Making My Mark

By J. F. McKenna

“Get it right. Write it tight. Make it bright. And make it march.” – Randal Brown, The Cleveland News 

My first mark as a journalist started in 1967. Under the headline Don’t Deny Vaccine to Victims of Cancer, here’s what I wrote to the editors of The Cleveland Press:

There has recently been great controversy over the Rand vaccine. In my opinion no court should take the smallest flame of hope from a victim of cancer.

If put in a position like this, the chance of life with this drug is worth it.

With the words of victims of cancer who have taken the drug and improved, how can a court of law, in a land of democracy, stand in the way of people who deserve the right to live? As the words of these men and women ring loud in our ears, why do we stand and watch this happen? Life is a precious gift.

JOSEPH McKENNA, 13, St.  Ignatius School

On a dreary Saturday morning in 1967, a photographer called our house to set up a picture of me. My Mother told the shooter to give me two hours; then she sent me to the barbershop for a haircut. The fine fellow showed up in the early afternoon— with a request for a prop I could hold. In the years to follow, I heard similar requests from other photographers. But on that dreary Saturday long ago, the shooter was delighted to borrow my Aunt Ceal’s collection of rare coins.

My short article, with accompanying photograph, appeared in the following Wednesday edition of the afternoon newspaper.

The very next day, I was a very local celeb. Even the good Sisters of St. Joseph had seen it. Sister Michelene, in fact, wanted me to read it to the class; I declined. (I wasn’t being modest. I was simply not in love with my voice.) Joe Ahern took up the reading while I sat in my discomfort.

Nine years later—after several other opportunities to display my writing skills in public—I was working for the Universe Bulletin and its sister publications in Ohio. In that 13-year newsroom apprenticeship, I often heard Russ Faist sing out a journalistic that saw. He himself had learned it from Brown at the old Cleveland News, which died in 1960. The lesson, like all of Russ’ lessons and kindnesses, has stuck with me and has been passed on many times to other wordsmiths looking to sharpen their work.

Likewise, many of my so-called graduate classes came courtesy of Stan Modic, a magazine editor whose broad vision for business and industry never deterred him from his primary desire to get the best story possible for the reader. Underneath his outwardly gruff handling of staff writers and editors lay a genuine caring about the stories featured in print and about the folks he directed to fashion those stories. (SeeStan Modic: Guardian Angel and One Hell of a Journalist.)

All in all, I have had a great time practicing journalism over these many years—starting with that letter to the editor and continuing today with Cleveland Business Review, the brain child of my friend Doug Magill. Not only is Doug a smart, innovative businessman but he’s a good friend.

My 50th anniversary reunion of the old eighth-grade class is coming up soon. I’m in Pittsburgh and going to miss it. Hope this will serve as an RSVP.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their Papillions, Lord Max and Prince Teddy. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

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Intellectuals Need Not Apply

By J.F. McKenna

Dwight D. Eisenhower once called the intellectual a man who “takes more words than is necessary to tell more than he knows.” The wise people of this nation know that today just as sure as their parents and grandparents knew that in the1950’s.

Myself, I was a mere tadpole in 1954. But my family was wary of showoffs who “used more words than necessary.” That was what I inherited from my mother, father, and the rest of the family. Tell people what you know—then shut up. Even though everybody was a Democrat in those days, they liked Ike, as did a hell of a lot of the nation. Not merely tested by World War II, he was a big factor in winning it.

Back in 1954, when he gave a speech on the Cleveland municipal tarmac in October, leadership was all demonstration. No rhetoric was involved.

“Two years ago,” said Eisenhower, the retired five-star general and supreme commander, “we voted for a very great change. And I think it would be well to take just a few moments to recall to ourselves what was the change we wanted.

“First, we wanted clean Government. We were tired of hearing the word ‘Communist’ every time it was mentioned being called a red herring. We were tired of scandals in the Internal Revenue department, and other places of Government. We wanted clean Government.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there has been no single appointee of this administration who has been confirmed by the Senate who has later been charged with any kind of wrongdoing, dismissed from the service, or indicted. They have a record of spotless integrity in your service.

