Thanksgiving Epilogue

by Bob Sparrow

The Family

Yes, as always I ate too much, and I’m not sure if Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of it or in spite of it. It’s a holiday with no debate about whether you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, there’s no pressure of buying gifts or accepting unwanted gifts with a gracious, but insincere, “I love it”. There is no dressing up and begging for candy and there is no drinking as much as you can and staying up past midnight. Although Madison Avenue is trying like hell to put the focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s really still just about family, friends, food and football.

It is truly a time when I actually think about how grateful I am as well as think about those less fortunate – families of fire victims, shooting victims, the homeless, those with debilitating diseases or handicaps. It especially a time to be thankful for all the first-responders who put their lives on the line coming to the aid of others.  It’s also at Thanksgiving I am reminded of how fortunate Linda and I are that we had such loving, caring parents, who taught us love of family, mostly by example. We still love and communicate regularly with our siblings and our three kids love each other and have given us three amazing grandchildren . . . so far.

My hope is that everyone has family relations as good or better than we have. Unfortunately the reality is that I’ve heard way too many stories about people who say that they never got along with a parent, or that they haven’t spoken to a sibling in years or have ignored a once-good friend because they had a disagreement years ago. When I encounter people in these situations I can’t help but think of one of the most influential books I’ve ever read about forgiveness, Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela. Among other things Mandela was able to forgive those who imprisoned him for 27 years, 18 of which were on isolated Robben Island, for his efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa. A few years ago I personally had an opportunity to visit his cell on Robben Island and believe me, it is no place you would want to spend even 18 minutes in! Once released, Mandela continued his fight against apartheid and was ultimately elected president of South Africa.  While apartheid isn’t completely gone even today, his efforts have gone a long way towards creating social justice.

The good news is you don’t have to be imprisoned for 27 years to reach out to that family member or friend that you’ve been avoiding for the last several years. This is the perfect time of year to extend the olive branch or an eggnog.

 

Heroes

Recently I was on a conference call at work, the subject of which was marketing to seniors; we were referred to an outline of a book by Dan Kennedy entitled, No BS Guide to Marketing to Lending Edge Boomers & Seniors: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Take No Prisoners Roadmap to the Money.  Quite a long title and I was to later learn that the only thing worth remembering is the ‘BS’.  As a senior (I’m not sure if I’m a ‘Leading Edge’ senior, but I thought I had a pretty good idea of what works in marketing to me and my peers), so I listened and read the outline with particular interest.

There is a section in the book that talks about our heroes and that people selling to us should be aware of who our heroes are and talk them up when possible or at least don’t degrade them during your communication with seniors.  I couldn’t wait to see the list.  When I saw the list, I was waiting for the punch line, this couldn’t be real!  Who was on the list of heroes you ask? John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sally Field, Oprah and Meryl Streep.  These are people that we supposedly ‘identify’ with.  Really?!!!  Five very polarizing people – 2 very conservative male actors and 3 very liberal female entertainers.  I thought this list was totally contrived.  I identify with none of these people and they are certainly not on my list of heroes.    So I wondered whether I was out of step with my generation or the author was, so I did a little research on the author, Dan Kennedy.

I quickly learned that he felt very highly of himself as being a ‘leading edge’ Boomer.  In his book introduction he states, “I have, and in random rotation drive, three classic automobiles including a Rolls-Royce convertible previously owned by Dean Martin.  I also have a stable full of Standardbred race horses and two homes, blah, blah, blah”.  He goes on to liken himself to Paul Newman, who used to race automobiles as a hobby, while Dan harness races for fun.  He then says, “I am the gold standard for seniors, if you can figure out how to successfully sell to me and satisfy me as a customer, you can open the vault to all boomer and senior gold . . .”

I guess I should have been impressed, but I’m typically more impressed with people who don’t have to tell me how wonderful they are, but still I wondered where he got his list of heroes and was he out of step or was I?  So I sent an email blast to about 25 of my peers asking them who their heroes were and to send me at least one male and one female ‘hero’.  I said nothing else, I didn’t give them the list of five that Kennedy put forward, no coaching, no prodding, just give me your heroes.  The results are in and my initial reaction to Kennedy’s list was justified and my faith in our generation renewed.  Four key findings from my survey:

  • The most popular response was a parent or parents or grandparents
  • Many cited heroes that were just people they knew, ordinary people who did extraordinary things to make this world a better place in which to live.
  • Five world leaders were named: Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, George H W Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill
  • Not a single actor, actress or entertainer was named!

Other ‘heroes’ named included: Jesus Christ, Condoleezza Rice, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Pat Tillman, Carly Fiorina, Thomas Sowell, Dr. Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Sally Ride. 

Hero groups: Navy Seals, Mercury 7 astronauts, anyone in the armed forces

Thank you to those who participated in the survey!

I realize that my sampling was very small, but I’d bet Mr. Kennedy’s Rolls-Royce (then maybe I’d be a Leading Edge Senior) that if he actually did the survey, instead of providing his own BS that he wouldn’t find many entertainers as heroes for our generation.

Care to chime in?  We’d love to hear who your heroes are.