This has been an uneasy summer: drought here, there and
everywhere, sparking wildfires out west and up north, with a daily deluge of
nightmarish news from abroad, talking of turmoil and violence stretching
from Cairo to Kashmir. Against such a backdrop, we hardly need any more
distressing news to read or hear about. And yet … this summer of our
discontent has offered up yet another type of trouble, this time within the
business community, with headlines such as the following:
$1.5 Billion” (Associated Press, June 24)
Is Uncovered at WorldCom” (The
Wall Street Journal, June 26)
Panel Intensifies Global Crossing Probe” (Reuters, June 24)
to Andersen — $3.8 billion ‘is a lot of money to miss’ ”
(Associated Press, June 28)
Were the late, great soul singer Marvin Gaye alive
today, he might well ask of the corporate community what he asked of our
political leaders during the turmoil of the late ’60s: What’s going on?
It’s a question among many other questions each of us
should be asking as well, regarding the crisis in confidence over corporate
America that has surfaced this year. Is it a lack of leadership? Or of
ethics? A problem of loose laws? Or lax oversight? Who’s in charge: The
board? The CEO? The accountants? Have we gone down Alice’s rabbit hole
into a land where up is down, inside is outside, wrong is right?
In a word, no. Shading, coloring, twisting or twirling
the truth is still called lying by most Americans, including this one. While
things are not always black and white, it’s pretty obvious when black is
being called white, and vice versa. And somewhere between “some” and
“a lot” of that seems to have gone on in some huge companies in recent
Is it an indictment of free enterprise or capitalism?
Hardly. If anything, it proves again that the system works, perhaps slowly
at times, but ultimately consumers tend to reward the companies that are
excellent and ethical. And those that do things sloppily or slovenly,
unethically or illegally, almost always fall by the wayside. Some in this
recent crop of scandal already have.
And in the midst of this crisis of confidence in
American business, it’s nice to know that there are successful businesses
operating in communities across this country, driven by the business
providing the best possible service at the lowest
possible cost. These businesses, of course, are electric cooperatives, such
as the 13 across Virginia that serve about
10 percent of the Commonwealth’s citizens.
We’re not perfect, and we don’t profess or pretend
to be. But we are owned and operated by and for our member-consumers, with a
not-for-profit structure that allows us to provide electricity to you at
cost, in as reliable a way as possible.
Your electric cooperative has been a member of your
community for over 60 years. We intend to be a part of this community 60
years hence. Our bottom line is your satisfaction. Our board is made up of
members of the community, elected by you. Our employees are your neighbors.
None of this may be very exciting, but we hope it’s at least somewhat
comforting during this time when all of us could do with a lot less
“excitement” both in the world at large and in the American business