“Throughout the Government, from top to bottom, there has been applied a security program, a security program that is tough and thorough, but is absolutely fair. No man can say that his civil rights have been unjustly damaged through the operation of that security program.

“And then we wanted prosperity. And we wanted prosperity in a world at peace. We wanted an end to the Korean war. The Korean war, with its futile casualty lists and loss of Americans, has been ended. And following that war, measures were instantly instituted to see that this country should pass from war production to peace production without the terrifying depressions that have always characterized such transitions in the past. This has been done.

“First we started out and we removed controls from the economy. Do you remember when we said we were going to take off price controls? And the prophets of gloom stated-they said that prices would go out of sight, that food prices, clothing prices, rents, would be impossible for the average citizen? We proved they were wrong.

“The money policies of the Government have been adjusted to our needs,” continued Ike. There has been a vast extension of the social security system, for old age pensions, for unemployment insurance. A housing program has been established that makes certain that every American can have a good home.”

The new President reminds me of Ike. What do you think?

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dogs, Lord Max and Prince Teddy. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com

I Had a Secret, You Did Too

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to seized.  – Amendment IV

Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives. – President Ronald Reagan

By J.F. McKenna

 

The National Security Agency, founded in 1952, “intentionally and routinely intercepted and reviewed communications of American citizens in violation of the Constitution and of court-ordered guidelines.” Much of it happened during the Obama regime.

Andrew C. McCarthy, writing in the National Review, detailed this mess: “The unlawful surveillance appears to have been a massive abuse of the government’s foreign-intelligence-collection authority, carried out for the purpose of monitoring the communications of Americans in the United States. While aware that it was going on for an extensive period of time, the administration failed to disclose its unlawful surveillance of Americans until late October 2016, when the administration was winding down and the NSA [National Security Agency] needed to meet a court deadline in order to renew various surveillance authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“The administration’s stonewalling about the scope of the violation induced an exasperated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to accuse the NSA of “an institutional lack of candor” in connection with what the court described as “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.” (The court is the federal tribunal created in 1978 by FISA; it is often referred to as a ‘secret court’ because proceedings before it are classified and ex parte — meaning only the Justice Department appears before the court.) The FISA-court opinion is now public…. The unlawful surveillance was first exposed in a report at Circa by John Solomon and Sara Carter, who have also gotten access to internal, classified reports. The story was also covered extensively Wednesday by James Rosen and Bret Baier on Fox News’s Special Report.

“According to the internal reports reviewed by Solomon and Carter, the illegal surveillance may involve more than 5 percent of NSA searches of databases derived from what is called ‘upstream’ collection of Internet communications. As the FISA court explains, upstream collection refers to the interception of communications ‘as they transit the facilities of an Internet backbone.’”

Did I mention that FISA got its start in 1952—244 years after the Constitution was adopted by a required ninth state, New Hampshire?

Did I also mention the National Security Agency plans to “delete the vast majority of its upstream internet data to further protect the privacy of U.S. person communications.”

“If men were angels,” James Madison said, “no government would be necessary.” Did I mention that men aren’t angels—and never will be?

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dogs, Lord Max and Prince Teddy. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com

 

My Father’s Gifts

by Doug Magill

You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love.  You have to deserve your father’s.  Robert Frost

It is Easter, and it is also the 100th anniversary of my Father’s birth.  The juxtaposition of the two is a solemn reminder of what I owe to those that I call Father: God for the birth and death of his Son, and to Dad, for all that he has given me.

It is hard to imagine Dad as 100, both because it is not the memory I have of him, nor the image.  As I grow older, the image seems to loom larger.  My own mortality seems to be growing larger behind me, and I have deeper thoughts these days about what I have been given, and what I have in turn bequeathed to those who follow me.

My oldest son and his wife are recent parents.  It is an amazing thing to become a grandfather, and its place among the hallowed moments of life is a blessing, and a clarion call to look at what has been provided and shared.

