I have always despised those who use their size or power to enforce their will. In February of this year, we saw Vladmir Putin try to bully its neighbor of Ukraine into submission through a full-scale invasion. How that country, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, has fought back has been the story and inspiration of the year.
Many, if not most, of us have had to deal with bullies at some point in their life, and I am no different. When I was sent away to boarding school in New England as a first-year student, an upperclassman decided that I was going to be his target for the year. I was a somewhat undersized and out of place Midwestern Jewish kid, and for many months I endured both physical and verbal forms of bullying. At the end of the school year, I decided that I would have to find a way to fight back. I spent the summer putting on fifteen pounds of muscle, gained a new attitude and confronted him on the first day back. Surprised with my newfound confidence, he backed away, and it was one of my proudest and most memorable moments.
President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine continue to show confidence, strength, and an unwavering ability to stand up and fight back against Russia. He has consistently demonstrated that he can build a coalition of support. He was helped by the over 1,000 companies that departed from Russia in the wake of the invasion. The Ukraine, President Zelensky and the actions taken by corporate America in response to Russia’s invasion continue to be a signal to the world that bullying behavior should not and cannot be tolerated by the public and private sectors alike.
As we head into 2023, I hope that we all appreciate the individual and collective responsibility we have in standing up and fighting for what is right.
Wishing a Happy New Year to all.
Richard Edelman is CEO.