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“We have met the enemy and He is US.” Pogo, Leadership and Management

Early in my career, there was a popular quote popping around attributed to Pogo, a cartoon series by the late Walt Kelly.

The quote I love was published initially as an Earth Day poster in 1970. For me, this one representation of Pogo and the thought expressed so cleanly carries over neatly to issues of organizations, motivations, and management.

Background: Pogo was the title character of a long-running American comic strip created by cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913–1973) and distributed by the Post-Hall Syndicate. Set in the Okefenokee Swamp of the southeastern United States, the strip used some anthropomorphic animal characters who shared a wide variety of satirical comments on many aspects of life.

Three years before his death, Kelly penned Pogo into a poster for Earth Day, one that apparently first used the quote that became so universally known, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

poster4

(If you look at Pogo’s feet, you will see a variety of trash and litter…)

For Earth Day 1971, Kelly did a two-panel expansion of his theme and included another of the characters of his comic strip (Porky) walking through a trashed swamp and shown below:

Earth_Day_1971

There are nice write-ups on the cartoons and their evolution in a number of sources, including this webpage and this site on wikipedia.

In 1998, at a PogoFest celebration in Waycross GA, organizers produced this brass plate on a wooden plaque:

plaque 1998

This latter framework closely reflects us, individually, as the enemy. Each of us creates and maintains our own issues and problems (while having all the solutions within us at the same time). Each of us is creative and motivated and human, and we can look to find those qualities that will make us contribute even more to the world around us.

The theme is not so much about litter and Earth Day, in my opinion, as about human potential. As leaders, we should be looking to see what we can elicit and support from the skills of others. If we do not work to optimize and maximize the performance of those around us, we are the enemy in that we are not effectively engaging, involving and/or motivating our people.

Maybe one of those plaques should be on each of our walls,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, team building facilitator

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Please note that all images are copyrighted by various sources including a 1982 Simon and Schuster book and other locations. Simon and Schuster produced 45 Pogo books over the years.

In November of 2011, Fantagraphics Books published the first of a 12-volume hardcover series of the complete run of Kelly’s works. In no way do I want my blog to reflect any issues of copyright infringement — I just wanted to use this illustration to illustrate a critical point and I refer any and all of you with any interest in this material to contact the publishers listed.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Square Wheels Guy!

    Just wanted you to know, I used the Pogo Earth Day cartoon just this morning to make a point with my leaders. Was browsing through the other sources google gave me. Small world!

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