My father wasn’t big on gifts, though he did surprise me upon occasion with something special, and thoughtful.  As I write this there is a cabinet in my office he unexpectedly gave me to house the radio and music equipment I was either building or repairing in my nerd days when I was young.  He loved that I could do things with electronics that he couldn’t fathom,.  It reminds me of him every day.

Yet, the most important gifts are those that have no place, but yet an enormous presence in our lives.

Dad grew up poor, in the outlands of Indiana.  One of those places the sneering classes along our coasts fly over regularly without a thought of who those sturdy, hard-working and essential people are.  His parents went broke in the Great Depression and he had to live with relatives.  An embarrassment that stung him till his last days.  If one could guess where his drive, ambition to succeed and pragmatism came from it is that place and that searing shame.

He worked his way through college and then law school.  It is astonishing to think that he believed that a poor man’s son from Indiana could go to, and thrive at Harvard Law School.  Yet, he believed, and though he had to borrow money to make it work he graduated with honors and a belief that he could make a difference.  In those days there were not a lot of young men from Indiana at such places.

My father found employment at a bank and felt that would provide him a secure future. World War II intervened, and he felt the call of duty to his country.  He knew so little about the Navy, having never been in anything larger than a rowboat,  that he went to a recruiter hoping to be a petty officer.  The recruiter was astonished and convinced him that with a law degree the Navy could use him as an officer.  So, without training and little more than the Bluejacket’s Manual he was sent to Hawaii to serve in Naval Intelligence.

He later served in combat as Director of Fighter Operations aboard an aircraft carrier, learning to become Officer of the Deck during sea operations.  Something that amused him greatly given his lack of any previous maritime experience.

His career took him to a bank, then the Treasury department and eventually to General Motors.  He was a liberal then, I suppose, as he wasn’t sure he wanted to work for a corporation and be told what kind of car to drive.  As he rose in the hierarchy of GM he learned about politics and government, and became more conservative as he was exposed to the often corrupt connections between unions, government and the hypocrisy of politicians who espoused sympathy and altruism while mainly benefiting themselves.

Somewhere early in his life  he learned to be objective and steely-eyed about people, and developed an ability to work with those around him, no matter who they might be.  He never made racial jokes and believed, as perhaps only a failed farmer’s son could, that most people wanted to work and thrive, and the rest didn’t matter much.

He was tasked with forming the first organization in any major corporation focused on dealing with the ever -increasing power and regulation of government.  He called it Industry-Government Relations and it is common today, though many companies now follow practices he first established.

As his responsibilities grew, so did his department.  He hired a young executive to manage urban affairs – the relationship between GM and city and local governments. This young man also happened to be black and was one of the first minority executives in the auto industry.

In those days the GM building was across the street from the Fisher Building, and through an underground tunnel most GM execs would walk to lunch at an exclusive club in that building.  They would also hold events there and used it for special meetings.

Unfortunately that club didn’t allow minority members.  My father was astonished, annoyed and then angry.  He went – without authorization – to the board of the club and demanded that they admit his young executive or he would withdraw all GM business from the club.  GM was the majority of its customers, and they knew that they would be out of business if they didn’t have GM members.  They relented, and my father’s protege became the first minority member of that club, and indeed of just about any club in Detroit in those days.

Dad didn’t often talk about his role in things, or why this moment was so important.  He believed with every fiber of his being that a black man trying to make his way in business deserved the same consideration as any other young man.

Attitude and actions, he would tell me, are what really defines you as a man, and as a leader.  He didn’t preach about equality, or about minorities or about any career issues related to race or any of the other identity-politics buzzwords popular today.  His view was simple and direct: if you wanted to work hard, learn and grow, you deserved an opportunity.

My family grew up with that.  It was so much more effective than preaching and histrionics and fake anger that my siblings and I inculcated it without thinking or worrying about it.

That gift of seeing people as they are, without labels and adjectives and the panoply of mystic prisms that we are being told these days to evaluate people by is a gift.  A priceless one, and the source of great pride and honor among friends.

