Romeo Cruz ProfileSilver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce Director Romeo Cruz will provide a weekly column to the Beat, featuring items and announcements of interest to the community.

Lessons From the Heroes Of the Bataan Death March

Eighty years ago, the Japanese Army occupied the Philippine Islands. General Douglas MacArthur had fled, leaving thousands of American soldiers, and their Filipino allies at the mercy of Japan. The Japanese gathered them all together, nearly 78,000 men, and marched them 65 miles through interminable heat, with little water and food, to a centralized prison camp. Torture and summary execution were commonplace, and those who managed to survive the hunger, exhaustion and thirst could be bayonetted on the side of the road without warning.

On April 9, we remember this particular horror of war as the Bataan Death March. Rather than focus on the abject cruelty that comes with the clash of cultures with the machinery of modern warfare, I would rather focus on the tremendous heroism, tenacity, and bottomless well of strength that enabled so many men to survive. It is here, rather than in the exploration of human depravity, that we might find some positive light in such a dark moment in history.

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Reading is Good Business

In Ray Bradbury's darkly prophetic novel Fahrenheit 451, the author reveals a world where reading books is criminal, with punishment carried out by flamethrower toting firemen, who would not only burn any books they found, but the houses in which they were hidden. Bradbury's point was that a society that stopped reading books would be a dreary, joyless place to live. While we haven't gotten to the point where enforcing the law involves torching houses, reading is certainly not as popular a pursuit as it once was.

It's not enough to scroll through Twitter or peruse your Facebook feed. In fact, the kind of cursory reading required to follow Facebook or Twitter might actually reduce attention spans and make deep thinking more difficult. Reading, for the purposes of this discussion, requires the longer texts found in nonfiction books and novels.

The number of adults who read books declined to a mere 57 percent in 2002, and the number has likely fallen since then. Movies, television, social media, and video games are competing with books for attention, and books are losing the war. The result is fewer people reading and more people relying on visual media for information.

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Solving a Problem Using the Design Thinking Process

Business, at its heart, is the ability to solve problems. Need a meal? There's a business for that. Engine making a knocking noise? A business has that covered too. Many problems handled by businesses are fairly straightforward, but there are some that don't present an obvious solution. For this, a process exists that takes the guesswork out of finding a solution. That process is called the design thinking process, and it can be used for anything from a promotional flier to the next killer phone app. The design thinking process consists of five steps. Although they are presented here in order, the process doesn't necessarily follow a linear path. It's useful, however, to look at each step in the process to understand how they work together.

In this hypothetical example, Dougie Martinez works for the famous Mariposa Mousetrap Company, and he has been charged with the design of a new mousetrap. However, this new mousetrap must be unlike any other mousetrap that has ever been produced. How does Dougie go about producing a new twist on an age-old problem? He could sit in his R and D lab and wrack his brain, hoping that something will come to him. Or he could employ the design thinking process.

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The Power of Being Ethical in Business

There is a push to make business socially and environmentally conscious, but that assumes business and social responsibility are mutually exclusive ideas that have to be forced together. Many people see business as a cold, amoral exercise which places profit above all else. It's where we find expressions like, "It's not personal, it's just business." Sayings like this create a separation between ethical behavior and the creation of wealth, as if these two pursuits are mutually exclusive. The truth is that a company that acts in a way that benefits its customers will ultimately reap rewards in the form of return business and consumer goodwill. As Adam Smith famously said, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard for their own interest." Smith correctly recognized that every business is not only enriched by adhering to ethical practices, but in many ways depend upon them.

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A Passion for Baking Opened a Door for New Opportunities

Wally Amos was fresh out of secretary school when he landed a job at the William Morris talent agency. He started out in the mail room, but hard work and determination helped him climb the ladder. Eventually, Wally Amos became the first African American talent agent at William Morris. If that's all Amos accomplished, he'd still be an inspiration to anyone with a desire to succeed, but the real story is what he did next.

Wally Amos had developed a love for baking, passed on to him by his Aunt Della. Using her recipe as a starting point, Amos created his own recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and he used that recipe to set himself apart from other talent agents. He would make some cookies and send them to prospective clients along with an invitation to meet him. Eventually, he headed up William Morris's Rock and Roll department. He signed Simon and Garfunkel and represented luminaries such as Sam Cooke, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye.

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The Creative Destruction of an Industry

Back in the 90s, a kid couldn't throw a rock without hitting a Blockbuster Video store. They were everywhere, ushering in a new era of choice for American consumers when it came to entertainment. The stores were packed with people, eager to rent the newest releases or find an old favorite. Today, the video store shares space in the dustbin of history with the telegraph and steam-powered cars. (Yes, the Stanley Steamer was an automobile with a steam engine.)

It might sound a little tragic to hear about the demise of an entire industry, but there's nothing sad about it. It's the way things are supposed to work. Ever since the United States has become a service-oriented economy, new ideas have moved the country along. Every day, new jobs are created while old jobs are become obsolete. This creative destruction is due to entrepreneurs actively searching and creating new technologies that fuel this continuous cycle.

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The Influencers

During the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the nation was divided by the accusations leveled against him. Accusations of sexual assault, drunken debauchery, and toxic masculinity filled the airwaves. His defenders railed against the rush to judgment without facts, insisting that, absent any substantial evidence, the accusations against Kavanaugh were meaningless. Sitting defiantly in the center of this contentious debate, watching the proceedings and making her voice heard, was a woman of unparalleled insight and wisdom. No, it wasn't Condoleeza Rice, who holds a PhD in political science and was the first African American Secretary of State. It wasn't Tulsi Gabbard, who volunteered to deploy to Iraq with the Army and also served in Congress. No. The woman who took center stage in this pivotal moment in American History was none other than Alyssa Milano.

You heard that right. Alyssa Milano, who rose to prominence by portraying Tony Danza's sitcom daughter, and later distinguished herself in such films as "Poison Ivy II" and "Embrace of the Vampire" suddenly became the face of aggrieved women everywhere.

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John Madden

When I was a kid back in the 70s, there was one football team that every other team in the NFL hated, and that team was the Oakland Raiders. It wasn't so much a team as a reform school, where all the dirtiest rulebreakers in the NFL ended up. By themselves, they were considered damaged goods, but together, players like Kenny Stabler, Jack Tatum, Dave Casper, Ted Hendricks, and Jim Otto terrorized opposing teams. The man in charge of this "orchestrated mayhem" was coach John Madden. In his ten-year career, Madden posted a record of 103-32-7. His team made the playoffs seven out of ten years and won one Super Bowl. Later, he forged a second, equally successful career as a football analyst, bringing his own unique brand of joy and love of the game into the booth.

I was a die-hard Raiders fan. Posters of "The Snake, Phil Villapiano and many other Raider greats adorned the walls of my room. My favorite things to watch on television were NFL Films showing the legendary exploits of the Silver and Black. In my youth, their swagger, their disdain for authority, their hard-nosed approach to football and life appealed to me. I looked up to them, and to their coach, for only a man of tremendous will could have corralled such a group of misfits and miscreants into a championship football team.

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