This is by far my favorite illustration by Norman Rockwell, one of the Four Freedoms he did that helped raise money for war bonds during World War II. This one, called “Freedom of Speech,” depicts a regular Joe standing up at a town meeting to speak his opinion.
First off, the town meetings that I went to when I was a newspaper reporter were nothing like this. Rockwell was pretty good at depicting an idealized version of reality, with the keyword being idealized. The open town meetings I attended were usually in a cramped school gymnasium in the middle of August, and everyone poured buckets of sweat in the humid weather while some crotchety old man complained for 45 minutes about a line item in the school budget. Ah, the memories!
But here’s the thing. As much as I disliked that old curmudgeon, I could at least respect that he had studied the budget and found something to quibble over. So when Common holds its meeting in Nashville later this month, I hope there are plenty of you out there who have something to quibble over during the Common and IBM town meeting. I won’t be able to make it to the event because I’m traveling to a different conference that same week. Which is unfortunate because it looks like they’re going to be announcing something at the town meeting around “The New Power Equation.” Not sure what that is, but it’s another incentive to go.
I will tell you one thing that old curmudgeon didn’t complain about: the name of the town. The IBM midrange server platform has been called the System i5 for a while now, for good and bad. Some of you still call it the iSeries and the AS400, and I certainly have no problem with that. But during the town meeting, the best questions to ask are around the future of the platform’s technology, and not its marketing push and nomenclature. If you get a chance once the conference is over, drop me a note to let me know how the town meeting went — firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be curious to know.