The Week: What Caught Our Eye

June 18, 2022

A walking path through woods“Most people want to visit exotic places and have life-changing experiences, but few actually bother trying. Don’t be like most people  You have the power to life your life to the fullest.” (H. Jackson Brown) 

Dear Colleagues, Friends and Especially Dads and Grads:

For all fathers and those who serve as dads, we honor you on this, the 112th celebration of Father's Day, a weekend for kids’ cards, new socks, golf balls, and cookouts, rooted in tragedy and controversy.

Three hundred sixty-two men died in an explosion at the Fairmont Coal Co. mine in West Virginia in 1907, and a few months later a local church commemorated their loss with a Sunday sermon in honor of fathers. The broader celebration of Father’s Day did not take place until 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Wash., wanted to honor her own father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran who raised six children on his own. She rallied the people of Spokane for a statewide salute to Dads on June 19, 1910.

Mother’s Day was first celebrated nationally in 1914. By the end of World War II, Father’s Day had become a national institution,  but it took until 1972 – thank you, Richard Nixon – for Father’s Day to become a national holiday. There was lingering resistance: Some saw the celebration as a subversive effort to “domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving;” others derided the spread of commercialism – paid for by Dads.

FOR MANY PEOPLE in our corner of Upstate New York and elsewhere, it’s also high school graduation week. This means young people who, after considerable struggle, have at last worked their way through 13 arduous years of education, are richly rewarded with high-minded advice that seems irrelevant to their TikTok lives from people who think they’re talking about clocks. Far be it from us to disrupt a fine tradition: Be safe, be kind, be open, be self-reflective, and be on time. Oh, and by the way, read Rudyard Kipling.

OBSERVING JUNETEENTH: June 19, 1865, two months after the Civil War ended, Union officers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform slaves of their freedom. A second independence day, and a reminder that Black people in America have endured the systemic denial of their freedom, humanity, and equality by their own government and fellow citizens. A federal holiday, Juneteenth will be observed on Monday. Events are planned in Albany, Schenectady and Troy, N.Y. To learn more about Juneteenth, its origins and meaning today, check out this resource page on the National Museum of African American History & Culture website.

THE GROWTH PHENOMENON: Warren County, N.Y., is emerging from the COVID pandemic stronger economically. Not only did hospitality and tourism soar, investors and entrepreneurs quietly built and expanded businesses, and professionals relocated their families to the safety and beauty of the Lake George region. The overwhelming global tragedy of COVID-19 is not to be minimized, but the ingenuity, enthusiasm and determination of the business community in the face of such challenge deserves celebration, a message we were delighted to help shape and deliver.

MEANWHILE, NEXT DOOR: Things in the historic Washington County village of Hudson Falls are on a nice upswing. First, the reborn Strand Theater and then the Sandy Hill Arts Center began breathing new life into the downtown center. Now an iconic but largely forgotten park has been transformed into a beautiful athletic complex and festival space by village leaders with a vision, a grassroots fundraising effort, and a major boost from two longtime local businessmen and philanthropists. Moran-Derby Park re-opens with a ribbon-cutting ceremony today at 11 a.m.

A jockey riding racehorse Mo Donegal in front of a grandstand full of spectatorsMo Donegal, with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, is expected at the 153rd Travers Stakes at Saratoga.  (Skip Dickstein)

IN A NEW YORK MO-NUTE: A few weeks ago, we toasted Mo Donegal as the leading local favorite in the Kentucky Derby. We may have jumped the starting gate then, but the big colt redeemed our faith last weekend, winning the 154th running of the Belmont in 2:28:28. Mo is owned in part by Skidmore College grads, wears Skidmore’s trademark yellow and green, is trained by New Yorker Todd Pletcher and was ridden by the nation’s top rider, New Yorker Irad Ortiz Jr. And when Mo wins, everybody wins: In Des Moines, Iowa, home to Donegal Racing, kids got free ice cream, and Ortiz was given a stallion season in the colt – in other words, a breeding right to Mo. Next stop: the Travers at Saratoga.

