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The Year in Resignations: 2012

Posted: 12/20/2012 3:15 pm

"I showed extremely poor judgement."

By far the most consequential resignation of 2012 was that of CIA Director David H. Petraeus. His formal resignation letter to the president was not made public, but Petraeus did write to his CIA colleagues: "Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life's greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end."

Here are highlights of other resignation letters that hit the news this year.

In January, a partner at the law firm of Sidley Austin resigned and sent a "departure memo" which read in part:

"I have realized that I cannot simultaneously meet the demands of career and family. Without criticizing those who have chosen lucre over progeny, let me just say that I am leaving the practice of law."

"My epiphany may have come a bit late as my youngest child -- I believe his name is Erik -- is 24. But as I always said after missing a filing deadline, better late than never."

"I have made friendships at Sidley that I will treasure well into the first quarter of 2012."

In February, Karen Handel resigned as senior vice president for public policy of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a week after the organization reversed itself on a decision to cease all grants to Planned Parenthood.

If the Komen board wanted to throw Handel under the bus, Handel didn't cooperate. Her resignation letter noted that the original decision was "made before I joined Komen," "fully vetted by every appropriate level in the organization" including the Board, and "no objections were made to moving forward." She accepted responsibility, but said the original decision "was the best one for Komen's future and the women we serve."

In March, a trader named Greg Smith left Goldman Sachs. His resignation letter appeared in the New York Times, launching a media frenzy (and undoubtedly helping him land a book deal).

"Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs," Smith wrote. "After almost 12 years at the firm... I can
honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it."

"I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors," he urged. "Make the client the focal point of your business again. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm."

And then he reached for a rather improbable sports analogy:

"My proudest moments in life -- getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics -- have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn't feel right to me anymore."

Smith's column launched a Darth Vader parody resignation letter:

"My proudest moments in life -- the pod race, being lured over to the Dark Side and winning a bronze medal for mind control ping-pong at the Midi-Chlorian Games -- known as the Jedi Olympics -- have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. The Empire today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about remote strangulation. It just doesn't feel right to me anymore."

In April, Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross resigned following a $200 million loss on the film John Carter. "I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me," he wrote.

In June, Peter Doyle resigned from the European Department of the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) in Washington, DC. "After twenty years of service," he wrote, "I am ashamed to have had any association with the Fund at all."

"This is not solely because of the incompetence that was partly chronicled into the OIA report into the global crisis and the TSR report on surveillance ahead of the Euro Area crisis. More so, it is because the substantive difficulties in these crises, as with others, were identified well in advance but were suppressed here."

Finally: "There are good salty people here. But this one is moving on. You might want to take care not to lose the others."

In July, an employee of a Chinese auto parts maker submitted a resignation letter that went viral. His reason for quitting:

"The factory is small and the women are few. It's too difficult to land a girlfriend here."

In the space on the form for the boss to sign off, his supervisor wrote:

"Don't blame others when you don't have game. It's your own fault you can't get a girl."

Chinese journalists debated the resignation letter's authenticity.

Also in July, author and journalist Jonah Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker after an article in Tablet magazine revealed that he had fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan. Stung, Houghton Mifflin recalled print copies of the book, Imagine: How Creativity Works.

In a statement Lehrer said, "The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers."

Progressive Boink published a parody resignation letter which read:

"So yeah, I resign. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, 'I, Jonah Lehrer, very much enjoyed writing for The New Yorker for the brief time that I was there as a full staff writer. I will now console myself with a giant pile of money in my enormous mansion. Seacrest out.'

The fake letter went on:

"That was in a love letter to Zelda that my grandfather recovered from the smoldering remains of Highland Hospital after Zelda's death. I had the only copy, but I dropped it between my fridge and the wall while I was making ants on a log the other day, so that's why nobody else has ever seen it."

In October, the chief whip to British Prime Minister, Andrew Mitchell, resigned after he was accused of calling police guarding Number 10 Downing Street "plebs." In British English "pleb" is used as a derogatory term for someone considered unsophisticated or uncultured. Public opinion polling showed most Britons saw Mitchell's word choice as an example that Tory MPs see themselves as better than ordinary people.

In a letter to his boss David Cameron, Mitchell wrote:

"I have made it clear to you -- and I give you my categorical assurance again -- that I did not, never have, and never would call a police officer a 'pleb' or a 'moron' or used any of the other pejorative descriptions attributed to me. The offending comment and the reason for my apology to the police was my parting remark 'I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us." It was obviously wrong of me to use such bad language and I am very sorry about it and grateful to the police officer for accepting my apology."

In November, a New York Jets fan known as "Fireman Ed" resigned, returning to his full-time role as a New York City firefighter. In a letter to the public at large, he explained:

"The fact that I chose to wear a Mark Sanchez jersey this year and that fans think I am on the payroll -- which is an outright lie -- have made these confrontations [with other Jets fans] more frequent. Whether it's in the stands, the bathroom or the parking lot, these confrontations are happening on a consistent basis. Although I can 'hold my own,' I do not want to lose my temper and make a stupid mistake. I have a responsibility to the families and kids that enjoy the game and Fireman Ed."

In closing:

"I will always love the Jets because they are in my heart, and I will attend games as usual, just not as Fireman Ed."

And in December, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice submitted a resignation letter for a job she was never offered.

"The position of secretary of state should never be politicized. As someone who grew up in an era of comparative bipartisanship and as a sitting U.S. national security official who has served in two U.S. administrations, I am saddened that we have reached this point, even before you have decided whom to nominate."

What was the most poignant resignation letter of the year? Former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords resigned from Congress on January 25, 2012, in a resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

"Amid all that was lost on January 8th," she wrote, "there was also hope and faith."

"This past year, it is what I have often clung to: Hope that our government can represent the best of a nation, not the worst. Faith that Americans working together -- in their communities, in our Congress -- can succeed without qualification. Hope and faith that even as we are set back by tragedy or profound disagreement, in the end we come together as Americans to set a course towards greatness."

"Every day, I am working hard. I will recover and will return."

 

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