It has always been with me – this ability to see people for who they are.  I learned it well. There are many examples, but I recall one young manager who worked for me being dumbfounded that, after working for me for years, I didn’t realize he was Jewish.

More recently, I was blessed to be on a radio show with several friends: two gifted young men and a young woman.  I was the DOWG – the Designated Old White Guy – who didn’t know much about current musical trends and taste.  My proclamations, questions and confusion made for much hilarity among my partners on air, yet it made for good radio.

I am especially proud that we would occasionally get calls from middle-aged black people talking about that “cool white dude” and how he was the only non-racist Republican they knew.

There are many things that I know and respect about Darvio, one of my on-air partners. He is big, impressive, hard-working, smart, knowledgeable, loyal, bombastic, thoughtful……there are more.  Oh yeah, he’s black.

Andre is charismatic, creative, clever, funny, deep and eloquent – despite the Dali-esque things he does on top of his head with his hair.  Yep, he’s black too.

Friends don’t have labels.  And that is the most important part.

When I think of these two incredible young men I think of them as friends.  Not as black friends.  I suspect they think of me without adjectives too, though they might attach some other interesting labels to me at times.

But I know this – if I needed their help or for them to have my back they would be there instantly, without question, and with the immediate loyalty of long-time friends.  That’s who they are, and it matters a lot more than an adjective that has little meaning other than an indication of appearance.  Not who they are.

We don’t often deserve the gifts that we receive.  Certainly the gift that Christ gave us with his death is beyond comprehension, and we are all humbled by the majesty of that sacrifice.

The gifts that my father gave me are humbling as well.  I am better for them, and I hope that some day, some way, that my children will be blessed by them as well.

Today I honor my father for who he was, and what he has left me.  When I think of my children and their children, I pray that what they feel they have received from me is equally important.  And, what I will be remembered for.

 

Doug Magill is a City Councilman for Solon, Ohio, a voice-over talent, freelance writer, a former IT executive and consultant on organizational change and communications.  You can reach him at doug@magillmedia.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the Same Old Timetables

by J.F. McKenna

The other day I mentioned to my father-in-law that the general advancements in advertising—the speed of delivery in particular—haven’t done much to improve advertising in general, much to my regret and others. I myself have engaged in advertising at times, and I figured I’d find a sympathetic ear with dear old dad. I did. He chimed in with, “Yeah, Joe, advertising is instantly worldwide now, but it doesn’t sell any better than it did 40, 50, or 60 years ago.”

That got me to thinking about Daniel Joseph Boorstin and some of his historical scholarship from 40-plus years past. In 1975 I was a newly minted Kent State graduate, with a newspaper job in Cleveland to go along with my journalism major and a history minor. Boorstin himself was a well-established historian and a 1974 Pulitzer winner for his latest book. Moreover, Boorstin was a grand critic of advertising from as early as 17th century England: “Never was there a more outrageous or more unscrupulous or more ill-informed advertising campaign than that by which the promoters for the American colonies brought settlers here.”

With a distinguished pedigree that included Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, Boorstin was named the 12th Librarian of Congress in 1975 and served in that role until 1987; he died in 2004 but lives on in his books and other writing—not just about advertising but about history, canned food, and air conditioning.

As newsman Wayne Green wrote almost three years ago, “Boorstin came to believe that the central features of American history were to be found in what the nation agreed on, not what was fought over. There were disagreements in American history, as Boorstin saw it, but they were within a narrower range than we see in Europe (no royalists, no real socialists) because there is a greater reserve of mutual assumptions in the American experience. This made him a leading light in the so-called Consensus School of history writing and put him in contrast to the Progressives of an earlier era–Fredrick Jackson Turner, Charles Beard, and Vernon Parrington.”

Green also noted: “Rather than looking for revolutionary changes, Boorstin emphasized the continuities of American history. Boorstin was distrustful of doctrinaire thinking. As an undergraduate he toyed with Communism and eventually rejected it soundly. In his histories, he minimalized the role of thinkers, and emphasized the role of problem-solvers. Boorstin was conservative in his politics and his approach to culture. He had disdain for canon-bursting ideas, such as minority study programs. He was a capitalist. He was repulsed by the vulgarities of American life and advertising.”

