Do You Hear Me?

Article excerpt

As we progress through the years, we often form impressions that follow us for a lifetime. For me, the most vivid of these impressions are associated with the lessons I learned from two people that I care for dearly and hold in the highest esteem - my mother and father, with an emphasis on my mother.

I became adept at knowing when a lesson of this kind was coming: I would receive an order to report to my mother immediately. And since this command usually came in the presence of friends or siblings, there was the embarrassment of having to listen to the mocking calls of "Oh! Oh! You're in trouble! You're going to get it." Gathering my courage - hands to my sides, chin to my chest - I made my way to her side. There, looking down, making certain not to make eye contact, I would be welcomed with the grip of my mother's hands upon my shoulders, her thumbs firmly placed between my shoulders and chest. The vise of her grip implied the seriousness of our confrontation. With a slight pull forward, she would tell me what it was that I was never to do ever again, followed by the words, "Do you hear me?" When I sort of grunted the answer while still avoiding eye contact, I would hear her question for a second time, "Do you HEAR me?" Realizing the gravity of the situation, I would generally answer in a slightly more audible tone, "Yes." Then, with a bit more thumb pressure applied, the question would come a third time, "DO YOU HEAR ME?" And after a very audible "Yes," I then quickly heard, "DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" With my final response-a genuinely firm "YES" - I was released. Following the encounter, I did not easily forget the lesson that had been taught.

Knowing how many of my fellow engineers think, I suspect that by now you're probably asking, 'What is the point of this column?' I assure you I have a point and, absent thumbs to the shoulders, I will attempt to get it across. My point rests, in part, on the words of National Academy of Engineering President William Wulf who spoke at the 2003 ASEE Engineering Dean's Institute (EDI). …