Old sages among the writing community have often claimed that every one of us has at least a single fascinating life experience to relate, a good story to tell. For this reason, I have encouraged friends and acquaintances to develop the habit of documenting the interesting episodes along their life’s journey which they think others, including their own family members, might appreciate. Scientific research has proved that writing as a means of personal reflection can be an effective measure in combating depression, as well as overcoming loneliness. Moreover, I feel we have a duty to succeeding generations, those who will follow in our footsteps, to pass on the benefit of an illuminating depiction of the world we inhabit today.
One ample source of such raw material are the diverse chapters of our professional lives, those years in which we observe, participate in, affect, and are affected by, the events of history’s march forward. Many such recollections could hold tremendous informational value, others are worth retelling merely for their comedic charm. I humbly present the following modest example of the latter, in the hope it will encourage you to join me.
At one point during my tenure at the U.S. State Department, while serving as deputy executive director to the secretary, I was frequently called upon to provide administrative support. Although, to the greatest extent possible, all arrangements for each of the secretary’s various activities were painstakingly orchestrated, from time to time the inevitable glitch would occur and had to be dealt with without rehearsal. I recall one such situation arising on the occasion of the swearing-in ceremony of the new U.S. Ambassador to India. The event was to be staged in the secretary’s reception area, a large contingent of high-level congressional and other political figures were in attendance, and there was greater media coverage than was usually scheduled for such functions. The secretary entered the room, signaling commencement of the formalities. Suddenly I noticed a distinct look of dismay emerge on the face of the protocol officer as he realized he had forgotten to bring a bible upon which the new ambassador was to take his oath. I saw him discreetly pivot to my supervisor for advice, who in turn quickly reached over to the receptionist’s desk and picked up a copy of Webster’s Desk Dictionary and handed it to the protocol officer. I heard him assure the nervous official, “It’s got all the same words, just in a different order.” The ceremony continued with nary a ripple. The following day my supervisor happened to run into the department’s legal advisor in the building and, curious as to the legitimacy of the prior day’s events, related the circumstances which prompted his emergency measures. My supervisor asked, “So how do we confirm that it was legal?” And the wise lawyer replied, “That’s simple. Don’t ask.”