MEGALOMANIA is defined in WEBSTER’S NEW COMPACT DICTIONARY  as “… the delusion that one is great or powerful …” Corollary and more explicit in the definition of megalomania,… above and beyond the delusion of grandeur and power, is the sense that in addition to being powerful, there is also the compulsion and assumption that one is also manifestly “right”,…. and being both unerringly “right” and powerful  permits actions that would otherwise be unthinkable and unfathomable,… due to their outrageous and inappropriate nature and character. Under the spell of megalomania these acts seems perfectly and absolutely acceptable, even laudable, to the perpetrator.

‘THE SYMBOLISM WAS TOO POWERFUL TO IGNORE.” is the lead sentence in the op-ed piece done by Thomas L. Friedman, the distinguished and highly respected economist and print pundit of the NEW YORK TIMES Newspaper in its March 11, 2015 edition. In this article Friedman discusses the extremes that gambling casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson goes to influence Republican Party politics, and even more, how he uses his billion dollar clout to influence the political landscape in Israel. He is credited with spending at least 150 million dollars to defeat President Obama in the last election. He contributes so much money to Republican and right wing political Political Action Committees, that all of the Republican candidates for president  meet with him for his blessing. In Israel in 2007 he funded  and founded a newspaper, ISRAEL HAYOM whose only mission is to support and spew the political line he subscribes to. The paper is free of charge and now has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Israel. Not being satisfied with that he also bought MAKOR RISHON considered the print voice of the “religious-nationalist right” of Israel. At a recent  conference Adelson was quoted as saying that Israel would not be able to survive as a country,…. as a democracy. Friedman quotes Adelson, ” So Israel won’t be a democratic state. So what ?”

Where is all this going ? ” The symbolism was just too powerful to ignore.”. I go from the macro-example of geopolitical megalomania to the comparatively micro-example of the same trait and compulsive failing  as pointed out,… and scathingly criticized by Lionel Leach, the Chair of the Youth Committee of USATF, in a letter to Stephanie Hightower, president of USATF. Hightower sent a threatening e-mail to Tim Baker, her appointee on the Law and Legislation Committee , threatening him that she would remove him if he did not toe the line that she has laid out. This takes on special significance because next year there will be presented a whole package of new restructuring legislation that will essentially, if passed, prevent Hightower from becoming Chair of the board of directors of USATF and essentially ending her disastrous 8 year tenure as the most influential, individual voice within USATF. This new  restructuring package will have to be discussed, vetted and debated within the Law and Legislation Committee, so it is essential that if Hightower is going to have her way, she needs to have allies on the committee who support her self-serving and grossly slanted positions.

Baker apparently forwarded the threatening e-mail to Leach, where upon Leach immediately wrote Hightower a response accusing her of abuse of power and authority and also accusing her of attempting to stifle  free speech. He declared that such behavior was below the office she holds and inappropriate in the extreme. Leach’s letter to Stephanie has gone slightly viral within the USATF community and when I got my copy of Leach’s reaction and rejection of Hightower’s action I was moved to think back to  our shared time and history on the board of USATF. Stephanie Hightower and John Chaplin, as women’s and men’s Sports Committee chairs, along with Lionel Leach as chair of the Youth Committee, John Drummond as chair of Athletes’ Advisory Committee, and me as chair of the High Performance Committee, were considered the ‘dissidents” because of how often we successfully challenged individual and board activity that we thought was unconstitutional or otherwise inappropriate. At that time Hightowers was always on the side of issues that she now finds so offensive and abhorrent to her self-promoting actions and activity. One need only to look back at the most recent USATF Convention IAAF Representative fiasco in Dedember to witness Hightower at her imperial worse.

Hightower’s term as president ends in 2016. During her tenure she has been able to stack the board of directors so it is comprised of people who are slavishly supportive of her. This despite the fact that in the body at large her popularity is lower than President Bush II when he left office in 2009. Given this lack of popular support the only way she can continue in a position of responsibility within the organization was to launch an attack to net her the IAAF representative’s position. This position was held by Bob Hirsh who had a distinguished record as IAAF representative and was the First Vice President of the IAAF. She had to have this position because it automatically claimed a position on the board of directors of USATF. Since she already had the board stacked, all that was necessary was for the deciding vote between her and Hirsh to get to the board of directors. There was/is still a piece she has to get in place to implement her draconian scheme to hold onto power. She also needs to have the chair of the board be selected by the board she already had stacked. In the past the president of USATF was automatically the chair of the board. When Doug Logan tried to get the rule changed to have the board select the chair, Hightower , as president, very angrily and adamantly resisted such a move that would have stripped her of the chairmanship as president. She was very willing to accept the vote of the body that prevented Logan form getting the deciding vote to be cast within the board itself. Now 8 years later, she, not surprisingly, wants exactly what Logan wanted back then and that she so vigorously fought against,….then !

“The symbolism is too powerful to ignore.”. Like all megalomaniacs Hightower feels that she is above and beyond the influence of decency and democracy. When the struggle for IAAF representative came to the floor of the USATF Convention, the vote was 380 plus to 92 in favor of Hirsh continuing on as the IAAF representative . The final vote within the Athletes’ Advisory meeting was 77 and one abstention in favor of Hirsh. In fact there were two votes taken within the Athletes’ Advisory Committee. The first one was unanimous( 100%) in favor of Hirsh. The second vote was taken when an athlete stated that they were not clear on exactly what the vote was supporting or not supporting. It was clearly pointed out that a vote for the proposition on the floor would support Bob Hirsh continuing in the capacity as IAAF representative. The vote was 77 in favor of the Hirsh and the proposition and one person abstained. What matters here is the fact that two of the most critical constituencies within USATF ( the total body of the assembly and the athletes )  voted overwhelmingly and embarrassingly strongly against Hightower,……   and for Hirsh. When the vote took place on the board, the results were 11 to 1 in favor of Hightower and her Machiavellian machinations carries the day in one of the most egregious and horrendous examples of denial of democracy and democratic will within the organization. Good governance gave way to naked greed and rampant/rabid ambition. Hightower like Adelson, feels her raw ambition and viperous vision supercedes the tenets of democracy, deceny and fair play.

Friedman closes his article by stating, ” People who go “all the way” like this will one day go over a cliff. They will regret it. So will the rest of us.” !

The symbolism was just too powerful to be ignored.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

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