I was invited to San Francisco to address a gathering of about 20 financial officers (CFO's) for some well-known Fortune 500 companies. I was asked to talk about the political climate that has an impact on their businesses in this election year.
I knew right away what I had to tell them. I would talk to them about the one issue that affected every business decision they make every day – yet is an issue that isn't even discussed in the political campaign – Sustainable Development.
My hosts knew of my positions, having admitted to visiting the American Policy Center's web site prior to extending their invitation. The site very openly displays my articles and several past speeches dealing with a variety of subjects, especially Sustainable Development. In fact, the only comment after their perusal was to ask that I also address the issue of personal privacy and the threat of the Patriot Act as it dealt with business. I agreed.
I was told that I would be given one hour to speak, possibly taking questions at the end. In fact, they assured that if I were to go over my allotted time, "that would be OK." Later, that was changed to "perhaps forty five minutes with time for questions. In either case, it was understood that I was to make a "presentation." It's important that I mention this because of what happened later.
The day arrived and I was ushered into a small room occupied by the twenty or so CFO's. The man in charge was the supervisor of the one who had invited me. A podium was placed in the front of the room and he introduced me as "an expert on political issues." I began by saying "I'm going to talk to you today about what I believe to be the long term issue affecting perhaps the very existence of your businesses." I said, that it's "not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It's not liberal or conservative. It's purely bi-partisan."
"If your job calls for dealing with government on any level," I said, "perhaps you've also noticed that there are more layers and more players to deal with." I suggested to them, "you may have found layers of non-elected regional governments and governing councils enforcing policy. You may have attended such meetings and encountered powerful new voices coming from members of private organizations, now empowered with making and enforcing policy."
I went on to explain the origins of these special councils and the involvement of non-governmental groups like the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club. I explained that a transformation in government is taking place in America through a new policy called Sustainable Development and that such policy affected everything including our personal lives, farming, schools, and literally every decision now made by every single business in the nation.
I told them of the origins of Sustainable Development through international treaties like the UN's Agenda 21 and the Biodiversity Treaty. In fact, I handed them packets containing some of the original documents that I was discussing.
It was so vitally important, I believed, that these businessmen in their high positions, understand the origins of battles they face every day. After all, I had been asked to discuss with them the political climate that affected their businesses. This was it. What could be more important?
However, fifteen minutes into my scheduled one-hour address, the leader of the group, the man who had introduced me as an expert suddenly blurted out, "can't we just have a friendly discussion on the issues concerning the election?" This man was apparently a "facilitator" trained in specific tactics to control what is said in a gathering, and he obviously didn't like what I was saying. I was convinced of his training as the event played out.
I tried to explain that I was telling his gathering exactly what he had asked me to do. That no issue affected their businesses more than Sustainable Development. I explained that I was giving the information in a formal presentation because it was wide ranging and an "informal discussion" as he was now suggesting I conduct would not allow me to give them all of the information necessary to understand the issue. Keep in mind I was invited to give a formal presentation, only now he was changing the rules after I was fifteen minutes into my presentation.
I asked him if I might continue. He said, "We're going to take a ten minute break and discuss it." He then escorted me out, not into the hallway, but completely out of the building and into a parking lot. There it was obvious that he wasn't going to let me continue because I wouldn't back down on my insistence to speak about Sustainable Development. After all, he had introduced me as an expert. Now he wanted to tell me what to say and how to say it. I said no.
It is a standard tactic by trained facilitators to make their target look like the aggressor. His actions were classic, first changing the rules by interrupting my presentation and suggesting that I just have a conversation with the folks, then to get me completely out of the building under the guise of having a discussion. They've been trained to smile as they twist the knife.
At first he wasn't even going to let me return to the room to gather my belongings until I asked, "you're not going to let me back in the room?" He relented and I went back to the meeting room to retrieve my notes and reading glasses from the podium. As I stood there I looked at the gathering. All of them remained in their seats where we had left them, sitting quietly. Not one raised his voice to question why I wasn't being allowed to continue. These leaders of industry just sat there as a trained facilitator controlled the information they were allowed to hear. It's how things are done today, from private conferences to government meetings. A few decide for the rest.
As I turned to leave the room, however, I noticed two or three leafing through the materials I had managed to pass out before the talk. Perhaps a seed of truth would get passed the facilitator's control. Perhaps one would go to my web site or check into the information I had distributed and start them on a journey to understanding the monster called Sustainable Development. If so, that made it a good day.