For better, and/or for worse, the current generation of corporate CEOs issues more relevant commentary on a broader array of public issues in a year than their predecessors mumbled in a century.
Search the decades of archives of Fortune magazine or Vital Speeches of the Day, and look for CEO commentary on the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Civil Rights, Vietnam, AIDS, or global warming.
You’ll find a little, but you won’t find much.
After the thanklessness of their rhetorical participation in the COVID crisis, in the summer seizure after George Floyd, in the sturm und drang surrounding the 2020 presidential election and the trauma of January 6, many CEOs have vowed to impose more strategic discipline when deciding which issues to comment on. “You don’t want me,” CVS Health CEO Karen S. Lynch told The New York Times last January, “to wax about politics.”
But a review of 2022 issues of the Executive Communication Report, a trade newsletter I write for a couple thousand executive communication professionals three times a week, yields another feast of CEO rhetoric—complete with a couple of food fights.