TEACHING MOMENTS: In greater numbers than we’ve seen before, parents are pulling their children out of public schools. More than 20,000 children who were in New York State public schools in the 2019-20 academic year are now being taught at home, according to data from the state Education Department. Some school districts in the Capital Region are reporting twice the number of home-schooled students as two years ago. “I feel like as citizens we were kind of forced into this situation,” Michelle Fantauzzi of Galway, who withdrew her first- and second-graders near the end of the 2020-21 school year, told the Albany Times Union.

MORE TEACHING MOMENTS: Students at Massena High School, near the Canadian border in New York, started bringing flags to school and wearing apparel in early June to celebrate Pride Month, which supports and affirms LGBTQ+ people and communities. Then some students decided to express their views by bringing a Confederate flag to school. The result: No more flags. Superintendent Patrick Brady told North Country Public Radio it's “unfortunate that both were brought in at the same time,” and that they “got equated together.” He added, “(T)here's no moral equivalence between a peaceful rainbow flag which represents, you know, peace and inclusion and accepting diversity, and a Confederate flag that represents very much the opposite of that.”

CAN’T BEAT THE LOCATION: Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay, of the Food Network hit series “Beat Bobby Flay” dabbles in the ponies, as they say. So in addition to his homes in LA, NYC and the Hamptons, it makes sense that he’s bought a house in Saratoga Springs overlooking the Oklahoma Training track.

WOKE UP CALL: The Intercept, an online investigative news source, dropped a 10,000-word bomb on the world of progressive nonprofits this week, a deeply reported and sourced account of the in-fighting that is causing tremendous stress and turmoil among staff, executives and board members and limiting the effectiveness of the organizations to achieve desired policy outcomes. “My last nine months, I was spending 90 to 95 percent of my time on internal strife,” one former nonprofit executive who had enough told The Intercept. Said a current executive director: “The dynamic, the toxic dynamic of whatever you want to call it — callout culture, cancel culture, whatever — is creating this really intense thing, and no one is able to acknowledge it, no one’s able to talk about it, no one’s able to say how bad it is.” 

THE NOSE KNOWS: Hunter, a 56-pound Lab, is keeping kids safe in schools in Massachusetts – not by finding guns or drugs, but by detecting COVID-19. Dogs are well known for their ability to sniff out explosives, alert people to cancers or imminent seizures, and detect fungus. Now, they’re on the COVID beat, with uncanny accuracy.

HEADS UP: For those who walk regularly in Albany or Schenectady, N.Y., it will come as no surprise that they are among the worst cities in America for pedestrians, according to Insurify, an insurance comparison marketplace. Schenectady was No. 2 on the ignominious list, trailing only Elizabeth, N.J. Albany was 12th. Insurify found that Schenectady drivers are cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian at nearly 10 times the rate of the national average. The best drivers, according to Insurify, can be found in Waterbury, Conn.

POWER AND COURAGE: Vitali Klitschko was a dominant heavyweight boxer in the first decade of the 21st century, a hard-punching two-time world champion whose only two career losses were when he was injured during the fight. Long an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, Klitschko, who has served as mayor of Ukraine’s capital city since 2014, will be honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2022 ESPYS on July 20 in Los Angeles. 

FAREWELL, EXPLORER: Internet Explorer, the Microsoft internet search engine that debuted in 1995 and by the early 2000s was the browser used by more than 90% of web surfers, is no more. Microsoft gave users plenty of warning, announcing last year that it no longer would support Internet Explorer after June 15, 2022. Today, according to The Associated Press, Google’s Chrome browser dominates with roughly a 65% share of the worldwide browser market, followed by Apple’s Safari with 19%.

WASTE NOT … EVER: Climate activists speak about a coming cataclysm — inundated coastlines, upended food chains, mass suffering and migration. It’s a warning, delivered in stark, urgent tones. That’s not the approach taken by Kennedy Hammond and other waste-minimization influencers on social media. Instead, Hammond shares with her more than 250,0000 TikTok followers practical tips for a zero-waste lifestyle that Morning Brew describes as “stunningly positive for a topic as dire as the apocalyptic climate crisis. The zero waste influencers’ sunny attitude and clean minimalism make the lifestyle more desirable to their followers. It contrasts starkly with the realities of climate change, particularly as headlines warn of the impending doom of global warming.” “Doing it took a little bit of relearning but there’s nothing extreme about it, really,” another zero-waste influencer, Lauren Singer, told Morning Brew. “I still live the same life that anybody else does.”