In his Timetables of History, published in 1975, Boorstin wrote about how the “historian’s neat categories parse experience in ways never found among living people. For people in the past, just as for us, experience has had no academic neatness.” For instance, the Declaration of Independence was issued in the same year as Gibbon’sDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. And to facts like that, Boorstin warns, “We must therefore be wary of assuming that because different events occurred in the same year they were known to contemporaries at the same time.”

The flood—a deluge today, actually—“of confused contemporaneity has itself become a dominant and bewildering feature of life in our time,” adds Boorstin.

If you don’t believe him, just watch five minutes of advertising on TV or the Web.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their Papillions, Lord Max and Prince Teddy. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

A Judicial Valentine

By J.F. McKenna

President Donald Trump got a jump on Cupid this year, handing America a Valentine in the person of a federal judge with, as the Associated Press notes, “a writer’s flair and polished legal pedigree.” The President’s intention is to send him to the Supreme Court to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, who died February 13, 2016.

Like Justice Scalia, Judge Neil Gorsuch is not only a writer with flair and an enviable legal background but a jurist for whom the terms “textualist” and “originalist” are no strangers. Having served on the 10thCircuit Court of Appeals since 2006, Judge Gorsuch called his nomination “a most solemn assignment.”

“It is the rule of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives,” the judge said at President Trump’s announcement Tuesday. “A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge.”

All in all, quite a judicial Valentine, don’t you think?

Of course, given the sore-loser approach of Senate Democrats, this Valentine in 2017 could translate into a pre-Thanksgiving pink slip in 2018 for Sherrod Brown. The senior Ohio senator’s vote on the Gorsuch confirmation might be a nail in Brown’s political coffin, especially to voters who passed on the donkey for the elephant in 2016.

As soon as the Gorsuch pick was known, Brown announced his opposition. He declared the nominee to be “far outside of the judicial mainstream,” with rulings that deem corporations are people, are hostile toward anti-discrimination and criminal justice protections, and oppose women’s rights to basic healthcare at places like Planned Parenthood. “The people of Ohio deserve Supreme Court justices who will defend the rights of working families over Wall Street and corporate special interests – and Judge Gorsuch’s record doesn’t pass that test,” said a statement from Brown.

Memo to Senator Brown: It’s not too late to change your mind and vote in favor of the 49-year-old from Denver.

As Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said, “His academic record, his background are extraordinary,” Cruz said. “He was a law clerk to Byron White, who is John F. Kennedy’s only Supreme Court nomination – he was a Democrat himself, Byron White – and Judge Gorsuch’s record is such that he has demonstrated the intelligence, the humility, the faithfulness to law that I think Republicans are going to vote for, but I also hope and believe a number of Democrats will as well.”

More important, Senator Cruz vowed that Senate Democrats would not be able to derail Gorsuch’s nomination, telling Fox News that “one way or another, I believe the Senate will confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”

To non-lawyers like me, Gorsuch is right in the mold of Antonin Scalia. The first Italian-American to sit on the Supreme Court, Antonin Gregory Scalia embraced an originalist, or textualist, approach to his decision-making.

“The Constitution,” Scalia declared, “is not an organism. It means today what it meant when it was adopted.”  See https://clevelandbusinessreview.org/2016/02/14/a-man-of-words-a-man-of-law/ .

In time Justice Gorsuch will be a “lion of the law,” just as Gorsuch called Scalia.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their Papillions, Lord Max and Prince Teddy. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

 

With Legitimacy Come Facts

 

By J.F. McKenna

Rep. John Lewis has been leading Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1968. He has also been called “the conscience of the Congress.” But the long-time civil rights veteran has allowed his past victories and experiences to cloud his judgment about Donald Trump and constitutional genius.

“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Rep. Lewis said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

I’m sure Lewis, the son of sharecroppers, heard demeaning comments about legitimacy during his days when Freedom Riders challenged the segregated facilities they encountered at interstate bus terminals in the South. As noted, Lewis has seen a lot in his 77 years.

