Wednesday, September 3, 2014

After 200 years, city's fighting spirit unchanged

Author Morgan Molthrop at Jackson Square crediting 'the man.'

Many marvel at New Orleans’ miraculous rebirth, having assumed the struggling, honky-tonk Southern city could never revive itself after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Yet, the Crescent City is looking better than ever with sports and convention industries booming, a vibrant music scene and social innovation outperforming other areas of the country in job growth and economic prosperity.
In a provocative new book, “Andrew Jackson’s Playbook: 15 Strategies for Success,” author Morgan McCall Molthrop examines surprising tactics and innovations that have contributed to the city’s rapid recovery, suggesting that contemporary civic leaders have much in common with U.S. Gen. Andrew Jackson who soundly defeated the “invincible” British Army at the Battle of New Orleans 200 years ago.
Dozens of books have been written about New Orleans’ unique music, culture, and history, but Molthrop analyzes the city’s remarkable resilience from an entirely new perspective. He theorizes that character traits, tactics and determination Gen. Jackson demonstrated in defeating the far better trained British army are the same characteristics that helped catapult the city’s post-Katrina recovery.
By interviewing a wide array of notable local sources, Molthrop juxtaposes events from 1815 with those of 2005, demonstrating unconventional attack plans that achieved improbable victories. Success tips are categorized with military terminology, including shoring up defenses, using guerrilla tactics, acting with bravado and never forgetting the prize. Readers can valuable reap life lessons along with a fascinating history lesson.
Gen. Jackson was a frontier soldier who refused to follow traditional rules of European engagement.
“Pesky Americans refused to fight fair,” Molthrop wrote.
The rough-and-ready American general formed alliances with unscrupulous Baratarian pirates, free men of color, Choctaw Indians, Kaintucks and Creoles, each with singular mettle. Similarly, New Orleans’ post-Katrina revival brought together a motley coalition of business, government and educational leaders, entertainers, tourism and sports promoters – even a Vodou priestess – to cooperate in an entirely new manner.
Both crises called for decisive action and for sidestepping rules. Real estate developer, Pres Kabacoff, for example, saw an urgent demand for loft apartments for returning artists and a Healing Center to create a new social hub. Putting together federal historic tax credits and new market tax credits, he quickly built a nexus.
“All the internal politics and bickering – they are just sideshows to me,” Kabacoff told Molthrop.
With few troops and weapons, Jackson understood the importance of shoring defenses. By buttressing the port of Mobile, he cut off the easiest route for British invasion and forced their ships up the treacherous mouth of the Mississippi.
In 21st century New Orleans, the underlying defense is music – without which the city could perish. So, entertainers Harry Connick, Jr., Branford Marsalis and Habitat for Humanity teamed up to create Musicians Village, providing homes so musicians could get back into the clubs to perform.
After Katrina, the city needed to jumpstart its economy. New Orleans has always been a city of entrepreneurs “because large corporations won’t headquarter in a place with a poor school system and an annual summer evacuation,” Molthrop wryly commented.
But in 2000, New Orleans turned that hardship into an advantage, founding Idea Village, a startup community with a vision to create “a self-sustaining ecosystem that attracts, supports and retrains entrepreneurial talent.”
Above all, Jackson had the charisma to unite diverse groups and convince them to follow his leadership, pledging to die before surrendering to the British. The general’s team approach solidly defeated the Brit’s top-down command structure, slaughtering more than a thousand British troops in less than an hour.
“He’d beaten the army that had beaten Napoleon,” Molthrop wrote.
“Jackson’s Playbook” was designed not only to reflect on one of the most important battles in U.S. history on its 200th anniversary, comparing its indomitable military leader to modern leaders, but also to help people understand and manage complex issues in their workplaces, neighborhoods and in their daily lives.
If you think you know the back-story on the War of 1812, “Jackson’s Playbook” provides an entirely new insight into the events and the enduring culture of New Orleans. Offbeat photos and insider perspective on this intriguing city make “Jackson’s Playbook” a fascinating read and guide to life.

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