Fareed Zakaria at SHRM 2013

Laurie Ruettimann Conferences, Laurie Ruettimann, SHRM

Last year, I saw Condoleezza Rice speak at the 2012 SHRM Conference in Atlanta. She is a great speaker and understands geopolitical issues. Since I am passionate about the connection between work, power, politics and Human Resources, I was happy with the selection. But as a recruiting and talent professional, I had a few questions about Dr. Rice’s performance as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.

Unfortunately, none of my questions were answered.

This year, Fareed Zakaria is the opening speaker at the 2013 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago. That’s my hometown. My turf. And once again, SHRM is bringing a wicked smart guy to the conference.  I would be impressed except that Fareed Zakaria was recently suspended from his job for being a plagiarist.

Nice, right? How would you like to break the rules, be suspended and still make money as a speaker?

To be fair, some people say that Zakaria was tired. He made a simple mistake and lifted the wrong piece of text from his notes. It’s a funny little explanation that has been used to explain the behavior of other famous plagiarists like Jayson Blair and Jonah Lehrer.

(And I’m a writer. I am tired. I am going to do some plagiarizing, too. You are all on notice.)

Anyway, I have a few of questions for my fellow SHRM members.

  1. Is it okay for a Human Resources association to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a speaker who was once suspended from his job — probably by some HR lady — for violating ethics?
  2. Is it okay if he’s sorry?
  3. Would it bother HR people to know that part of their conference fee is paying a guy who actually went through the HR disciplinary process at work?
  4. Do HR people even know about this story or care?

Listen, I watch Fareed Zakaria’s show and I like SHRM’s affiliation with CNN. From Kathleen Koch to Soledad O’Brien, the pipeline for conferences and web content has been interesting. But I wonder if there wasn’t someone else out there — like David Gergen or Anderson Cooper — who might have had a credible point-of-view on world affairs that wasn’t accidentally lifted from someone’s brain?

I believe in forgiveness. I believe in redemption. But I think there’s better talent in the marketplace for the 2013 Annual SHRM Conference and Exposition.

The good news? I hear James Frey is available for SHRM 2014. I hear Oprah will endorse him, too.

Laurie Ruettimann is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur based in Raleigh, NC. She’s working on her next book about fixing work due out in 2020.