Day 19: Congressman Marion Berry

(Note: Marion Berry (not the former mayor of Washington DC,) represented Arkansas’ First Congressional District from 1997 to 2011. He lives in Gillette, AR with his wife, Carolyn, where he founded the Annual Gillette Coon Supper Benefit.)

Congressman Marion Berry and wife, Carolyn at their Gillette, Arkansas home.

Congressman Marion Berry and wife, Carolyn, at their Gillette, Arkansas home.

Dear Congressman,

It’s amazing how such a relatively short time can be so intense and memory-filled.

I don’t know if we ever discussed it, but you gave a young 30-year-old his dream job. From 14 onward, I was one of those strange kids who knew he wanted to be a political press secretary. It’s impossible to place value on the importance of people who help fulfill such dreams.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-9-42-06-amMy, my, my, but it was the experience. From a distance it looked as though it might be glamorous work, jetting here and there, Capitol Hill, television, newspaper, radio. But the greater reality is a lot of cheap hotels, terrible food, and never seeing your family. We made it work. Looking back, I’m sure we all wonder how, but we made it work.

I’m grateful to you for so many things. You demanded a torrid work ethic that I still value today. It seemed a little overboard at the time, but I understand better now. Your philosophies about how an organization like a political staff should come together and function as a unit have been so valuable in my own initiatives. I’ve used the “Berry Approach” many times.

Thank you for showing me how not to accept no for an answer, for teaching by example there is always a way to figure things out, and for helping me understand there many be many more losses in life than wins, but how sweet the wins can be, especially when they’ve been pursued for all the right reasons. We weren’t perfect, but we made a difference now and then, and did some good things. Thank you for letting me play a very minor role.

You demanded justice for the less fortunate, raged against injustice, and would not tolerate a proud spirit. I could thank you for so many things, congressman, but I sure do treasure the memories like this:

I can’t imagine how many miles we traveled together in that Chevy Impala those first few years. Gigantic cell phones with long antennas blaring, papers flying, tall tales and wonderful storytelling. Some moments we laughed so hard we cried.

Thank you for believing in me, giving a young man his dream job, the chance of a lifetime. The experience serves me so well in my own life’s mission.

And remember, even a blind sow finds an acorn once in a while… We sure did didn’t we?

Your first press secretary, district director, and always an admirer,

Steve Watkins

2 thoughts on “Day 19: Congressman Marion Berry

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