In my latest reading of This Is Herman Cain, Herman Cain talks about meeting the woman who would become his wife (he says that she didn’t think he was all that cool at first), his education, and his various jobs.
I was interested in Herman Cain’s perspective on such issues as racism, civil rights, and discrimination. Cain acknowledges that he was the beneficiary of the civil rights movement, for it made more employment opportunities available to him. He also talks about discrimination that he faced on one occasion in the workplace, as others were being promoted whereas he was not. But he says that he overcame that discrimination when he talked to his boss, learned that he needed to get a master’s degree, and went for it even though his boss didn’t think he’d be successful. I’m not sure if that technically counts as “discrimination”, however, since the boss’s problem did not (at least on the surface) appear to be Herman Cain’s race, but rather his need for further qualifications. But Herman refers to it as an example of how he overcame a barrier. On the issue of being denied opportunities, I liked what Herman Cain said on page 35 about how he was denied admission to the University of Georgia because it “chose to keep enrollment of black students to a minimum”, and yet Herman’s daughter Melanie years later attended and graduated from the University of Georgia. Herman says, “I suspect her decision [to attend the University of Georgia] had something to do with an option I had not enjoyed.”
I enjoyed Herman Cain’s stories about working at Burger King. Herman went to Burger King’s after being a vice-president at Pillsbury’s because he wanted a challenge. And, as a Burger King boss, he had to deal with challenges. First, on one occasion, when a Burger King worker accidentally disrupted a piece of the equipment during a busy lunch hour, and hamburger patties were coming out undercooked or not cooked at all, Herman Cain had to think fast, especially with the long lines. Herman had the workers fix a bunch of chicken and fish sandwiches, and he told people lining up for the drive-through about the problem. Herman narrates on page 55 that “By the time the broiler was up and running, we had sold out of the chicken and fish sandwiches.”
Second, Herman was told that he had to increase sales and profits, yet he had no control over prices or items on the menu. So how would he increase sales and profits? Herman did so by having the workers at the counter look each customer in the eye and smile. Herman also says on page 58: “The reason I did so well in running Burger King’s Philadelphia region is that I treated people like people and the culture at Burger King was intimidation, fear, and screaming, tactics to which I do not subscribe. I believe in telling people when they’re doing something right.”
Third, Herman had to deal with resentment from those who feared he would deprive a Burger King veteran of a regional manager position. Herman was tested and he passed the test, and he became friends with the person testing him. The reason that this stood out to me was that I thought about how hard it must be to work in an environment where people are trying to undermine you. Herman’s faith in God and his steadfast work ethic got him through, though!