One of my worst business presentations was to a chief marketing officer with a fondness for framing quotes throughout his office. The largest, a famous Churchill chestnut, hung over his desk:
“Never, never, never give up.” *
That’s not a bad slogan if you’re fighting Nazi Germany. But it stinks if you simply embrace it for the sake of being stubborn and ornery, which this CMO was.
In short, he thought compromise was a dirty word—something that losers do—not a “settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions,” as Webster defines it.
Words have meaning beyond their meaning. That’s why I’d encourage President Obama to stop using the “C” word, because it reinforces the effete stereotype that his opponents have pinned to him.
People won’t buy “bi-partisan agreement” any more. But shifting the dialogue to “common ground” might allow both sides to save face without appearing to “compromise” their principles.
Mere semantics? There is no such thing as mere semantics. And I’ll never, never, never give up on that point of view.
* Interestingly, I don’t know if Churchill used these exact words. And the fuller context is more illuminating: “… never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” (We could certainly use some “good sense” right now.)