Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma’
The teacher who had the most influence on my life in high school and beyond was Mr. Gentry, the choir director. Not only did he teach me a love of music, but he pushed me to be better than I would have otherwise been. I’m not exactly a natural when it comes to music, but it was his influence, prodding and mentoring that led me to actually do pretty well.
It was Mr. Gentry that worked with me and encouraged me to the point of being able to earn a spot in both the All-State Choir and the All-State Show Choir. It was Mr. Gentry who essentially assigned me to be the lead (Curly) in our school production of Oklahoma, which became the seminal event of my high school career.
So it was a no-brainer that when I found out he is retiring after this school year, that I attended his final “Feaste of Carols,” a 27-year tradition which has evolved into a spectacular evening. (see this article from the local paper about it)
And Mr. Gentry’s swan song was nothing short of inspiring.
While Mr. Gentry’s life doesn’t exactly follow the plot line of “Mr. Hollands Opus,” he has touched the lives of thousands of students over the last 30 years, and the impact of his influence is likely in the tens of thousands.
At the final “Feaste of Carols” all of the choir alumni in attendance joined the current choir to sing “Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter. It was beautiful, and very emotional. To stand among dozens of people who were there to pay tribute to a great man was as powerful a moment as you could find.
Mr. Gentry, you may be retiring, but your influence will carry on for years to come.
Back in 2004 Dr. Tom Coburn, who had been a member of the revolutionary class of 1994 and then left Congress under a self-imposed term limit pledge, decided to run for the U.S. Senate. In early September I got a call from Congressman John Shadegg saying that my help was needed in Coburn’s Senate race.
A couple days later I flew to Tulsa and then drove to Muskogee, Dr. Coburn’s hometown and where the campaign headquarters was located. For the next eight weeks I lived in the Holiday Inn Express while I worked on the campaign.
The Muskogee Chamber of Commerce recently produced a video to Merle Haggard’s classic “Okie from Muskogee.” It brought back memories of the good ol’ days.
Thanks to Curt Price for passing it along.
As regular readers of NobleThinking know, I’m a huge fan of the TV show Lost on ABC. It is the first show in years that had me captivated and waiting on the edge of my seat for the next episode.
Then came along Mad Men on AMC. I love that show, but it’s in the off-season, leaving me with nowhere to go since Lost doesn’t start again until February 2010.
Which brings me to my latest fascination: Glee. The appeal to this show for me is that I was in show choir and drama in high school, and I can completely relate to a lot of the tension between the “popular” kids and the kids in glee.
When I revel in the glory days of high school, the big memories are starring as Curly in the school production of Oklahoma, playing Lord Fancourth Babberly in Charlie’s Aunt, our baseball team winning the state championship (I was the starting center fielder) and performing in the All-State show choir – all in that order.
So it turns out I’m more drama/choir geek than baseball jock. That’s probably obvious to everyone who went to high school with me, but it’s only upon reflection that I realized it myself.
So early next year, I’m going to be conflicted. Glee will go up against Lost on Wednesday nights.
Thank goodness for Tivo.
One of my political heroes is Dr. Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. I got to know Dr. Coburn when he was elected to the U.S. House as part of the 1994 Republican Revolution. For the next six years he led the charge against wasteful spending, health care reform and transparency in government. Then, holding to a self-imposed three-term limit, he retired from Congress and went back to the full-time practice of medicine (a family practitioner in Muskogee, OK).
In 2004 he decided to run for the open Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Don Nickles. I had the distinct privilege of spending the last two months of the 2004 election cycle in Oklahoma helping get Dr. Tom elected to the Senate in what became one of the fiercest Senate races in Oklahoma history. I used to joke with people in Oklahoma as I traveled around coordinating the campaign that “I don’t know anything about campaigning, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night!” It was relevant because I did, in fact, live in a Holiday Inn Express in Muskogee, OK for 62 nights in a row (I spent the last few nights of the campaign in Tulsa). I had a hard-boiled egg and a cinnamon roll nearly every morning.
My roommate and side-kick during that campaign was communications pro, Mike Steel (no, not that Michael Steele) who is now the Communications Director the U.S. House Republican Leader John Boehner. We spent an unhealthy amount of time together and I will never hear a Big and Rich tune without rollin’ across Oklahoma in a rented Monte Carlo running the campaign with a cell phone and a blackberry. (It was my work on the Coburn campaign that led to a Washington Post profile of my wife Julie in a story about the toll politics can take on families, and how my wife has earned sainthood for tolerating my work schedule.)
Coburn amassed a great team of people to help him in that race. The Oklahoma contingent included Mike Schwartz, Curt Price, Jerry Morris, Brian Treat, Greg Treat, Courtney Cox, Jane (now Treat), Martin Updike, John Hart, Tyler Faught, Tim Barr, Patrick Wyrick, Derek Sparks, and others who, embarrassingly, I can’t remember names. Chairing the victory operation was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known, Mike Willis, and he had Austin and some others helping him.
The out-of-towners included me, Steel, Jason Miller and also Jon Lerner doing the polling and John Brabender and Rob Aho doing the media. There were a ton of others that came in towards the end, and Congressman John Shadegg spent a lot of time on conference calls assisting with strategy.
All this walk down memory lane came as a result of Dr. Tom’s announcement on Monday that he will run for re-election. A video of his announcement is here.
All you need to know is in this video produced by the folks at Brabender Cox: