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The P Word

The Guideposts editor-in-chief explains why a certain word will always be used.

I’m writing this on a train on the way back from Washington D.C., in many ways a very un-GUIDEPOSTS city. Why? Around here the P word means politics, as in, “We don’t do politics.” GUIDEPOSTS and politics just don’t mix. Not in the magazines, not on the web sites, not in books.

Of course among the staff there is a diversity of political opinion, which makes for some pretty interesting and passionate discussions around the water cooler, especially this year (I’m sure a lot of you are going through the same thing at your workplaces).

We care a lot about our government and about public policy. We just keep it out of the magazine because politics by its very nature is polemical, even divisive, and that’s simply not what we are about. We don’t take sides.

A reader once told me that she could get politics just about anywhere. GUIDEPOSTS is where she came for inspiration and for stories about “where the rubber of people’s values meets the road of life.” I thought that was a colorful way of putting it. 

Now that I’ve tried to explain all this I’m going to tell you about a breakfast I attended this morning with President Bush, Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Representative Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.) and a couple hundred members of Esperanza, a faith-based organization that sponsors The National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, an annual D.C. gathering.

First, let me say that every event I’ve attended where President Bush is making an appearance necessitates a security line that rivals the most congested airport at the height of the holiday rush, so I arrived very early and very sleepy despite the virtual tankard of hi-test coffee I held slightly in front of me as if it would somehow pull me along.

Since this is a blog and not a more formal piece of writing I am going to take the liberty of digressing slightly and tell you about the first time I ever had to pass muster with the Secret Service. 

It was back in Ann Arbor in 1976 and I was covering President Gerald Ford’s announcement that he would be running for a second term after succeeding Richard Nixon in 1974. Ford was making the announcement at a huge rally at the University of Michigan, his (and my) alma mater.

I was all of about 22 and working my first newspaper job. There had been two recent attempts on Ford’s life and security was tight at Crisler Arena. We journalists had to pass through a Secret Service inspection and when the agent checked my backpack, he found my handy, ever-present Swiss Army knife and confiscated it with no guarantee that I would get it back, despite my pleas that it was a cherished graduation gift from my uncle. Coffee played a role in this episode as well.

Once I had gained entry to the press area I grabbed a Styrofoam cupful from the courtesy table along with a stale Danish and made my way through the journalistic throng.

Along the way I managed to stumble over a TV cable, spilling the coffee on a man standing nearby with a microphone in his hand—Roger Mudd, the chief correspondent for CBS News who was about to do a live “stand up” for the network. Except now his crisp white shirt and distinguished red tie were hopelessly defiled with my coffee and there was no way he could go on camera like that.

Underlings rushed to clean him up while he took the opportunity to berate me at considerable length for my clumsiness and youthful unprofessionalism, etc., much to the amusement of various onlookers, including several rival correspondents. 

So this morning before going through security I was careful to ditch the coffee and make absolutely certain I wasn’t carrying anything that could get me in trouble with the Secret Service (I never saw that Swiss Army knife again, by the way). Thankfully all went smoothly and I took my seat.

President Bush was the first speaker and he ended his brief talk with a very simple prayer that God bless our gathering and our country. He lingered briefly so people could come up and have their picture taken with him (my host Doug Pratt’s 10-year-old son, Michael, who’d broken his wrist skateboarding, got the president to sign his cast). 

Then Senator Graham spoke, then Congressman Clyburn, the son of a preacher. Despite the differences of party affiliation, both men spoke the same humble language when it came to prayer, and both men said that prayer guided them as surely as political philosophy.

This was not some theocratic blurring of church and state but rather the very simple truth that few people who are given great responsibility and great power can undertake their duties without understanding the need for divine guidance and succor, if only as a recognition of their own human shortcomings. 

Politics may sometimes divide us but prayer always unites. It’s one P word we do not avoid at GUIDEPOSTS.

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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