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The Language of Conscience


Harvey Krongberg, Editor and Publisher of Quorum Report, Austin, Texas, wrote for the cover:

Brenham is a sleepy little town about halfway between Austin and Houston. An hour to the west is the state capitol of Texas where John Connally, Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush all first learned the art of the possible as well as the limits of politics. An hour east is one of the great international cities driven by petrochemicals, health sciences and shipping.

Brenham could not be more different than these two cauldrons of power, intrigue and deal-making. It is a quiet town where community means vastly more than the pop-culture catch phrase that has too often turned the concept on its head. In a Houston or Dallas, community means a separate piece of a broader whole. In Brenham, community is the whole.

Geography is sometimes destiny.

In his new book The Language of Conscience, it is evident that Tieman "Skipper" Dippel is the product of this tug between the politics and commerce of his large urban neighbors and the rural values of small town Texas. Out of this tension springs clarity and conviction and a call to action.

This is not the work of a one-dimensional shade-tree philosopher. Dippel excelled in academics and did a stint in the military. He took over his family's bank and steered it through one of the worst recessions in modern Texas. His commercial reach is international, with business ties linking Texas, Mexico and China. And through it all weaves the unending influence of parents that were anchors to family and a rural community during very tough years. Dippel is an international sophisticate who obviously finds nourishment in the bucolic backwaters of Brenham.

And frankly, that is what makes his search for a language of conscience so intriguing. Decades before the word "networking" appeared in the national lexicon, Dippel was building an infrastructure of new young thinkers, political aspirants and commercial comers by founding the Texas Lyceum. Even in his later years, Dippel has seen the value of cross pollenization between the worlds of politics, commerce and intellectual ferment. His annual August gatherings at the YO Ranch near Kerrville lures the best in their respective fields who come together despite the scorching Texas summer.

The world in which Dippel finds himself is one of conflicting impulses. Globalization against a backdrop of increasingly fractured constituency-politics. Mass pop culture that too often represents a race to the bottom vs. a growing internet culture that allows individual expression, communication and exploration to a degree never before imagined. And ultimately, the theme of personal isolation despite an increasingly crowded environment.

In his first book, The New Legacy, Dippel pioneered the concept of enlightened conservatism an individual code of behavior informed by a compelling belief in personal responsibility. In this venture, it is easy to see the author's experiences in China influencing his classical western education. Dippel broadens his view to incorporate what he describes as cooperative capitalism which he says, is" not doing something for yourself, but instead something as part of an organization that furthers a principle in which you believe."

While personal responsibility was the linchpin of the first book, Dippel reaches further here, embracing the broader questions of character. He is not particularly concerned with the personal pecadillos of mortals but focuses instead on the imperatives of leadership. He writes, "the choice of conscience over convenience is the definition of character, and character, in essence is the acceptance of personal responsibility."

This work is not a treatise about a reformation of the soul but rather a guidebook for good people organizing to achieve good things. Dippel does not denounce government. Instead, he prefers to advance ideas on how individuals can operate in the context of community to simply do good. Although The Language of Conscience is Dippel's personal journey told though writings and speeches, it would be a mistake to dismiss it as simply vanity publishing.

To know Skipper is to know a beehive of activity where no moment is wasted. It is also to know someone who has reflected deeply on finding a moral compass in turbulent times when generations are more likely measured in the life-cycles of computer chips than in the decades of a human life. Although the timing is coincidental, this book appears against a backdrop of extremes. Unimaginable heroism on September 11 and the subsequent days affirmed a nation's confidence in its own intrinsic good.

But in that same period, corporate CEO corruption and betrayal of their stakeholders points to some fundamental flaws in our national moorings. Even the American Red Cross came into question taking contributions expressly to help the victims of September 11th but allegedly diverting funds for other causes.

Clearly, these are not simple times. Cynicism and despair are constant undercurrents and people of good intentions too often surrender to a sense of futility. But Dippel is undeterred in his fundamental optimism and belief that individuals not only can but must make a difference. Through his own personal journey, he offers a thoughtful roadmap to organizing and acting upon conscience.

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