Pressed on why he believes Trump’s presidency is illegitimate, Lewis told NBC: “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

As The Hill reported, “Trump acknowledged this week that Russia was responsible for some hacking during the campaign, though the president-elect and many on his team assert that it had no affect on election results.”

Those results get confirmed Friday when Trump becomes the 45th President.

Which speak to the genius of our nation, as James Madison notes in Federalist 39: “The proposed Constitution, therefore, is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.”

 

J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

 

Bloviating Is So Last Year

“Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership.” – James C. Humes

Jamie Humes should know. He has written for Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. Frankly, no matter what you think about that list itself, each man on it was certainly auditioning for leadership at a particular moment—and certainly auditioning for Clio’s approval at that moment and moments to come.

As writer, historian, and public speaker Humes opens his 2002 book, Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln, “Leadership is selling. And selling is talking.” To repeat myself, he should know. And many ghostwriters, myself included, appreciate Humes’ sharing of the 21 powerful secrets of history greatest speakers.

I also appreciate the vignettes Humes shared throughout the book—particularly one featuring the thoughts of The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. In the chapter titled Power Button, Humes relates a discussion with speechwriter Tony Dolan about Reagan’s aversion to bloviating.

Dolan shook his head, saying, “The governor doesn’t like that kind of thing. He thinks it sounds like Senator Claghorn.” (Claghorn was a comical windbag politician on the Fred Allen radio show in the 1940s.) And it’s true, if you lard your talks with phrases like “so, my fellow citizens,” or “and so, ladies and gentlemen,” you might sound like some state senator bloviating at a county fair.

Reagan had his own test for a talk. He would imagine the way he’d talk to his barber, Jack, in Santa Barbara. He liked language that you would use in talking at the kitchen table or over the back fence.

Might be an idea for the new presidential entourage come January: a no-bloviating zone. The Donald and his underlings might want to read Reagan In His Own Hand, which was published about the same time as Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln.

The book, with a foreword by George P. Schultz, proves that the former President was not the simpleton that liberal detractors made him out to be. Schultz, who served as Reagan’s secretary of state, writes:

Reading through the essays in this book, I thought about all the times I had been with him when he spoke without notes or briefings, forcefully and clearly spelling out what would be the policy positions of the United States. Somehow he always seemed to know what to say.

To many people, President Reagan was a mystery….

The answer to that mystery may lie in these essays, which were written well before he became President. Apparently, even then, he knew quite a bit.

The new President will do well too, I suspect.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. While at IndustryWeek magazine in the early ‘90s, he wrote a series on Total Quality Government and chaired TQG conferences across the country. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com

