What did I learn from Art Linkletter? More than I can say.
He was seen by the public as an entertainer and funnyman, and he was. But he was so much more.
My time with him was focused on public policy issues that he cared about… taxes, energy, health care, government spending that burdens our grandchildren with a debt they can never repay, and of course the cultural destruction of the American traditional values -- the values our nation was founded on, the values that Mr. Linkletter lived by.
But I learned so much more than that from him.
In many days and many hours we spent together, I found him to be a person who took great pride in his wonderful wife, Lois, his family and his healthy living -- surfing, skiing, and living life. Although I can’t say I had the honor to see him ski or surf, I don’t doubt he did.
Still, through his enchanting storytelling, for a few brief moments, I truly lived the exciting life he did -- normal in most ways, but exciting in others.
He was a Hollywood star, but a normal husband, father and grandfather, a businessman, and true entrepreneur. He and his family suffered tragedies, and as much as anyone can, overcame them. As comes with knowledge (some might say age) he regularly shared his tips for healthy life with whoever would listen… don’t smoke (I’ll seriously try to quit now Art), eat lots of fruit, vegetables and seafood, sleep well (he told me eight to nine hours a night, so I do), and exercise (I’m starting AGAIN tomorrow, I promise)…
But he also taught me much more.
Mr. Linkletter walked into a room and could talk to anyone. He had a way about meeting someone and making them feel like a friend. Somehow he found something about each person he had in common with them, starting a conversation, making them feel comfortable, like a friend. In this regard, he was so different from me. I get nervous and talk about myself. He had the gift (past tense is still hard) of identifying with everyone.
Whether it was your city, your job (he either did it or knows someone who did), your state and what its biggest industry is, he knows it and can talk to you about it.
I know someone who talks to people the same way. He says he is shy. I don’t believe him and I have a time believing Art Linkletter was shy either. Anyone who has seen him on TV would say he’s not.
I can’t help but reminisce about his notoriety for a brief moment. Walking into a recording studio in Washington, D.C., to tape radio ads and seeing the receptionist truly gleeful because she met him in person for the first time since being on his show as a child.
Nor can I forget the toughest members of Congress turning into marshmallows in his presence because they met a true hero, an American idol of his own time.
Once we knew each other well enough, he was quick to talk to me frankly (though I now think of it as teaching) about life and love. I won’t forget his concern about me being a single woman in her mid-thirties. Maybe he wouldn‘t have been so concerned, had he not questioned me and learned that I wanted to be married and have children.
And he talked to me about love. About the difference between young love and infatuation, as opposed to a deeper love based on respect, sharing a life, values, and goals. He talked about accepting imperfection in yourself and others, forgiveness, and the ongoing struggle for us all to be better human beings.
Now, the many times each day I tell my husband how much I love him, I have no doubt that I have Art Linkletter to thank for my husband, and for us.
As I think of the many blessings in my life, I am thankful for my amazing parents (I wish everyone could be so lucky), my family, friends, mentors, and a great Virginia education.
That said, I can’t help but look at the picture of Art Linkletter hanging in my living room wall and think he was the sweetest man, who influenced the lives of so many people like me, in so many wonderful ways, more than he will ever know.
P.S. When the Bush tax cuts passed in 2001 – which only last until January 1, 2011 -- Art Linkletter made it very clear he planned to live to the very end of those years. He always said he had the money to get the best financial and estate planning advice you can get. It was all the other people, who had family farms and family businesses who didn’t have his tax planner and lawyer, who would suffer, he said. I guess I never really believed 2010 would come so fast.
Kathleen Patten is CEO of Richard Viguerie's American Target Advertising in Manassas, Va.
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