Letter to Leaders – February 2021

Well, we got through the 13th month of 2020. The transfer of power. The near insurrection. The valiant attempt to vaccinate 330 million people (about 100 million of whom don’t want it). There was another insurrection—of the stock market by the “Revenge of the Nerds.”

It’s hard to think of an establishment that hasn’t been completely overturned in the past couple of years.

So what’s next?

I dislike intensely “experts” who purport to predict the future. The simple truth is—especially now—there’s no way to plan, predict or prepare for the future. What we can do is be flexible enough to navigate the next abrupt change. Because change won’t end; what it will look like is the unknown.

Instead of predicting the future, I thought I’d remember the past. Some people who were part of my past died recently:

· Larry King, the interviewer of the famous and infamous. Each night driving home after a 6-midnight shift as a bartender or waiter, I’d listen to his talk show. “Bethesda, Maryland, Hello.” He took inquisitiveness to another level. He led an amazing life. I used to see him frequently in the past few years when I had breakfast at Nate & Al’s. Everyone who approached him got a warm welcome. He was the same person on camera as off. That’s a pretty good way to be remembered.

· Tommy Lasorda. As a kid growing up in the 70’s in Southern California, he was the man. I moved to Northern California for college in the 1980’s. Wow did Northern Californians hate Tommy. Relentlessly positive, devoutly religious (although how he reconciled that with his incessant cussing was always a question). But his bluster “The Big Dodger in the Sky” belied a strategic master. “Most managers think a couple of innings ahead,” Jay Johnstone once said, “Tommy is always thinking in the middle of next week.” I met him many times over the years: he was exactly the same person in a business suit than on a field.

· Hank Aaron. It was April 1974. I was 11 years old. My family watched the Monday night baseball game when Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. I’ll never forget it. I was unaware then of the racial slurs and death threats Aaron faced, and was only dimly aware of the courage he showed. The man was class personified. And he made the life path easier for tens of thousands of Black people everywhere.