Commitment According to Eastwood and Redford

By Stewart, Charles H., Jr. | Corrections Today, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Commitment According to Eastwood and Redford


Stewart, Charles H., Jr., Corrections Today


Being an avid reader and movie buff, I was initially reluctant to read two recent bestsellers, The Bridges of Madison County and The Horse Whisperer, or see their movie adaptations. I read book and movie reviews, which described them as romantic soap operas, a hodgepodge recycling of old movies and bad books appealing only to love-starved individuals. However, my interest remained high due to their continued popularity, and because two of my favorite actors, Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford, agreed to direct and star in the film version of each novel, respectively.

After reading both books and seeing both movies, I was amazed at the similarities between them. At first glance, it would seem that Robert Walker's novel, set in the Iowa farm county, would have little to do with the wide-open spaces of Nicholas Evans's Montana. But if the four characters (Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid in Bridges and Annie MacLean and Tom Booker in Whisperer) could somehow get together, they would have a lot in common to talk about.

These books, each the first novel by its author, were both on the national best-seller's list for months, selling multimillion copies worldwide, achieving both literary and financial success for their two previously unknown writers. Each story describes middle-aged romance, set in the American West, between a married but lonely woman and a footloose but sensitive man. However, each ending, in which the lovers reluctantly part forever so that they can do the right thing and resume their responsibilities as spouses and parents, as blue-collar and career professionals, is serious business as it relates to decisions we in corrections make every day.

Early in Bridges, the narrator makes the thought-provoking observation that we live "in a world where personal commitment in all of its forms seems to be shattering." I stopped once i read that line and asked myself if I believed that to be true. Then I asked myself to what I'm committed. My wife and family? My church and community? My friends and associates? My career and "clients?"

Often, the people you admire most, those who make powerful impressions on you, build a set of positive beliefs with a set of equally positive behaviors. It's this combination of positive attitudes and actions that form the foundation of our commitments. All successful people within our profession seem to share a fundamental and similar set of commitments. They include:

* Commitment to Self: Committed people present a strong and positive image to others. They act as a positive force in all situations, combining strength with a sense of humility. They take responsibility for their decisions and stand up for their personal beliefs, acting on the basis of total integrity and honesty. They listen to others' opinions or criticisms, admitting their mistakes to improve themselves.

* Commitment to Staff: Committed people help others succeed. This is demonstrated by their willingness to spend the necessary time and energy listening to and talking with others. It's showing concern, making staff feel and act like winners, creating an atmosphere where people treat one another with courtesy and respect. Working in such an environment creates confidence in ourselves and one another and enables us to set and accomplish goals.

* Commitment to our Clients: Unfortunately, some staff view our clients as a necessary evil and the source of most of their problems. …

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