanted to get in with my family to pray as well--why couldn't you either circle back around or pull into the empty spot right there at the entrance?"

The first driver says, "well, you were the only other car behind me."

By this time the second driver is clearly annoyed and says, "but I am a human being too!" 

He continues clearly amazed at the callousness of the first and says, "how is it that you go to the house of worship, but you don't care about another human being--how can you be so selfish?

The first driver raises his hand and flips it again indicating that he just didn't care --going full circle to how this event began when he first stopped his car--and then he simply says as a matter of fact and sort of sarcastically "good day" and just walks away. 

What an encounter with the first driver on his way to worship G-d, yet completely callous to his fellow human being waiting to do the same--he was following the first five commandments, but brushing aside the second five.  

I wish for the day that people could embrace both sets of commandments! So that faith and decency could coexist, rather than battle in the hearts and soul of humans. 

What a better world it could be...

(Source photo: here)

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May 27, 2012

The Truth About Lying

House MD said it first "Everybody lies; the only variable is about what."

This weekend's Wall Street Journal (26-27 May 2012)--states that research confirms this as truth.  

"Everyone cheats a little right up to the point where they lose their sense of integrity."

According to the article--"very few people steal to a maximum degree, but many good people cheat just a little here and there."

They pad their billable hours, underreport their earnings to the IRS, claim higher loses on insurance claims, pocket a little from the cash register, walk out of the store without paying, copy test answers, plagiarize someone's intellectual property, and the list goes on and on. 

Already in the Ten Commandments, we see the fundamental precept of "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

Yet according to the research, people's dishonesty is enabled by their disposition to:

- Rationalize away the crime.

- Overshadow it with previous immoral acts.


- Excuse the behavior by stating that everyone does it.


- Minimize the significance of the wrongdoing.


- Claim it is necessary or for the greater good.


Interestingly, factors that we would think would have a big impact on dishonesty, don't--such as either the amount of money to gained or the probability of being caught. 

Apparently, the cost-benefit calculus is not the driving factor in wrong-doing, but rather the absence of "moral reminders" and of enforcement/supervision is what creates the fertile ground for people to do the wrong--whether because they can, for the thrill of it, or because in their minds it "levels the playing field."

Everyone has the capacity for evil and to do wrongdoing, but the vast majority of the people with the right moral guidance will do mostly the right things.  

"Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom, the behaviors of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations"--these are greed and fear. 

One one hand, greed drives people to push themselves and work hard, but it can also be used to go overboard to the point of acting dishonestly--to take what is not theirs and to lie about it.  

On the other hand, fear of losing our integrity keeps people's unbridled desires in check and perhaps even motivates us to give back to others, but fear can also can inhibit people from giving it their all. 

The ongoing interplay between greed and fear long known to drive financial markets are the underpinnings for our own moral tug-of-war. 

Balancing greed and fear is a powerful embrace that can propel humankind powerfully forward with drive and motivation or undermine its very existence through inhibition and dishonesty.

Reading the article and the underlying research was upsetting to me to see that so many people can be swayed seemingly so easily to have such little integrity.

And while most situations in life are not "black and white"--they are complex shades of gray--people can be tempted to rationalize even when they really know what they are doing in misguided. 

This is the ultimate personal challenge for all of us--to maintain our integrity in the face of all temptations and readily available excuses out there.

G-d speed in making good moral and productive choices. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Gerard Stolk)


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August 4, 2011

Google+ And A History of Social Media

Ten_commandments

Bloomberg Business (25-31 July 2011) tells in biblical terms the history of social media leading up to the recent release of Google+:

"In the beginning, there was Friendster; which captivated the web'ites before it was smitten by slow servers and exiled to the Far East. And then a man called Hoffman begat LinkedIn, saying "This name shall comfort professionals who want to post their resumes online," and Wall Street did idolize it. And then Myspace lived for two thousand and five hundred days and worshipped flashy ads and was subsumed by News Corp., which the L-rd hath cursed. And Facebook emerged from the land of Harvard and forsook the flashy ads for smaller ones and welcomes vast multitudes of the peoples of the world. And it was good."

With the "genesis" of Google+, there is now a new contender in virtual land with a way to share posts, pictures, videos, etc. with limited groups--or circles of friends--and an advance in privacy features has been made.

