Friday, March 27, 2009

This is What An Apology Should Look Like

Cape Henlopen School Board member Nobel Prettyman has a letter of apology in the Cape Gazette newspaper today. It refers to an incident recently in which Mr. Prettyman lost his cool and spoke his emotions more than his mind. The politics of the District, and the details of that incident, are not what interests me here. I wanted to highlight the following letter because it is, I think, what an apology from an elected official, or any leader, should look like.

I've taken the unusual step of posting the whole thing here, rather than just linking to the Gazette's letters page, because that page is not a persistent link; letters cycle off the page week to week.
Prettyman: “My behavior was totally unacceptable.”

I am a Cape Henlopen school board member because I desire for our young scholars to receive the best education possible. I have always voted with the best interests of the young scholars in mind. I am passionate about the issues before the school board.

Recently, my behavior has not lived up to the high standards at which I wish to serve. I speak specifically to the events that took place at the March 3 owners meeting. Not only was my behavior not of a high standard, but by any reasonable evaluation, my behavior was totally unacceptable. I wish I could take my offensive words back.

Unfortunately, I cannot. All I can do is apologize for my behavior and pledge not to repeat it.

When I read the article in the Cape Gazette, I cringe at the way my words must appear to the readers. I cannot blame anyone if, after reading this article, they made judgments about me. However, please do not draw any conclusions about my character based solely on a news report. A news article cannot convey my intent. In my heart of hearts I did not intend for my remarks to be taken in a racial manner. Furthermore, I did not intend for them to pit one part of the Cape community against another. I truly and deeply do apologize if my actions and words have offended anyone. I will take all the steps necessary to ensure this behavior is not repeated.

If my words were hurtful to any board members, I apologize to them for any pain I caused. I would be willing to take any training available to board members to help establish a better working relationship with my fellow board members. Since I am an elected official, I apologize to my fellow board members, district employees, citizens, parents and most especially to the young scholars.

I, Noble Prettyman, Cape board member, deeply regret that my words have distracted the district from the important business of educating our young scholars. In the future, I pledge to have the high standards expected of a Cape board member. As usual, I am available to any member of the community for input and discussion by email to or at 302-684-2658.

Noble Prettyman
Agree with Mr. Prettyman on the issues, or disagree, but the bottom line is that this is how a leader should conduct himself when in the wrong. I hope that I have the courage to conduct myself this way if and when the need arises.


Anonymous said...

Still waiting for Al Gore to apolgies for perpetuating his global warming SCAM. (crickets chirp)

John Kador said...

It starts off as a remarkably clean apology. Unfortunately, Prettyman undermines the apology with the "If my words were hurtful . . ."

"If" is one of the ten words that should never appear in an apology.

I'm not crazy about apologizers spending time on their intentions. The apology should focus on consequences, not intentions.

Otherwise, nice job, Mr. Prettyman.

See my blog for more about what makes an apology effective.

David said...

In context the if my words were hurtful was directed to people who were not directly involved and presumably not complained. He did the straight apology for the aggrieved party and then apologized to anyone else who may have taken offense or been embarrassed by his behavior. Context Mr. Kador.

It wasn't bad.

wbonham@newworldpost.coom said...

I agree that "if" shouldn't appear in an apology but in this case Mr. Prettyman went on to apologize to everyone, including those in the "if" catagory. I thought it was a good apology. Let us hope that he can live up to it.

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