A more perfect union
When you read this column, it will be around Labor Day, but as I write it, it’s the Fourth of July. The two celebrations are linked in several ways.
With the Fourth come friends and families gathered together at picnic tables to eat and light fireworks — and eat — and discuss good times — and eat — and…Well, you get the picture. It’s the joining of people with a common interest, brought together by caring, sharing and dreams of a better tomorrow. It makes me think of the bigger table to which we draw up everyday across this country and of the people we have invited to share our dreams. In my mind’s eye, this ideal picnic is filled with familiar faces from our industry.
For instance, there’s Peggy Cook from Fresno, CA, a beautiful woman who loves horses, grandchildren and conservative politicians — great legs and a great sense of humor held together with a steely backbone that supports a sentimental heart. She’s over talking about her kids with Brian Perry from Texas.
There’s Sal Dragotta from Milwaukee, one of the most modest men I’ve met and also one of the most diligent. You might admire his business acumen combined with his friendly chides, but I admire the simple, adoring way he’s looking at his wife. That speaks more to me.
At the end of the picnic table is Cathy Sutter out of Phoenix, the natural center of the conversation between Fred Goodwin and Rhett Grotzinger. She sports the latest from Niemans and holds herself comfortably aloft, while whispering a comment that would make a longshoreman blush.
Walter Gallinghouse is talking to Harold O’Dell about what’s up in Louisiana. Both are keeping their cards close, but they still have time to lend each other a hand when the need arises. Their conversation isn’t loud, but Eddie Kneupper from San Antonio is drawn across the lawn by Walter’s warm laughter.
With a smile that always shines in her eyes, Lori Barnes of Bakersfield, CA, quietly listens to her dad, George Gillam, near the ice cream freezer. The sense of family bond is tangible and gratifying to both. It meets the approving gaze of Dave Balsick from Colorado, who’s kibitzing near the grill.
Lonnie Danchik, in from Dallas, is near the elm, telling tall tales to Bob Fetterman from Pennsylvania.
Ann Tripp is there from Peoria, IL, standing tall with her jaw out and a half-smile across her face that suggests she isn’t just listening to Rick Joyce from DC. Ann’s quietly sizing him up before she takes another delicate bite of potato salad.
Reg Swan from Cape Girardeau, MO, is permanently rooted in a chair near the pool, sitting between his lovely wife and Steve Bandt from Janesville, WI, and wondering how he can get another beer without getting up.
Lou from Knoxville and Duncan from upstate New York are over pitching shoes. They’re beating the hell out of Dave from North Dakota and Joyce from Kansas.
They’re all there at my imaginary table, celebrating our nation’s birth with me.
There’s Jeff Sohn, Mike Eisenbrandt and Arlen Dykema. Chris Salgot and Sam Klein and Ed Whisler and the always flirtatious Anna Garcia, who thinks she can make Gordon Ichikawa blush. (She won’t.)
John Komoroski from Raleigh, NC, is there with his wife. John hovers proudly around her, talking business with Maggie Suker from Vermont. Maggie is a no-bull dame whose charm is only outmatched by her blunt assessment of a situation. She suffers neither shyness nor fools.
Ed Sumpf is saying something to Mercy Contreras as they pass a private joke over near the garden. Something about Mercy in the garden makes me think of elves. Jack Mitchell watches them both, but he’s thinking about something else, in his eye-aimed way, so hard that you can almost hear his thoughts.
Jim Fryer is over swappin’ tales and swiggin’ beer with K.C. Wright, but both of them are playing to the smile on Mary Carlisle’s face. Ron and Pat Brasher look on with quiet amusement, occasionally touching hands that have held together a marriage for so many years.
We the people
My guests believe in what they do and who they are. Each is convinced that hard work is more important than the hard sell. Each one enjoys a hymn and a firecracker and a whoppin’ big parade that celebrates people — just plain people, not senators or financial titans — just the power and dignity of people.
“We the people” is, after all, about dignity. Not the kind of dignity that requires black ties or big titles, but the kind of dignity that comes from working hard. The alternative is being a sneak, and that alternative is not a choice we’d ever make. We take family, church, citizenship and fun seriously. We do not take ourselves too seriously.
We all know the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner, not only as words, but as symbols of dreams fulfilled and sacrifices to be made. To each of the individuals who make up the chorus of voices that fill our industry, I thank you. You understand that it takes “We the People” to form a more perfect union.
Schwaninger, MRT’s regulatory consultant, is the principal in the law firm of Schwaninger & Associates, Washington, which is counsel to Small Business in Telecommunications. Schwaninger is also a member of the Radio Club of America.