Lost in Time

August 25, 2015

So, North Korea is establishing its own unique time zone – “Pyongyang time” – named after the nation’s capital city. North Korea will fall 30 minutes behind Japan whose time zone was imposed on the entire Korean peninsula more than 100 years ago.

Actually, North Korea is more than 30 years behind Japan in almost every aspect of civilized life.

This time zone adjustment gesture is of little practical significance because North Koreans have been closed off from global interaction by the impositions of their brutal dictators since the end of World War II. It’s symbolism befitting the backward nation’s isolationism.

The negative effects of this isolationism upon the nation are visible across the Demilitarized Zone from South Korea. Behind visitors to the DMZ is the vibrant mega-city of Seoul, South Korea. Across the river is a bleak, barren landscape with no sign of life. No people, no agriculture. Just a few buildings, without inhabitants. Built only for show.

There are many lessons to be learned from this contrast, on many levels. Of course, we see how people thrive more in an atmosphere of freedom than totalitarianism. We see the benefits of engagement over isolationism. We see that symbols without substance are meaningless.

Lessons for nations, to be sure. But reminders for enterprises of all kinds, including ours.

And a note to North Korea ... Newfoundland Island has had its own time zone for many years. It’s 30 minutes ahead of the rest of North America, and a century ahead of North Korea.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.