SMU Community Chat

Steel Market Update Editorial: Finding Balance

Written by John Packard

Some days I just stare at my feet and wonder, what happened?

Barry Zekelman let it all hang out during this week’s SMU Community Chat webinar. I may have had a “deer in the headlamps” look on my face when we got to the end. Some of you who listened to the webinar loved it, some were not amused by his political comments, and some were appalled with a few of the visuals used to make his points.

I grew up in New England. My father worked in a factory and my mother was the Welcome Wagon Hostess. I heard stories about World War II and how the United States along with its European and Australian allies saved the world from Hitler.

The door to my family home was rarely locked. Neighbors and friends were welcomed day or night. There was no such thing as being “too busy” or looking the other way if someone needed help.

My brother and I were the first generation of Packard’s to go to college. My parents were proud of our accomplishments.

I had cousins in Viet Nam. One a Marine sergeant who did two tours, the last being next to the DMZ. He came home. Many soldiers he led did not. The cousins used to get together on holidays and debate what was right and wrong. We disagreed on the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon, long hair, smoking pot. We never questioned the honor or integrity of those with whom we did not agree.

My family went to church and I was taught to love my neighbor and to be curious about those who were different than me.

During my steel sales career, I got to travel the world and meet people who were foreign to me. I enjoyed learning about their cultures, their language, history, customs, and I enjoyed spending extra time visiting their countries: Brazil, Chile, Taiwan, The Philippines, Mexico, India, Canada and England.

John with Mask 5.28.2020Why in the world am I writing this to you today?

I struggle in today’s world to find “balance.”

From the time I began writing the Steel Market Update newsletter, one of my goals was to help people understand the steel business. Another was to develop a community that was all-inclusive. This is tricky in this polarized political country we live in today.

I have endeavored to be neutral on politics and policy and let others point out their positions, and then let you decide what is right for you and your company.

On Wednesday, I hosted one of our SMU Community Chat webinars. Joining me was Barry Zekelman, Executive Chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries. I have known Mr. Zekelman for about 12 years, and I was well aware that he is a staunch President Trump supporter. I knew there would be questions that would bring out some of his conservative tendencies. I believe he has the right to have and to express those opinions.

However, Mr. Zekelman made statements, and provided verbal visuals that crossed into areas that Steel Market Update and our parent company The CRU Group didn’t anticipate, as they were outside of the intended topics to be covered in the discussion.

Mr. Zekelman has strong conservative beliefs and he has the right to express them, and he did. We do not sanction his opinions and we support your right to your own political views.

Many of you are part of globally focused companies. You have offices around the world. You do business around the world, and you respect free and fair trade.

Steel Market Update is owned by The CRU Group, which is a global company headquartered in London. Their U.S. office is in Pittsburgh, but they also have offices across the world including Beijing and Shanghai. We believe knowledge and understanding of the world will lead companies to make well-informed decisions.

The COVID-19 pandemic started in China and has spread around the world. This is a health issue that needs to be controlled and defeated by the efforts of every country on earth. There will be plenty of time to debate the mistakes made by China, and the United States for that matter, after we have dealt with the threat at hand.

Mr. Zekelman expressed his opinions on the re-opening of the U.S. economy, which might have come across as insensitive to those who have lost loved ones. SMU and our parent company believe in being responsible, protecting each other and supporting efforts to open the economy responsibly without sacrificing lives. Every life does matter.

Out of respect for one another as human beings, we should adhere to social distancing guidelines, follow CDC guidelines about when to wear a mask when in close contact with others, and be respectful to those among us that belong to the generations who fought the wars, built the houses, provided the groceries placed on our the tables in our youth and helped build this country to be the smorgasbord that it is.

And it is this smorgasbord of a world that makes this life interesting.

John Packard, President & CEO, Steel Market Update

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