Great Orators and their Stories – – #4 Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck

In this series, I write about orators who made a huge impression on me. Here is how I met Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Augustinus Henckel von Donnersmarck remains unforgettable. The first time I met him was at a meeting for ICL (International Computer Limited) customers. As opposed to Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, ICL features rather poorly in the German Wikipedia version. Meant as a “thank you” gesture for customers and partners, we were invited to the “Hessischer Hof” in Wiesbaden. I owed my invitation to our very enjoyable and successful co-operation. In those days, ICL was a huge success in England, while it was more of a backbencher in Germany. That must have been at least ten years ago.

Among other items, ICL also sold two Unix lines, one Intel line and one Risc line. Incidentally, the ICL manager in Germany (I think his name was Herr Olschewski ?) was proud of having a very reliable customer basis and of never having written “red tape”. Regardless, ICL was taken over by Fujitsu shortly afterwards and then merged with FSC – which also will soon cease to exist. Interestingly, at one time (much earlier), there had also been an attempt at founding a CII (Compagnie Internationale Informatique), as far as I know also with BULL and ICL, but that was soon liquidated. Instead, Siemens and Nixdorf merged into SNI, which later led to FSC.

In any case, ICL Germany was a reliable company with British understatement and many nice employees, some of whom I am still friendly with today. And without ICL, I would never have met Augustinus Henckel von Donnersmarck. He was an imposing figure whose voice was loud and clear. Besides his church function, he also was director of the “Katholischen Instituts für Arbeit” (Catholic Labour Institute) and – very secular – managing director of the consulting enterprise Unicorn Consultants GmbH, which he himself had founded.

I remember to this day how he introduced himself at the “Hessischer Hof” as “lobbyist incarnated” of the world’s most successful enterprise. An enterprise that is two thousand years old. And then he talked with enthusiasm about the meaning of work and presented results of his scientific work. For instance, he showed us that, according to what his institute found out in surveys, many people only work in order to be able to afford a nice weekend. For them, work is the grey part of life, whereas weekends are the colourful part. One story, I will call it “the story of the roofer” made a particularly deep impression on me, so that I still remember it.
Here is my attempt at writing down the essence of the story: If a modern father wants to show his son what he is doing for a job, this task is not easy. Mostly, he will show his son into an office building (provided it is allowed to bring children to the office) and point out his desk (provided he has a desk of his own) with a computer on it. And what the father calls work is sitting in front of same computer and pressing keys or moving a mouse. In former times, said Augustinus, the father would have taken his son by the hand and walked through the village showing him roofs on top of houses. And then he would have said: “You see, son, I made all those roofs, and it fills me with pride so see that my roofs provide shelter from the rain for all the people living in these houses”. Then the boy would have understood what his dad did for a job. In my opinion, this parable also shows how hard it can be to make others see how meaningful our work is for us.

A year later, I proposed to invite Rupert Lay and Augustinus Henckel von Donnersmarck for a public discussion sponsored by the Ronneburger Kreis. Rupert being a former Jesuit and heretic with problems when it comes to the system “church” and Augustinus being Prämonstratensian and a “church lobbyist”, Rupert the management coach and Augustinus the advisor of the German industry, that confrontation sounded like a good idea to me. The public discussion turned out to be a huge success and we had a nice presentation on “morals and ethics” with Augustin Henckel von Donnersmarck and Rupert Lay. Only the dispute we had hoped for never materialized. “Heretic and Lobbyist” were too much in agreement that the “system church” also has its drawbacks and that it is ethics that eventually make the necessary morals tolerable. Nevertheless it was a very informative meeting and having been there made me very happy.

Unfortunately, Augustinus Heinrich Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck died on August, 19th, 2005 in Duisburg, which means that I will never hear him speak again.

The aforementioned meeting was concluded by a beautiful Mozart evening sponsored by ICL. It was a real treat.

(translated by EG)

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