My house has been on fire twice. I’m not talking about the house I live in now in Green Bay’s Olde Preble neighborhood. I mean the house in Astor neighborhood where Tom and I raised our kids. That one’s in Green Bay’s historic district; the plaque from the National Register of Historic Places says it was built in 1917. Yeah, that one – twice on fire.
About a year ago a journalist I find most trustworthy recommended a book that seemed well suited to my unease about the direction our nation was headed. Fareed Zakaria pitched How Democracies Die by Steven Livitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. I read the book; it did not quell my fears for our country. In fact, it convinced me that our democracy might be in more serious danger than I’d first thought.
Hard to believe, but public speaking is still the #1 fear of American adults. Twenty-five percent still list this as their biggest fear – greater than their fear of heights, bugs, snakes, drowning, blood, needles, claustrophobia and flying. As one who has taught public speaking and done a lot of it herself, I can only conclude that people afraid of public speaking might overcome that fear simply by engaging in some good instruction and coaching.
But that’s not the kind of “speaking” to which I’m referring today.
At this time of year, I like to look back on the traffic to this web site and, more specifically, to the Speakeasy blog, and see what I can see. I think it’s fun to tell my readers in whose company they might have found themselves, were they able to look around and see other visitors. I also think it’s fun to know how many people shared their reading preferences.
It’s a fascinating story this year (at least it’s fascinating to me). I hope you enjoy a quick look back, this time over two years: 2017 and 2018.
What a breath of fresh air! A book in 2018 that has no political bent and no ax to grind. Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford doesn’t even claim these are the fifty most important inventions. He just treats us to a delightful history of fifty inventions and shows the undeniable impact each has had on today’s economy. Even if you’re not a student of the economy, it’s a fun read with no hidden agenda and no allegiance to any political party.
Probably not. But have we ever seen a period in our lifetime when more people hoped more fervently to change more minds – but were ever so nervous about trying to do so? Did you ever before walk on eggs like you’re walking on eggs now? Biting your tongue? Holding back with strangers – nice, friendly folk you genuinely like – because they might be “on the other side”? Carefully remembering not to tread on certain ground with family because one can never be sure who’s in what camp?
But, oh, how we’d like to change their minds! And how they’d like to change ours! In many cases, I think, we also long to change our own minds.
By Lynn Gerlach and Steve Leahy
We like to get together for coffee every few weeks and gripe about the state of the union, the pain of polarization, the danger to democracy, and the dearth of wise, open-minded leaders. We finally decided to do something positive about it: Together we assembled a list of thought leaders with whom we’d be willing to trust our democracy – with no concern for political affiliation or line of work. We simply listed individuals whose perspectives and judgments we’ve grown to trust, demonstrably respectable leaders who seem to us like true, loyal Americans. And then we invited America to weigh in.
Each week Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s Global Public Square, recommends another book for me to read. I listen to Fareed because I believe he is one of the smartest, most balanced and intellectually curious journalists of our time. Consequently, each week my reading list grows. When Fareed recommended How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, I moved it to the top of my list
If you’ve been producing events for a few years (conferences, conventions, annual meetings, colloquies, etc.) and you’ve started thinking about adding exhibitors to your event as a new revenue stream, may I share a little of my experience with you? As you might know, I’ve been working in the fund development space for a number of years now, helping nonprofits secure sponsors and exhibitors, teaching them how to nurture those relationships into long-term support. But my business, Tamarack Communication, works “across the aisle” as they say (but apparently don’t do) in our nation’s capital. By that I mean that I also represent for-profit corporations and companies that sell products and services to my nonprofit clients! Now, if that sounds a little like playing both ends against the middle, rest assured: It’s just the opposite.
Wednesday: Today a detective knocked on my door. What a thrill – a first for me. I had just finished reading Michael Connelly’s newest detective novel, The Late Show, so I was well prepared. When the man (dressed in shorts and tee shirt and wearing a baseball cap) introduced himself as Detective Someone from the Redmond Police, he immediately showed me first his wallet badge and then the badge clipped to his belt. I knew that was the right protocol, because, in The Late Show, Detective Renee Ballard always makes sure to show both of them right away. (See how my reading of contemporary fiction gives me context for real life challenges?)