Stephen M. Wolf, a CEO with a welcome dialogue


In a season when American corporate executives and CEOs are publicly excoriated for greed and corruption, it is refreshing to come across one apparently enlightened by a sense of social concern. Passengers on US Airways browsing through their corporate in-flight magazine Attach? will be missing the monthly columns of Stephen M. Wolf, who recently moved on from his post as US Airways chairman.

Over five years, Wolf wrote some quite informative and well-reasoned columns that called attention to a range of concerns not normally identified, much less written about, by corporate chiefs. In his columns, Wolf sought to address "a wide variety of issues that affect our communities, our nation and our individual lives." Over the years, for the company's passengers, he wrote about the waste of resources, the disappearance of the world's forests, the diminishment of ocean resources (collapsing fisheries), about the results of burning of fossil fuels, about agricultural runoffs that pollute water tables, and more. Most importantly, Wolf often wrote about the great and growing discrepancies between rich and poor in the world today. "... In 1998, 2.6 billion people lacked basic sanitation, 1.3 had no access to clean water ..." In a type of column for a company magazine that is used normally to simply tout slick public relations material, this company chairman enlightened many with clear and accurate information about issues of importance to people as families, as human beings sharing a planet in common.

About the depletion of ocean fisheries, for instance, he writes, "The catch from our oceans is down by half compared to 50 years ago." We in North America are not as conscious of the problem, because, "with our wealth, we buy in our diminishing home markets much of the catch from those oceans in the poorer regions of the world." Wolf is most concerned about climate change, how global warming is affecting natural cycles. He points out the depleted reservoirs through the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, along with potentially catastrophic rise in ocean waters.

While Wolf has not commented directly on Native American issues, his concerns for the impact of humanity on the quality of the natural world and about issues of poverty and social despair resonate with our own. We happen to agree with Wolf's factual basis and sense of urgency on many of these issues. What is most intriguing and commendable, however, is his willingness as a corporate leader to commit his time and outreach opportunities to educating his company's customers and readers generally. It is a refreshing attitude, worthy of emulation.

We urge other business leaders to make their thinking known on these varieties of issues. Native leaders have been doing so for quite some time, though perhaps not with enough outreach. We encourage all American Indian leaders, particularly those who manage burgeoning tribal enterprises, who are at the helm of their tribal economies, to take the time to address the important issues of their region and the world.

In the past year, Indian Country Today has published an occasional series of commentaries in the form of "Letters to the Seventh Generation." These provide at least one opportunity to think beyond the daily struggles to consider the bigger picture. And, of course, our "Perspectives" pages are consistently offered, in both our print and electronic media, to help stimulate these types of discussions. The responsibility to address these problems, as Wolf noted in his final column for Attach?, "is one we cannot shun. The consequences for future generations are too great."