Excuse me for being the cynic, but mission statements to me are usually just a bunch of hooey. Some facilitator or consultant or marketing guru, or worse yet some “branding expert” comes in and helps you come up with a statement that supposedly distills the essence of your company’s effort into a single phrase.
Mission statements are not to be confused with slogans, like “Wisconsin: Live Like You Mean It” or whatever that abominable new slogan is. And they’re not to be confused with mottos, like the official state motto: Forward.
Several hundred thousand years ago, the shareholders of a broadcasting company I was an investor in decided to come up with a mission statement. It was the 70’s; it was all the rage. Some guy came to our meeting at a swanky hotel and helped us formulate some pop-culture- laden dreck about “a pleasant environment in which to work, serving our communities, a reasonable return to shareholders” and crap like that.
After the big mission statement meeting, in the hotel bar, a few of my cynical partners and I came up with something like “have fun and make a bunch of money”. We thought our mission statement was a lot better than the one the group came up with.
Now, to the new mission statement of the school system here in the City of the Perpetually Offended. Ready?
“OUR MISSION IS TO CULTIVATE THE POTENTIAL IN EVERY STUDENT TO THRIVE AS A GLOBAL CITIZEN BY INSPIRING A LOVE OF LEARNING AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT, BY CHALLENGING AND SUPPORTING EVERY STUDENT TO ACHIEVE ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE, AND BY EMBRACING THE FULL RICHNESS AND DIVERSITY OF OUR COMMUNITY.’
Well, isn’t that stylish!!!
It works in just about every cliché you can imagine, and I’ll bet the school board members are just as pleased as punch that they came up with this gem. Global citizens! Civic Engagement! Richness and diversity! You couldn’t possibly get more “Madison” about it!!!
I’ll give you this: the mission statement reflects the values this community gives greatest lip-service to. We have a city council that often thinks it’s the UN General Assembly; a county board that’s the biggest in the nation, so all constituencies can be adequately represented; and our great state university on the big lake is often the epicenter of political correctness.
A modest alternative suggestion, taken from that bastion of higher education immortalized in cinematic history, Faber College:
Knowledge is good.