An Essayist? Yes, I Make an Attempt

Just as Richard Todd writes in Good Prose, “I awoke one morning to discover I was an essayist.”  Nearly six years after accepting an invitation from Doug Magill to write an occasional “piece” for his online site, Cleveland Business Review, I make the same discovery. I am addicted to crafting essays on business, politics, literature—fearlessly repeating E.M. Forester’s quote “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” After all, insists Todd in the 2013 book he wrote with Tracy Kidder, “Essayists tend to argue with themselves. The inner dialogue that might be suppressed in other writing finds a forum here. Montaigne blessed the form when he said, ‘If I knew my own mind, I would not make essays. I would make decisions.’”
Not only did Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) bless the form but the French writer expressed “subjective reflections on topics such as religion, education, friendship, love, and freedom,” according to the website bio. He called these original works essais—that is, “attempts” in French. And a new literary genre was born, the essay. By the year 1588, Montaigne had a third volume of essays in print, with such tidbits as “Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know” and “I quote others only in order the better to express myself.” The popularity of the essay has never waned since.
“Essays are self-authorizing,” write Kidder and Todd in the chapter dedicated solely to essays. “This is the dilemma but also the pleasure of the form. The chances are that nobody asked for your opinion. But if your idea is fresh, it will surprise even someone, perhaps an assigning editor, who did ask.” Moreover, the Kidder-Todd collaboration adds, “just as no word has an exact synonym, no idea can be exactly paraphrased.” And further, the Pulitzer-winning writer of The Soul of a New Machine and his patient longtime editor insist that the “essayist’s relationship with the reader depends, as always, on mutual trust, but trust of a special kind. In the essay, trust in the author and disagreement with the author can coexist.”
That’s what Doug Magill believes too. That’s why he created Cleveland Business Review in 2011 and invited folks like me to write for it. Doug, whom I met when I was adding a bit of business to the culture of Northern Ohio Live magazine in 2005, was an entrepreneur with an impressive business past. At the time, along with Paul DeLuca and Kathleen Haley, he was promoting Cleveland Business Radio on WERE-1300.
With 40 years of reporting experience behind me, I was—and remain—eager to attach my byline to stories, especially about business management. My first CBR article reflected on “talking” with Silent Cal Coolidge’s statue when I was on assignment for Industry Week magazine in the early ‘90s. President Coolidge had a penchant for what I call MBSOOTW—Management By Staying Out Of the Way. It’s a lesser-known corollary to Management By Walking Around. MBSOOTW keeps politicians and policy wonks from tinkering with market economics. If you haven’t already noticed, many pols and wonks resemble 13-year-old Monopoly addicts buying Park Place with brightly colored but wholly worthless money. Decades ago, Calvin Coolidge summed up his economic philosophy with this axiom: “The business of America is business.” He backed up those six words with restraint.
As you can see, classic business lessons are what I have traded in. Classic leadership lessons as well. To Peter Drucker’s way of thinking, the true leader is the exceptional musician who knows how to create great music, but does not delude himself into thinking that he’s the whole band. Further, Drucker argued that exceptional leaders—think those in the category of Lincoln or Churchill—understand “leadership as responsibility rather than as rank and privilege,” offering this illustration: “Effective leaders are rarely ‘permissive.’ But when things go wrong—and they always do—they do not blame others….Harry Truman’s folksy ‘The buck stops here’ is still as good a definition as any.”
And, on occasion, lessons on great messaging—from the classic essayist E.B. White to the contemporary master Arthur Plotnik. “With…readers drawn to ever-new distractions, who can afford a writing-as-usual attitude?” asks the author of the journalistic classic The Elements of Editing. “Not creative writers, not journalists, copywriters, or corporate communicators. Nor can writing students gear up in all the old ways. Even bloggers, even Match.com troubadours, must realize that in today’s forest an undistinguished post falls soundlessly.”
Hallelujah! say I. (Particularly in the last few years I haven’t seen so much settled content since my days as a bulk-buyer of generic mac-n-cheese dinner. My family, friends, and colleagues—savvy media consumers all—share that sentiment, if not my preference for the perfect entree.) With no slight at all to the use of middle-of-the-road grammar, Plotnik constructs a compelling 275-page case to the message-makers “whose composition skills compare with the next writer’s, but who itch for creative ideas, smart locutions, and realistic takes on language for today’s media.”
Whether the topic is writing, business, politics, family, or plain nonsense, E.B. White is right—“Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.” In the contemporary world of words, E.B. White is the gold standard; the rest of us are just filling in the spaces in between. Yet we all know that each of us—including those who craft ideas for Cleveland Business Review—is, to quote White, a “self-liberated man.”
Contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in neighboring Steeler Country with their dog, Lord Max. whose pointed ears are greatly loved.. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

Fashioning a Crusade for the Fairer Sex

When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different. George Santayana

By Doug Magill

In the days following the election one of the fascinating themes coming from the need-to-be-committed Democrats is that Hillary Clinton lost the election because she is a woman.  The Democrats’ rant is that there is so much sexism in our society that a woman cannot be elected President.

Some of our crestfallen media have pursued this line of reasoning with vigor, and it crops up randomly from otherwise intelligent women on Facebook and in the loony left Internet media.  It’s one of the more stubborn ideas to come out of this election.

