OP-ED: Examining a Miracle?

By Philip A. Yaffe
Philip A. Yaffe
Philip A. Yaffe

I don't really believe in miracles or anything else that could be described as supernatural. Virtually every scientific investigation of such phenomena has found explanations in the real world for what many people would like to believe is other worldly. In fact, for several years one such investigating organization has offered a $1 million prize to anyone who could clearly demonstrate any sort of supernatural power. So far, no one has claimed the money.

Although I don't believe in miracles, I did have an experience early in my life that was so unlikely that I occasionally refer to it as a miracle for want of a better word.

In 1964 when I was a math and physics student at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), I was also editor in chief of the student newspaper. What you need to know that at most American universities the student newspaper is a daily. My newspaper was published five days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Each day we published from 14 and 20 pages, with a circulation of 21,000. This is what it looked like (show copy of newspaper).*

I was elected editor in chief by the governing board on a reform ticket. I believed that there were many things wrong about the newspaper that required major changes. 

Each new editor had to publish an announcement that he was interviewing to choose his senior staff. This was a pro forma announcement. It was never expected that anyone but current staff members would apply for the positions.

However, I did receive an application from a young woman whom I did not know and who had never worked on the paper. I was obliged to call her in for an interview. Her name was Kaye Hardy. She was applying for the position of assistant editor in chief. I asked her, "Why do you think you are a good candidate for this high office?" 

I expected the whole thing to take about five minutes. However, when she began talking, my jaw dropped. She seemed to know more about what was going on inside the newspaper than any of the people on the staff, what reforms were needed, and how they should be instituted. She talked non-stop for at least a half hour, if not longer. I simply didn't believe my ears.

It was unprecedented for anyone outside the paper to be appointed to any senor position, let alone the second in command. A few days later I called her back for a second interview. Once again, I was completely blown away by what she said. Despite the precedent, I concluded that she was the person I really needed. When the word got out that I was seriously considering appointing an outsider, several members of the senior staff protested, and some threatened to resign. A few actually did.

But I pressed ahead. I appointed her. For several weeks both she and I were the object of silent and sometimes not so silent opprobrium. However, after two or three months, even the most ardent opponents of the appointment were coming to believe that she was doing an excellent job. By the end of the year she was practically everyone's favorite person. I wasn't everyone's favorite person because I had broken a sacred precedent.

I don't know if the reforms we instituted continued after we graduated and left the university. I can only hope they did because they were vitally needed.

What I do know is that in appoint Kaye Hardy, I had made the most difficult decision of my life, and it had turned out well. I have no doubt that without her, things would have been quite different.

Was her appearance on the scene at that time a miracle? I still don't like to use the term, but nothing else in my experience even comes close. That such a thing could have happened was so unlikely as to totally inexplicable. Maybe miracle truly is the right word.

                                                                            * * *

Daily student newspapers are unknown in Europe; they feel they are doing well if they get something out once or twice a month. You should see the reaction when I describe the DB and then show a copy of it. Jaws literally drop.

 Editor's note: This is the transcript of a speech delivered by Yaffe at a meeting of the Toastmasters Club in Brussels, Belgium.  

About the author

 Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles,  with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily student newspaper.

He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974. HNN book critic David M. Kinchen has reviewed many of his books. Use the search engine on this site to access the reviews. For Kinchen's latest review of one of his books: www.huntingtonnews.net/82724




Comments powered by Disqus