The Miracle Workers

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The Miracle Worker

All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

– Harry Chapin

 

At dinner the other night with an old friend, an executive at another public relations firm, at a favorite local restaurant, we had a young but old-souled waitress who was as kind as she was efficient and who joined us for a brief conversation as the dinner rush slowed. She was sharing her background which included graduating from Howard University, where, she revealed, her father had graduated a generation before and had played soccer in the early 1970s. I asked, “When Howard had one of the greatest collegiate soccer dynasties of all time?” “Yes,” she responded, to which I started citing chapter and verse of those great teams. Two had won National Championships, though one would be revoked by the NCAA who it is hard to imagine was inspired at the time by anything other than racism.

Back then, there was a baseball Game of the Week, Sunday football, and the Wide World of Sports. No ESPN. You either watched it live, or in the case of the Howard Championship Game of 1974, you watched it on PBS. I was just 16, and watched it on a grainy, black and white screen at my grandparents’ house in New York. Up until then, the only thing I really knew about soccer was Pele, but now I wanted to play. And I would, for the graduate team at the University of Michigan—touched, unknowingly, by her father.

Later in the conversation, we asked her what she wanted to do next. She talked of her love for public relations, which is when my dinner companion and I immediately provided her with our contact details – “Let us know however we can help. And please tell your dad that he inspired far more people than he could ever have imagined.” We would have helped anyway, but her father was “paying it forward” a half century early.

Isn’t that the way it is in life? We have our golden moments and our darker ones, when we ask ourselves the existential questions. Seldom do we realize that our wings can resonate as a tsunami countless miles and light years away. We are ignorant of our own inspiration.

The ragged pages of long dead authors, poets and theologians inspire me daily. How can I tell their ghosts they should have never doubted? Did her father know while on the pitch that the results of his sweat and toil would not only be an NCAA championship but to inspire a suburban white kid who in turn would want to help his not-yet-born daughter? Look behind your shoulders. That is where you will find your wings.

Going back even further, when I was a young child in the 1960s and the TV Guide was still a mystery, my sister, two years older, was the wellspring of wisdom. She had shared with me the names of three of her favorite movies – “Sorry, Wrong Number,” the tragically long-forgotten “The Next Voice You Hear” (with Nancy Davis, later Nancy Reagan) and “The Miracle Worker.” One year, we got really lucky, and “The Next Voice You Hear” was playing during the holidays, when we were staying at our grandparents so we could stay up late (until 11!) and watch it straight through while eating Jiffy Pop popcorn. That was living!

I saw each of those movies only once, though I have listened to “Sorry Wrong Number” as a radio adaptation so many times I can hear every syllable of Agnes Moorehead’s growing anxiety as it elevates to panic by the end of the evening. Those movies taught me about regret, perseverance, love and, of course, miracles.

The other voice I so often hear is my late father’s, with his wise words resonating long after his passing. Like the poem Desiderata, he taught me to “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,” and to never compare myself to others because there will always “Be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Be grateful and thankful, as there are always those who have far less with far greater burdens.

It is why the water scene in “A Miracle Worker,” with Anne Bancroft playing the indefatigable teacher, Anne Sullivan teaching Helen Keller, blind and deaf since infancy due to scarlet fever, played by Patty Duke, resonates with me through the decades. The impossible becomes possible. Anne Sullivan, blind herself, was completing the cycle.

My father’s lesson is, unfortunately, lost on most of us most of the time. We turn miracles into expectations within minutes. Donald Trump, Operation Warp Speed and multiple pharmaceutical companies shortening the development of a vaccine from an average of 10 to 15 years to 10 months; Joe Biden overseeing the process that has 192 million Americans vaccinated in a year? “Ho hum. Next?” No wonder his approval rating is under 40%. We don’t want presidents, we want gods.

We limit our appreciation of miracles to the parting of the seas and the burning of the bush. What if we stopped to see the miracles all around us? To live in a state of grace, where we appreciated rather than judged? To play soccer with the realization that a teenager watching would remember that moment for more than half a century?

This week, on In House Warrior, the daily podcast I host for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal, I hosted a number of miracle workers who make the world a better place.

Dan Kracov is co-chair of the Life Sciences and Healthcare Regulatory practice at Arnold & Porter, which was recently named the top healthcare practice in the country by Law360. For decades, he has been one of the foremost Food and Drug Administration lawyers in the country, with his expertise in critical regulatory matters widely recognized by multiple legal publications. He assists pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and diagnostic companies to negotiate challenges relating to the development, approval and marketing of FDA-regulated products, including the accelerated approval of drug products for serious diseases.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and my cohost Lori Kalani, co-Chair of the State Attorney General Practice at Cozen O’Conner, discussed how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and attorneys general have partnered over the years to combat anticompetitive, unfair and deceptive trade practices and how this relationship is evolving. What impressed me about the Attorney General was his sincere and endearing ability to reach across the aisle to get things done.

Janelle Sam, co-founder of Cambium Consultants, along with my cohost Derede McAlpin of LEVICK, discussed how her company uses artificial intelligence to significantly increase the efficiency of identifying expert witnesses for complex litigation. Cambium is a proprietary online platform – using needle-in-the-haystack capabilities – that makes it far easier for attorneys to find the precise experts they are looking for and for experts to be found.

Take a look. There are miracle workers all around you. And while you are at it, try out your own wings. You have no idea who is watching. Or, who half a century later, will return the favor.

Enjoy the shows.

Richard Levick

Listen to The Miracle Worker

Listen to A State Attorney General’s Perspective

Listen to When You Can’t Afford to Be Out-Experted