On May 4, 1970 soldiers from the Ohio National Guard encountered Kent State University students protesting against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. The Guardsmen opened fire on the unarmed students killing four and wounding nine others.
The day after the shooting, students from Southern Illinois University marched into the McDonald’s restaurant in Carbondale, Illinois demanding that the U.S. flag flying outside the restaurant be lowered to half-staff to honor the Kent State students. The McDonald’s manager complied.
A neighbor, who happened to know McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, phoned Kroc to complain about the lowered flag. Kroc called the Carbondale manager and insisted that the flag be raised again to the top of the pole. The flag was raised.
The angry students returned to the McDonald’s and threatened to burn the restaurant unless the flag was again lowered. The McDonald’s manager called the President of McDonald’s, Fred Turner, and pled his case. Turner thought a moment and said, “Tell you what you do. The next delivery truck that arrives, have the driver back into the flag pole and knock it down.” The next delivery truck backed into the pole and knocked it down.1
Caught in a crisis? The next time you feel stuck, look for the flagpole and ask yourself, “How do I knock it down?” Reshape the crisis for success.
1 An early version of this story appeared in Ray Kroc by J. Anthony Lukas, 1971, New York Times
Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization. To contact Tim, email Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com