The line of reasoning, I suppose, is that like all else in the realms of politics, education, business and media there should be privileged classes and they need to have their turn.  We had a black President so now we should have a female one; later on, we will need to have a Hispanic one and maybe then a transgendered one, or at least a homosexual one.  Sort of a checklist of the currently fashionable parade of the perpetually aggrieved; by designating success for their representatives, we can eliminate perceived discrimination.

Something like that.  But logic doesn’t always seem to be a necessary component of such things.

However, if one were to spend any time with a gathering of conservatives and ask about, say, Margaret Thatcher, there would be instant agreement about her leadership, toughness, vision and success.  And, of course, her integral role in winning the Cold War with Ronald Reagan.  The same would be true of Golda Meir and her ability to navigate the complex and contentious politics of the Knesset while winning a war.  And our conservative Indian friends would have great compliments about Indira Gandhi.

Those of us who study history have great admiration for strong women leaders throughout history –  including Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hatshepsut, Isabella and Catherine the Great.

Today the Republican Party lays claim to some of the most prominent female leaders throughout our country:   Kelly Ayotte, Nicki Haley, Joni Ernst, Sarah Palin, Susana Martinez, Marsha Blackburn, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Carly Fiorina, Mia Love and Ohio’s own Mary Taylor.      There are a significant number of capable women in the halls of Congress, all of the state houses, and in established and startup businesses.

The problem with conflating Hillary’s defeat with the status of women is not complex: Hillary was a disastrous choice as a Presidential nominee.  Narcissistic, corrupt, dishonest and unwilling to act as a leader rather than a scold, she was thoroughly unlikeable and a vapid and boring campaigner.  Even now she is pointing fingers in every direction but her own for her failure, and most analysts are breathing a sigh of relief that she is soon to be exiled from the body politic.

A recent Pew Research study showed a large majority of Americans accept the idea of a female Chief Executive.  In fact, one recent study showed more men than women are indifferent to the sex of their leader.  The same study showed that political party was more important that sex in determining who to vote for.  The results of the election show that while the country may be ready for a female leader, it isn’t Hillary.

No conservative organization I know of doesn’t have women involved or in leadership roles, which are never a topic of discussion relative to their sex.  We have absolutely no doubt that women can lead local, state and federal organizations all the way up to and including President.

The deep and abiding problem for Democrats is their constant lurch leftward, leaving them with marginal ideological candidates for leadership roles, such as the ever-partisan Nancy Pelosi and the demagogic Elizabeth Warren.  It is even worse when one looks to the ranks of Democrats that could normally be expected to be rising and assuming prominence.

Eight years of the always-about-me Barak Obama have left the party in shambles.  His legacy is the worst party infrastructure since Reconstruction.  When he took office the Democrats had large majorities in both houses of Congress, 29 governorships and control of 27 state houses.   Today it holds only 18 governorships, and 12 state legislatures and neither house of Congress.  The raw numbers are staggering: Under Obama Democrats have lost over 900 state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats and 13 Senate positions.  Adding insult to injury, Republicans took decisive control of the Kentucky State Senate for the first time in 91 years.

It is a Republican America and the media ensconced comfortably in New York and Washington have failed to notice, with a few notable exceptions.  CNN’s Amanda Carpenter commented “Who thought Obama’s legacy would be the destruction of the Democratic Party?”  She even tweeted about Hillary being the worst candidate in modern history.

The Democrat Party is seemingly intent on a massive flameout as they are considering the radically left-wing Keith Ellison to chair the DNC.  One of the few people in the world that could possibly make Debbie Wasserman-Schultz look competent.

President-elect Trump has clarified a movement in the Republican Party that most prominent members didn’t acknowledge.  He has also caused an enormous fissure in the Democrat Party that may take years to resolve.  If they continue to fully embrace radical progressivism, they may in fact cease to be credible.

Women in leadership are an integral part of the Republican Party, and it is highly probable that soon we will see a female President.  A Republican one.

By the way, did someone mention recently that Ivanka Trump will be taking a prominent role in her father’s administration?

 

Doug Magill is the Communications Director for the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County, a consultant, city councilman, freelance writer and voice-over talent.  He can be reached at doug@magillmedia.net.