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I chose to retire on the cusp of the Millennium, affirming that working for a living in one century was enough, and that I wouldn’t make that mistake again. While I wasn’t serious about the working part (I loved my job), I was serious about the retirement, and I don’t regret my decision one bit. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the free time to enjoy life and nature, and indulge my short attention span through many activities. I’ve done some good work with not-for-profit organizations, enjoyed doing some teaching and creating a student awards program in my field. My wife and I have much more time together, and have had some grand travels. I have time for study and writing, and for supporting some causes that stir passion. We enjoy life with our loving cats, seeing good new and old friends, living our urban life in Chicago and our country life in Wisconsin. All I can hope for in the decades ahead is more of the same.
I first met Dick in 1985, the year after Ray Kroc had died, and I would be his most frequent contact, and become his friend, at the business he’d given his name to, until his own death some 13 years later. There was a third of a century between our ages. I’d lost my own grandfather, himself a proud entrepreneurial retailer, a few years before. In some ways for me, as our relationship grew, Dick McDonald began to take my grandfather’s place.
The night before our high profile breakfast, my wife Vicki and I took Dick and Dot out for dinner at the elegant Club International at Chicago’s Drake Hotel. Ron and Pat Miesler joined us. Ron was a veteran McDonald’s vice president who had previously taken a film crew out to Bedford to record Dick’s reminiscences for posterity, as he had once done with Ray Kroc in his later years. That film is preserved in McDonald’s Golden Archives in Elk Grove, Illinois.
I’d told the maître de at the club who our special guest was to be, and after dinner the excited chef brought out a golden frosted cake with McDonald’s arches emblazoned on top. Dick was touched and clapped his hands in delight. He never expected to be treated so specially. It was only when one of his grandchildren or one of his correspondents prodded him about his anonymity that his New England pride would seep through. Dick, like many of his counterparts in the restaurant industry, enjoyed fine dining, and almost always ordered brandy Alexander’s for himself and Dot before dinner. We were to enjoy many excellent restaurants together, from coast to coast, as we traveled to events honoring him in the years ahead.
The breakfast the next day went swimmingly. On stage, Dick and I enjoyed our Egg McMuffins and coffee, as did those in the audience. I introduced him as one of the best conceivable friends and supporters that McDonald’s people could possibly have, as the audience settled down to some breakfast shop talk with the original Mr. McDonald. A brief video followed that included a new McDonald’s Founder’s Day TV commercial we’d produced specially to position the McDonald’s brother’s pioneering role in the so-called fast food industry and their creation and early success opening the first McDonald’s restaurant, along with the role of Ray Kroc in subsequently creating and building the worldwide restaurant company. Dick then earnestly answered my questions and those of audience members, giving everyone a new first-hand perspective on their roots. I later wrote him, saying “I’m glad that during your visit you were able to meet so many of the people here in “McDonaldland” who care about you – our people are uplifted by your positive personality and your optimistic point of view.”
Things hadn’t always been so rosy between Dick McDonald and the company, and the future road would also contain some big bumps. The trouble started almost from the beginning…
It’s Christmas Day. A new beginning…
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:
“I heard the bells, on Christmas Day,
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Sir Walter Scott wrote:
“Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.”
The profusion of greedy idiots who profess global warming as a hoax is perplexing, not because of their crafty use of PR tactics, but because they seek to counter facts and science with rhetoric and blind lies that might have come from the church during the Renaissance. Global warming skepticism is fueled by public relations, author says / The Christian Science Monitor – CSMonitor.com.
Wal-Mart, stung by critics who say it puts local businesses out of business, is experimenting with giving some space in their own Chicago area stores to local fast food, barbers, manicurists and such, and also sell some local products, as a way to show opponents in the City of Chicago that it is “local business friendly.” Critics call it the equivalent of “sharecropping.” While I can see that Wal-Mart may consider their new program to be good community relations, it strikes me as what it is — tokenism. And the public relations fall-out may make the initiative a net negative for Wal-Mart’s reputation and acceptability.
Tomorrow will be the one month anniversary of this blog. It’s been fun, but I’m still learning about how to optimize it, for both content and reach. It’s had over 360 hits, but only 1 on some days. While I am expressing/venting/connecting, I have created anything but a new form of interactive media. Will give it to year’s end and consider if and how to go forward…thanks for tuning in.
Cheers for the holidays!
I couldn’t agree more with opinion below. Chuck
Good writing deserves our admiration
December 15, 2009
From PR Week
I wonder how many times I’ve said in meetings, “No one reads any more. How can we pare down the words and think visually?”
Clearly technology has drastically changed how we effectively communicate with a given audience. The written word seems less powerful and somehow like an afterthought for those entering our profession. Yet, I would submit that our knowledge of language and our function as wordsmiths are more important than ever.
When relying on 140 characters to get someone’s attention, each word becomes vastly critical. How can you effectively communicate if you don’t know the meaning of a word or don’t know there may be a better word to convey what you’re trying to say?
I’m not suggesting using trumped up words or convoluted sentence structures. We need to write clearly in the voice of our given audiences. That’s one reason I ask our staff to read what they are writing out loud as they hit the keys on their computer.
Writing shouldn’t be the lost art of our profession. In fact, it should be elevated and revered. And whether writing a CEO’s speech, Web content, a Twitter post or a blog, such as this, we should all make a New Year’s resolution to love language. Let’s commit to finding the right words in our work, not just the jargon that’s so easily bandied about. And let’s demand from our colleagues and ourselves to engage in using words that move us to insight and action.
Helen Vollmer is founder/CEO of Vollmer PR
Our current two dominant political parties are too compromised. The story below is another example — in this case of indentured, so-called progressives setting us back while selling us out. And conservatives say, “There aren’t enough health care lifeboats, so let those who can’t afford it drown.” What can you do about it? Why not withhold your vote for ANY incumbent, unless they are a proven independent or reflect your own views. Seek out and encourage independent candidates. Argue for term limits — whatever we gain in experience with career politicians, we lose in their lost independence of action. Many elected officials are losing or have lost their ability to discern between their “representative” role and that of advocates for influence peddlers and major campaign donors advocating special interests at odds with your interests. Under current election laws, most seem to be helpless to becoming increasingly influenced by such special interest major donors in the pharma, insurance, banking and other industries who play them for non-democratic advantage. Speak out. Don’t settle. (Senate Dems Protect Big Pharma « The Washington Independent.