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H. James Harrington

America, the Beautiful.
America, the Quality.

Ensuring our quality of life is every American's duty.

When it comes to traveling around the world, I fall into the "six sigma" of the population. I have a map at home with a pin marking every country I've visited. Surrounding the map are flags from each of those countries. This map has more pins in it than a porcupine has quills and more flags around it than even the United Nations flies. I've lectured about quality on every continent except Antarctica; so when it comes to comparing countries and cultures, I feel confident speaking as an expert.

 Based upon personal experience, I believe that people around the world are great, with very few exceptions. But when it comes to the way they live, there's a huge difference between living in other countries and living in the United States. Those of us who live in the United States enjoy, by far, the highest quality of life available in the world. The quality of our homes is better, as is the quality of our cars, clothes, schools, food, economy and freedom. In short, the good old "U.S. of A." equals quality. Our streets are paved with gold, and the rest of the world drives around on cobblestones. Sure, our processes aren't perfect, and there's much room for continuous improvement, but they are the very best processes in the world. With all of that going for us, we're the envy of the rest of the world.

 All too often we take for granted the blessings we have in the United States. It's so easy to forget the good things and focus on the 0.1 percent that doesn't meet our requirements. But all we have to do is travel outside the United States to be reminded what a high quality of life we enjoy.

 Keeping this in mind, I'm sure you'll understand why I became upset when I ran across the following news items while surfing the Web:

  Broken Arrow, Oklahoma--School officials remove "God Bless America" signs from schools, fearing that someone might be offended.

  Long Island, New York--Television news executives order flags removed from the newsroom, and red, white and blue ribbons removed from reporters' lapels. It seems management didn't want to appear biased, feeling that our nation's flag might give that impression.

  Berkeley, California--Officials prohibit the display of U.S. flags on city fire trucks because they don't want to offend anyone in the community.

  Fort Myers, Florida--In an "act of tolerance," the head of the public library at Florida Gulf Coast University orders all "Proud to Be an American" signs removed to avoid offending international students.

 When our government and public schools--under the banner of political correctness--start taking actions like these and we start worrying about our patriotism offending others, we've gone too far. Too many people have given their lives to provide us with the quality of life that makes up today's "American way." Just visit Arlington National Cemetery and see the thousands of crosses representing the brave people who have sacrificed their all so we can enjoy what we have today in this country.

 As quality professionals, we can't allow this type of deadly contamination to creep into our environment. It's a virus that could destroy the American system and cause our quality of life to collapse.

 No, this column doesn't cover the usual quality issues. But as I write it, just 11 days after the attack on the World Trade Center, I believe we all need to ask what we can do to both maintain our quality of life and continuously improve it. Just a little decay in our foundation can cause our country--indeed the whole world--to collapse.

 I'm proud to be an American. I thank the Lord that I was fortunate enough to be born in this country and bring up my family in such a land of opportunity. If "national quality" means exceeding customers' expectations, then quality and America are synonymous.


About the author

 H. James Harrington is COO of Systemcorp, an Internet-software development company. He was formerly a principal at Ernst & Young, where he served as an international quality adviser. He has more than 45 years of experience as a quality professional and is the author of 20 books. E-mail him at jharrington@qualitydigest.com . Visit his Web site at www.hjharrington.com.


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