Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My "Personal" letters from former Presidents.

Just got this "personal" letter from George Bush, did you get one, too?

Reminds me of what happened back in 1973 when I lived in Wichita, Kansas and what first got me involved in politics that fall. It took more than a letter, but my becoming a Republican wouldn't have happened with it.

Back then I was suffering through one of my two or three biggest business mistakes. I owned a small wholesale distribution business that was getting smaller and smaller, until it went away in that fall and I retreated to graduate business school.

My neighbor Bill was very active in the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and in politics.

So when I got a letter from the White House, a small envelope marked "personal" and adressed to me from then President Nixon and signed by him personally (!) I figured Bill must have put him up to it.

The letter explained that I'd been identified as one of the leading new business people in the country, that President Nixon was putting together a re-election effort, and that he was writing to see if I'd be willing to help. Me! Help! The President!

Of course I'd be willing to help. So I did as instructed, filled out the invitation with the one or two items of information that the President's staff hadn't been able to find in their research of my backgroud, I figured, and took the letter to the post office to get it back to Washington ASAP. Washington!

I imagined the next step would probably be a trip back to Washington, a personal chat with the President, being introduced around, no telling what they might want me to do during the campaign. Great!

A week or so later I got a second letter from the White House, this one in a larger envelope. The letter thanked me for my prompt reply, and it told me what my assignment was, to send them the names, addresses, and phone numbers of three other business owners. And money. Send money.

It was only then that it became clear the first letter was just junk mail. This was before word processors, way before today's computers that make form letters so easy and common. So I was easily fooled. Duped!

But the letters got me thinking about politics, so when I went back to school that fall at the University of Denver and there was a DU College Republican Club recruitment table set up at registration I became involved. It wasn't hard to rise to the top quickly back in those Watergate years, just before Nixon won reelection and then was forced out of office.

I became Colorado State Chairman, and got to know Karl Rove when he gave a seminar to teach how to organize College Republican clubs at DU. Karl called me the next week and asked me to help him give the weekend workshop at Pepperdine College in Southern California, something we did several times in the weeks that followed in campuses across the west. In 1974 we had the College Republican National Convention here in Denver, where Karl Rove met Dick Wadhams.

It was all a great learning experience, and it probably wouldn't have happened it I'd not received that letter in Wichita from the President. It really did look like he'd sat at his desk and signed it himself. :)

Since then I've worked in campaigns and been a candidate for local office as a Republican and as a Democrat. Currently I'm registered Unaffiliated with the hope that will help me get more people involved in their local neighborhood and in the 2014 Colorado Caucus.