The Washington Post

George Washington could have taught the SEC a thing or two

The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters. (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The extraordinary cold weather this week caused major airline cancellations, traffic accidents and tie-ups, school closings and wreaked havoc on people’s plans.

Even worse, it  caused the cancellation of an event we were hoping to attend on Friday: The Securities and Exchange Commission’s all-day (well, from 8:30 a.m. to maybe almost 4 p.m.) training session for about 30 senior SEC operations managers at the Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia.

The general theme is looking at and learning from George Washington’s leadership skills and public service as they might apply to senior executives today.

Our invitation said we’d take off at 8:30 a.m. in an SEC van “or personal vehicle” — but the agency won’t cover any private vehicle costs — and we’d get to Mt. Vernon an hour later. “Attire: Casual (suggest walking shoes and warm coats.”)

First off, we have a 45-minute tour of the father of our country’s lovely estate. ” (Theme: Executive Leadership: Challenges and Solutions).”

Then, from 10:30 a.m. to noon there’s a “Visitor Center/Museum Self-Guided Tour (Context in which we Lead, Facing Situational Challenges).”

From noon until 2 p.m. it’s “Luncheon,” which includes a “Team Discussion: Leadership Lessons and Executive Leadership Skills.”

The van takes off back to headquarters at 2:30 p.m. and gets us back by 4 p.m., which seems like a long time to travel about 19 miles.

It should be noted that each participant paid $40, which apparently covered costs, including lunch. (We’re told these folks are paid about $700 a day, not counting benefits.)

That $40 is “non-refundable after January 17th,” the invitation said, but surely, since it was postponed by the SEC, we’ll get our money back. Or at least a rain check. And we definitely don’t want to have the training moved to the beautiful, spacious SEC headquarters by Union Station — where’s the inspiration in that?

Worst of all,  we had a really good, warm coat already laid out to wear. And we know Washington had a major leadership challenge in that really cold weather at Valley Forge.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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