According to the article, even Mark Zuckerberg and some 60 other Facebook employees have signed up for Google+.

With all this confusion brewing in social media land, one wonders exactly why Randi Zuckerberg (Mark's sister) recently headed for the exits--a better offer from Google? :-)

Google+ has many nice features, especially in terms of integration with everything else Google. On one hand, this is a plus in terms of potential simplicity and user-centricity, but on the other hand it can be more than a little obtrusive and scary as it can \link and share everything from from your profile, contacts, pictures (Picasa), videos (YouTube), voice calls (Google Voice), geolocation (Google Maps), Internet searches, and more.

Google owns a lot of Internet properties and this enables them to bundle solutions for the end-user. The question to me is will something as basic as Circles for grouping friends really help keep what's private, private.

It seems like we are putting a lot of information eggs in the Google basket, and while they seem to have been a force for good so far, we need to ensure that remains the case and that our privacy is held sacred.

(Source Photo, With All Due Respect To G-d: here)

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October 20, 2009

What We Lose When We Lie

If you watch House MD on TV, House always says something sort of striking: “everyone lies.”

Today, an article in the Wall Street Journal, 20 October 2009, says something similar, that we all lie even (some, not me, would say “especially”) in our closest relationships, marriage.

“We fib to avoid conflict. To gain approval. To save face. Or just to be kind.”

Some claim lying is a survival mechanism because “they [lies] allow us to avoid conflict.”

Others feel that it’s okay to lie in order to be tactful with others. For example, a retired financial executive explained that “when his wife ask how she looks, he always tells her she is beautiful. ‘A bad hair day isn’t going to change your life. What’s to be gained by saying something negative to someone that is of such fleeting importance.'”

Even those who supposedly don’t lie, have all these little twists:

One man when asked about lying said: “I don’t lie, I tell the truth…slowly.”

George Costanza on Seinfeld used to say: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

In society, we’ve even come up with a terms for lies that are small or harmless and we call those “white lies.”

Even in court rooms, we don’t trust that people will tell the truth, but rather we have to literally ask them “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you G-d?”

Many people have pointed out that even in the Ten Commandments, we are not commanded directly not to lie, but rather “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”—Hey, just for the record, that’s close enough for me!

Not surprisingly, the mixed thinking about whether it is okay to lie in certain “charged” situations carries over into our organizations.

On one hand, many of our organizations, especially in the public sector, have wonderful core values such as truth, justice, integrity, and so on. Moreover, for certain national security positions, we even give people lie detector (polygraph) tests to ensure their personal truthfulness.

Yet, on the other hand, we all have heard of project managers who lie in order to cover up failing or failed projects—and many implicitly accept this behavior.

I read that the Standish Group recently reported that 82% of our organizational projects are failing or seriously challenged i.e. they are over budget, behind schedule, or not meeting customer requirements. Moreover, we have for years, seen numerous projects end up on watch list for failing projects and even have websites that track these.

Yet, ask many project managers how their projects are doing and you get the spectrum of whitewash answers like “everything is great,” “we’re right on track,” “no problem,” “everyone’s working hard,” or sometimes simply “nothing to report.”

Perhaps, project managers are afraid to tell the truth for fear of retribution, punishment, or other negative impacts to their career, those that work for them, or others who are “implicated.”

As one psychologist says about little white lies: “If you don’t fib, you don’t live.”

How unfortunate this thinking is—rather than encouraging honesty, we develop cultures of fear, where cover-ups are routine and truth in reporting is a practically a misnomer.

By creating a culture where lying is endemic to reporting, we are harming our people and our organizations. Organizationally, we can only manage if we can measure, and we can only measure if people are honest as to what is working and what isn’t. Personally, we hurt our own integrity as human beings by lying (or being dishonest, deceiving, whitewashing or whatever you want to call it) and then justifying it in so many little and big ways.

Sure, there is such a thing as tact, but you can be tactful and truthful at the same time!

Some of this may come down to improving communication and people skills and this needs to be emphasized in our training plans. Of course, we need to work with each other in socially appropriate ways.

But at the same time, at the end of the day, people need to maintain what is really important—their integrity, and at the same time move the organization to make the right decisions, and this can only be done by being frank and honest with ourselves and with each other.

My suggestion is for leaders to surround themselves with those who are not only “the best and the brightest,” but also those with the most honesty and integrity around.


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