One of these days, you too will get “The Call”. It will be opportunity calling. Expect miracles.
My son is off to Boston University for his final year of college. He is majoring in journalism and political science. I wrote this to give him some fatherly advice. When I finished it, I thought you might also find it interesting or inspiring. Feel free to pass it on to your sons and daughters or anyone you think might benefit from it.
A Letter to My Son
It won’t be long now until you’ll be starting your career. Congratulations on making it to your Senior Year. I am very proud of you.
Be sure to collect contact info from your friends and classmates. They will be of help to you in the future if you keep in touch. And its so easy to do these days. You have iPhones, the Internet, the cloud, LinkedIn, Facebook, and email. Use them. All we had were our Rolodex our a Little Black Book both of which were analogue, not digital. Our Internet was the radio.
I am pleased to see from your Linked-In profile that you are following in my footsteps with a varied and interesting work history. You already have enough experience to write about sports, law, birds, and politics – and you’re just beginning.
In Your Father’s Footsteps
As I look back at my life, I might be richer if I had stayed with P&G or the FCC or Whiteford, or if I taken that job from the IRS, instead of starting my own law firm. But I would have been totally bored, I probably would have never had met your mother and then you wouldn’t even exist.
Your work as a journalist brings back memories of my start as a news reporter in my dad’s radio station. As the new kid I was given the assignments that no one else wanted — city hall council meetings, county fairs, spotting for the sports announcer at high school football and basketball games, calling the hospital emergency rooms every morning for accidents, and visiting the police station to see who got arrested last night.
It was very exciting for me. I loved getting the news before anyone else and typing it up at 100 miles an hour to meet the 6:00 am deadline for the first morning newscast. Sometimes, the news director had to rip it out of my typewriter.
The Night I Got “The Call”
Then one night I got “The Call”. Three little kids didn’t come home for dinner. They were last seen playing near the caves that the Mississippi River cut out of the limestone and mud. The assistant news director told me to “Get the station’s remote broadcas6t equipment and go down to the caves for a live report on the radio.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. ”You want me to go on the air? What do I say?”
“Just tell us what you see,” he answered.
Probably the best journalism tip I ever received.
The remote was the size of my gym bag and ten times as heavy. It was neon yellow. I slipped the yellow strap over my left shoulder so I could walk around and key the mike in my right hand. I could her the station announcer give me the countdown – five four three two (they don’t say the one so it doesn’t get picked up when they throw the switch from the radio station to remote control.
I took a deep breath and did the one count in my head.
“I am on the banks of the Mississippi River in Hannibal, Missouri. And this is what I see.”
“In front of me there is a flat area of ground where three children were playing this afternoon. They did not come home for dinner.”
“Past flat place the ground rises and in the hillside I see an entrance — an entrance to the vast cave system that the river has cut out of the soft limestone that forms its banks. The caves are unmapped and go for miles. They are honey-comb mazes with several different levels. These are the same caves that Mark Twain wrote about Tom and Huck exploring. Only in the fictional account, they used string to find their way out again.”
“It is dark along the river tonight except for this surreal site. It is lit up like a movie set by a dozen flood lights. There is a red generator powering them. A lot of cars and trucks parked every which way. There is a hole in the side of a cliff that is the entrance to the caves.
A lot activity. Men with ropes and flashlights are going in and out of the cave. They have enlarged the entrance for easier access and I see a big mound of dirt in front of the cave. I see grim determination on the faces of these men, who are risking their own lives to search for these lost boys.”
The next day I went into the cave with those brave searchers (many of whom are FB friends 55 years later). Eventually there would be about 200 searchers in was tlo become the largest cave search ever. But the lost boys were never found.
Epilogue: One Call Leads to Another
In my last year of law school at the University of Missouri, the telephone roused me from the deep sleep of afternoon nap. “Hello?” I answered, not yet fully awake.
The voice on other end sounded wide awake, “James?’
“This is the recruiter for the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC. We’d like you to join our legal department.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Or, in your case, the future.