Friday, October 27, 2017
In another era altogether the Church of Rome had a sacrament called “Confession”. They still have a form of this today, as does the Episcopal Church and other denominations, but the original version widely practiced in America is but a memory. And what a memory.
If you were a kid in the 1930s or 1940s “going to confession” hung over your head like a big, sharp ax. Individuals went into a dark confessional box to say aloud their transgressions before God. For youngsters in parochial schools there was no escape. The positions of parents back then were formidable. A youngster did not lie to his/her parents. (This was all before some families let their little darlings call mother or dad by their first names as in “Kay, what's for dinner tonight?” Or “Charlie, I have a big date tonight, can you give me a couple bucks?”) When a parent asked on Saturday night “did you go to confession?” there was no wiggle room.
All of which brings us to Harvey Weinstein.
Harvey has made it rough to be Jewish. But before we others could escape, along came the news of Bill O'Reilly paying out big dollars to settle sexual harassment suits brought by a number of women. So it was a tough day for wearing of the green too. Few of us who were past the age of reason at the time of the Communist infiltration hearings will ever forget the distinguished lawyer, Joseph P. Welsh, challenging the dreaded Senator McCarthy. 'Have you no decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?” A good question to put to Harvey, O'Reilly and the other power people who demean, or try to demean, women.
“Confession is good for the soul” the saying goes. But high ticket lawyers and platoons of PR people cannot make a case for the guilty. Perhaps we need to bring back the old days of the dark confessional box and all its sweat-inducing anxiety to force genuine contrition from perpetrators. Short of that every mother's son, husband and brother of decent women should stand up and say we are not going to allow sexual harassment to continue. Ever.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
On our way into the supermarket the other day, I past a man wearing a Cavalry insignia on his ball cap. “Thank you for your service,” I said. Later when I passed him again while walking the eternal aisles, he asked me, “Were you in?” I replied, “Yes, a long time ago, Korea.” He said “Oh, Korea is not that long ago. If you said World War Two, that would have been a long time ago.”
Well Korea was a long time ago, and I have the knees and back to prove it. 1950 seems like forever ago to me, as I'm sure it does to a lot of other men and women of my generation. However, that long ago, which was not so long ago to my younger friend, reminded me of our shortcomings when it comes to public awareness of history, geography, and most especially our national heritage. One survey showing that 20% of our citizenry were unsure of whether we cut the cord from Great Britain in 1776 or some other country, including Afghanistan.
There is much to be learned about these United States of American, past, present and future. This task might well be overwhelming. It might be best to look at things in bite size portions. World War II the most horrific of our many wars is a good starting point. So what do you know about WASPs? That's right, WASPs. Not the White Anglo Saxon Protestants, formerly so much in vogue along Philadelphia's Main Line and other bastions of Ye Olde Guarde. Nor are we focusing on that insect with the terrible sting. Ours is another WASP – the Women Airforce Service Pilots – largely unheralded in their own time and virtually unknown to the several generations that followed.
Your mother or grandmother can probably tell you about Rosie the Riveter and the important role women played in substituting for male factory workers called to uniform during that wartime. But they may have less information about the women who substituted for the pilots bound for combat. This was the unique role played by a thousand women who tested experimental military aircraft, towed targets for ammunition practice and shuttled fighter planes and flying officers across the USA. 38 of these WASPs lost their lives in service to their country. Only a few years ago did Congress finally authorize veteran status to these valiant women.
Now there are less than 100 former WASP pilots remaining. A memorial to them is being put in place at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. It's an exciting story to read. Go to: www.waspmuseum.org
Thursday, October 5, 2017
“You never know”. How many times have I used that cliché? How many times have you? Still the question fits perfectly with our state of mind when we are shocked. “What happened in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas” is another cliché. Except that the murder of dozens of innocents and the injuries of hundreds more should not have happened in Las Vegas or anywhere else.
Hard on the heels of that insanity came the news that my longtime associate, Peter Giuliano, died unexpectedly from a heart attack. Peter and I had not seen each other for years, but he was never far from my mind. He was successful, a leader, with decades of promise left in his outstanding career. But you never know.
30 or 40 years ago I received a phone call from Dr. Virginia Miles, the highly respected pioneer in breaking the glass ceiling for women in advertising. Nobody in their right mind would fail to take a call from Virginia. And I didn't. She told me about a neighbor, a young man she said had extraordinary talent, but had not found the right niche in his professional life. Would I interview him and see if he would be right for our business of coaching executives for public speaking, leading stockholder meetings and the whole range of communications challenges that face those in the leadership suite. Done and done.
Peter was trained for the stage. His hard working mother sacrificed everything to insure he was given the best of acting classes, voice lessons, every aspect of preparation for the footlights. I thought at the time, and still do, that he was a youngish John Barrymore. Some aspects of this flair had to be tempered in our business where we were more “coach” than “performer”. His other gifts were extraordinarily well suited for client companies just as they were. Peter had an uncanny ability to “read” his audiences, small or large. Only then would he move into racing gear. I think of one assignment in a Philadelphia hotel ballroom where he spoke to 1200 elevator repairmen. He received a standing ovation! We sent him to Sweden to work with an engineering firm. He turned that small bit of business into a giant money maker.
And that magnificent singing voice! When Joan and I were married, I asked him to sing “Danny Boy” at our reception. It wasn't just the bride and groom crying that day.
While it is quite true that we never know when tragedy will come into our lives, there are other times when we will know it full well. Peter, with his larger than life personality, was first and foremost a loving father to his daughter, his sons and the four lights of his life grandchildren. Now their unspeakable loss will eventually settle in side by side with the certain knowledge that Peter loved each of them beyond words.
That they will ever know.