Students in Introduction to Leadership discussed difficult decision-making in their afternoon workshop yesterday, taking the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 as a case study. Teacher Sabrina Martin, a political theorist in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, talked students through the events of the crisis: when a US spy-plane reported that Soviet missile bases were being built on Cuba, the US and the USSR entered into a tense 13-day stand-off. This event is considered the closest that the Cold War ever came to all-out nuclear conflict.
When they had got a grounding in the key points and players, students watched a clip from the 2000 film Thirteen Days, which follows the decision-making process in JFK’s White House during the crisis. The clip showed a round-table discussion led by the President amongst the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Robert Kennedy the Attorney General and the President’s own brother, the Director of CIA John McCone, and other key advisors. Students bore witness to the consultative leadership style exhibited by this on-screen President, as he listened to each speaker in turn and weighed up the consequences of what they proposed.
An interesting interlude occurred when teacher Sabrina asked students how many women they saw in the meeting room: the answer was one, a secretary who sits down to take notes at the beginning of the scene before the camera moves away, not taking her into shot again during the scene. Of course, Sabrina explained, this is historical realism: in 1962, women were indeed developing a concerted presence in the workforce, but earning barely 60% of men’s rate of pay, and facing institutional and socio-cultural sexism along the way. Students were interested in the idea that women’s leadership might be somehow different from that of men: it is a common supposition that women in leadership roles are more inclined to conciliatory peacemaking rather than the testosterone-fuelled warmongering that we might expect of men. However, Sabrina reminded students of the recent example of Hillary Clinton, who is renowned for her hawkish foreign policy approach.
There was even more opportunity for discussion and debate when one student announced to the room that he’d just had a buzz from Twitter: President Trump had announced that transgender people were no longer to serve in the US army. Students had strong opinions about this shock-and-awe leadership enacted from the President’s iPhone.
The highlight of the evening was ORA’s Got Talent: Counsellor Frankie, Anders and Joe judged a variety of acts, from piano-playing, singing, group dancing, keepie-uppies, and Rubix-solving at speed. The evening was topped off with a fashion show by Counsellors Artem and Luke, and Junior Dean Fred, who modelled outfits put together by Manny, our Fashion and Textiles Design teacher.