Mr. Dawson and Rep. Lindy Boggs
During the summer, America lost a wonderful former public official who for nearly 20 years ably served her country and her New Orleans constituents with a mixture of what one commentator called “steely tenacity and Southern charm.” There have been many excellent tributes to former Congresswoman Lindy Boggs (LA), including this one by renowned Louisiana columnist Clancy Dubos, that explain her success in life and politics.
Her passing, as well as the recent passing of Lt. Gen. (Ret) Jack Morris, cause me to reflect on the quality of our public servants as well as the importance of working collaboratively and transparently in the public interest. After more than 40 years of working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other Federal agencies, I have repeatedly witnessed the success of this type of approach. Unfortunately, I have as well seen people try to advocate for their position to Congress or the Corps with overly adversarial posturing, a lack of transparency or by failing to recognize what Congress and the Corps need in order to achieve success from their perspectives.
It is certainly possible to win over opposition through that type of direct force but in the end, there are few winners. Better to develop solutions in which the agency, the public, and your client all come out ahead. People such as Rep. Boggs and Gen. Morris were shining examples of tough, smart public officials who understood how to accomplish great deeds while maintaining a demeanor of calm and serious professionalism with courtesy and respect.
My wife, Susan, and I have a special remembrance of Congresswoman Boggs, a memory which I think underscores her great ability to discern issues and communicate in a heartfelt way about those matters.
Susan and I were traveling with Congresswoman Boggs on the Motor Vessel Mississippi probably 25 years ago. Susan and I were, at the time, experiencing our share of challenges in our relationship, probably similar to many couples in Washington, D.C. with challenging jobs and adolescent children. As we prepared to part from being the last three people still awake and moving around the deck, Congresswoman Boggs obviously picked up on the fact that our relationship needed a boost. She began to talk movingly about how much she would give to be able to go back to her cabin that night with someone as Susan and I were about to do with each other. We, of course, knew that her husband, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Hale Boggs, had been lost in an airplane crash ten years or more before that night.
As Susan and I closed the door to our cabin, we hugged, realizing we had gotten an unmistakable and to-be-treasured message that we would take to heart and keep there as long as we live.
So often Congresswoman Boggs found a way to help people all around her and to communicate encouragement and inspiration in her warm style.
Robert K. Dawson Founder & CEO