Have you ever said something which you regretted? Have your words ever ambushed you and changed your image forever? What happens when we forget about the power of our words?
The velocity with which Helen Thomas’ career has been wrecked is both stunning and shocking. Helen Thomas, Dean of the White House Press Corps, with a career of more than 60 years, 50 of which she spent in the White House covering ten presidents made an unpardonable remark when asked about Israel on May 27, 2010:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everybody today.
THOMAS: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ooh. Any better comments?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Helen is wild.
THOMAS: Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. Not German. It’s not Poland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where should they go? What should they do?
THOMAS: They need to go home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is home?
THOMAS: Poland, Germany.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should just go back to Poland and Germany?
THOMAS: And America and everywhere else.
The power of words. My friend S. Renee Mitchell has a voice mail that always makes me pause. She says in her recording: “Words have power. Use them wisely. Do your thing.”
That “do your thing” part always reminds me that no matter what we know, in the end, “our thing” will either make our words powerful or destructive. They can’t be revoked. They won’t lose their power. They continue to affect and affect others words, thoughts and actions.
On June 4, 2010 Ms. Thomas issued the following statement: “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.” These words have power too. But they don’t undo her previous words.
On June 7, 2010, she announced her retirement, effective immediately. Not the way she had planned. Her words, which have been her forte, became her destruction.
For those who don’t like Ms. Thomas’ political leanings, they’re crowing at this train wreck of a long career. For those who loved her spunk and courageousness, they could be cheering for her or saddened at her remarks. But whatever your thoughts on her words, remember: words have power. Use them wisely. And do your thing.