The Blog

Go to for Don McNay's column and other articles.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

My column, The Unreachable Star, in draft form

My column for this week in draft form


The Unreachable Star


And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star


-Man of LaMancha (Elvis Presley)


I was disturbed by a speech that White House Deputy  Tim Goeglein,  gave to a recent Young Republicans convention.


Goeglein, assistant to political guru  Karl Rove, said  he developed a method for distinguishing Republicans from Democrats. 


Goeglein said, “Republicans do not want their children to be artists or writers”. 


 “Our party, in the way it is constituted, we think of medicine, we think of law, we think of business,” said Goeglein.“


“We don't think, gee, I hope my son grows up to be a great playwright or painter or poet.”


Geoelein’s attitude  explains why federal funding for the arts has dropped and why  the White House has launched a major  assault on public broadcasting.  


Geoelein  is clueless about where the world  has been and where it is going.


From the ancient  Greeks and Romans and the Renaissance era, all advances in law, medicine and business occur  at  the same time as great advances  in the arts.  


Creativity begat creativity.  The stimulation of thought advances the human race at every level.


As technology and outsourcing eliminate  jobs that can be done by  routine systems, Americans will need to use their creativity to make a living.


The White House  ought to be pushing people to be more creative, not less. 


Goeglein’s  has been cooped up in Washington too long.    If he gets out and meets real people, he will find a whole bunch of Republicans and Democrats  shelling out  dollars for their children to take  art, music and creative writing lessons.


Those parents understand the need to  nurture an artistic and creative mind.


Parents of all political persuasions  want  their child be the next Shakespeare or Monet.


It would beat being Karl Rove’s coat holder.


I was blessed that my parents never discouraged me from any “impossible dream” I had.    I wanted to be an astronaut until I realized I was too tall then I wanted to be a pro basketball player until I realized I was too short.   


At the time, there were seven American astronauts and about 150  professional basketball players. 


I did not make it to outer space or the NBA but developed the ability to dream big dreams.  I have never lost it. 


The Man of LaMancha was a huge Broadway success.  The theme song, “The Impossible Dream” is one of the best known songs of all time. 


I can’t think of the song “The Impossible Dream” without thinking of Elvis Presley.   A lot of people sang the song but Elvis lived it.


Elvis rose  from a poor background to become one of the greatest entertainers in history.   


Elvis  had the confidence to take on the music establishment and play what  he wanted to play.  He broke down barriers by staying true to his vision.  


Elvis developed his  confidence  early in childhood and never lost it.


He was a star, not someone’s flunky.


If my children go into politics, I want them to dream about being President, not to dream about being a lackey to an assistant to the President.   


I want them to reach for the highest star they can reach for.


You may like or dislike Ronald Reagan but   he encouraged Americans to dream big dreams.  Reagan’s life journey  from  poverty to movie star to President made him  believe that anything is possible.


 I don’t understand how  Goeglein, can call himself a   “Reagan Republican” when he tells us to stifle dreams and push children into a trade.  


Goeglein doesn’t understand what Ronald Reagan was all about. Reagan knew how to  dream and Goeglein obviously does not.


I pray that people  encourage their children to be playwrights and painters and poets.   I don’t  care what political party they come from, but we  need people who can create, think and express their feelings.


We must  keep  striving to reach that unreachable star.


Don McNay is President of McNay Settlement Group where we want people to achieve their dreams. He is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.  You can write to him at or read other things he has written at




Washington Post Column that inspired this week's column

The Art of Telling Parties Apart


 By Sam Coates


  Forget tax cuts, the abortion issue and whether they wear the American flag as a lapel pin. We have, it appears, a new way of distinguishing Republicans from Democrats, at least in the federal city.


 It emerged last week, without fanfare, at an annual gathering of young Republicans, from Tim Goeglein, White House deputy director of public liaison.


 Working under Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Goeglein spends his time trying to mollify various conservative groups, and then transmitting concerns and demands to President Bush. As a political high-wire artist, he knows how difficult it is to distill the different strands of conservatism into a single idea or theory.


 While addressing more than 200 Republican students aiming to be tomorrow's leaders and federal highfliers last Friday at George Washington University, the White House official managed just that.


 Goeglein recalled a dinner party that he and his wife recently attended in Northwest. Out of the six couples around the table, Goeglein and his wife were the only Republicans.


 As is inevitably the case, he said, the conversation soon turned to the couples' children -- most 5 or 6 years old -- and aspirations for their future occupations. One parent said editor; another, publisher; a third wanted the child to go into education.


 "I was intrigued by the question, and the answers of every one of our Democratic friends," Goeglein said. Not one parent, he said, gave an answer that would be more typical of Republicans. "Our party, in the way it is constituted, we think of medicine, we think of law, we think of business. We don't think, gee, I hope my son grows up to be a great playwright or painter or poet," he explained.


 Whether a future government employee, a bureaucrat, would win the approval of a GOP parent, he did not say.


 Author Mark Helprin, who considers himself a conservative, agrees. "Of course, you would have to be insane to hope your child grows up to be a playwright or poet. Given the odds, you would have to be quite cavalier about your children's future."


 He recalled that at one point, a million people reported to the IRS that they were writers. Helprin believes only 50 to 100 people at a time can be successful in that occupation.


 Helprin's father was deeply upset when his son became a fiction writer because it was a "difficult" career that can lead to an unfulfilled life. But his father's fears proved baseless: Helprin has written a string of successful novels and two decades' worth of articles for the New Yorker, for which he has won a number of prizes including the Prix de Rome and the National Jewish Book Award.


 As for his offspring, one is at Harvard studying classics -- "not exactly law or medicine" -- while the other is studying public health at Johns Hopkins.


 Helprin said that over the centuries the arts community embraced figures from the right of the political spectrum as well as the left. He said this is no longer true, pointing out that George Orwell and Graham Greene were both vilified when they moved to the right.


 "There's a deterrent effect for Republicans from joining that community. I recently wrote an apolitical book of short stories, and I was attacked for my politics. When I wrote a book about a World War I soldier, the New York Times book review said in paragraph one that I was a Republican. They wouldn't point out that Norman Mailer is a Democrat."


 Political scientists have long identified how certain professions lean toward particular political parties. According to data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group, 69 percent of contributions from people in the television, music or film industry go to Democrats. There is no category for writers.


 "A lot of people tend to vote for their economic interest. So doctors see their interests more aligned with the Republicans, believing that Democrats favor more of a standardized health care plan, while 86 percent of those in movie production give to Democrats," said Larry Noble, the center's executive director.


 But what about parents' ambitions for their children? Noble said there were no data available to answer that. "That's almost too anecdotal: I know Democrats who want their kids to be doctors, and I know Republicans who are writers," he said. "I do think it's one thing to look at political contributions. So maybe it's [Goeglein's] experience or his circle."


 Robert Lynch, president and chief executive of Americans for the Arts, also was not convinced by Goeglein. "I would say that it makes a great dinner anecdote, but I don't think it's true." He pointed out that congressional Republicans sided in favor of the National Endowment for the Arts when the Reagan administration was threatening to close it down.


 But for Helprin, the divide remains. "The arts community is generally dominated by liberals because if you are concerned mainly with painting or sculpture, you don't have time to study how the world works. And if you have no understanding of economics, strategy, history and politics, then naturally you would be a liberal."





Don McNay