THE FAST LANE: Ninety-one athletes from more than a dozen countries are in the Capital Region of New York State this week to compete in one of the most prestigious championships in their sport: The Professional Women’s Bowling Association U.S. Women’s Open, with big-dollar prizes, nationally televised finals on CBS and a hometown favorite. It’s the first time the Open has been in New York since 1973.

Bare treetops against a light blue sky with evergreen trees in the backgroundThe return of spongy caterpillars has given some trees, like these in Bolton Landing, N.Y., the look of late autumn. And to think, the critters were brought here purposefully, for silk production.

A WIN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: A Supreme Court Judge in Warren County, N.Y., halted a plan by the Lake George Park Commission to use a chemical herbicide on the lake to battle invasive Eurasian watermilfoil. The Lake George Association, which has done invaluable work to characterize the lake’s water quality and protect it, sued to stop the plan, arguing that not enough was known about the potential for irreparable harm to the lake.

ALIVE AND WELL: Authorities using DNA analysis last year identified the remains of a young couple who had been found murdered four decades earlier near Houston, a discovery that opened a new mystery: What happened to the couple’s young daughter, who vanished with them? Last week, the Texas Attorney General’s Office announced that the child, now 42, was (subscription required) found living in Oklahoma, where she is a married mother of five.

NORTHERN HOSPITALITY: Sam White moved from Upstate New York to South Carolina in 2020, to be closer to her immediate family as the pandemic took hold. Two years later, she’s ready to move back home, eager to shed the blanket of heat and humidity and bugs that show up on airport radar, as well as the South’s more rigid cultural norms. “I can't wait to throw on a pair of boots and a sweater, put on my headphones, and go for a walk without having to do that polite Southern wave that everyone seems to insist on doing down here,” she writes. “I just want to walk in peace, and I can always count on my fellow New Yorkers to mind their own business.”

HAVING JACK’S BACK: Most of the national news media regularly lavished praise on Jack Welch during his transformative run as GE’s CEO, but now, two years after his death, a new book by  New York Times reporter and columnist David Gelles is attacking his legacy. The Man Who Broke Capitalism depicts Welch as no less than “the root of all that’s wrong with capitalism,” its publisher says. Not so fast or facile. Welch’s legendary general counsel, Ben Heineman, remembers that it was Welch who showed American business how to compete successfully with Japan and Germany. A New York Times reviewer says: “When Gelles’s thinking isn’t borrowed and warmed over, it’s often half-baked.” And perhaps most interesting of all, Welch’s successor, Jeff Immelt, himself a target of withering Welch criticism, writes that Welch fostered an atmosphere of achievement and success, as witnessed by the many former GE executives who went on to lead other companies. “Jack believed in performance and productivity and rewarded both,” Immelt writes. “These are good things, not just at GE but for all of society.”

THE LISTS: Saranac Lake calls itself “The Adirondacks’ Coolest Place,” and World Atlas agrees. It named the Adirondack village one of nine best small towns in New York for a weekend visit. “The climate is ideal … the excellent in-town attractions include creative eateries, along with cultural and arts events. The unique Saranac Laboratory Museum tells the story of the village as the former … destination for tuberculosis patients. … For some old-fashioned fun, the Adirondack Carousel is an absolute masterpiece.” Meanwhile, Fortune honors the best large workplaces in New York. Wegman’s is tops again, with Regeneron recognized as well, on a list dominated by Manhattan investment houses, professional services and health care.

HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: “Law enforcement agencies cracking down on boating safety in Saratoga County.” 

LIVES

PHILIP BAKER HALL played highly stressed older men who were used to being listened to: Richard M. Nixon reflecting on his sins in Robert Altman’s fictional “Secret Honor;’’ Aristotle Onassis in “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis” (2000); Don Hewitt, the “60 Minutes” producer, in “The Insider” (1999); and CIA director Stansfield Turner in “Argo” (2012). But some remember him best as Lieutenant Bookman, the Seinfeld detective working for the New York Public Library pursuing two decades in overdue fines for a copy of Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer.” He was 90.

WILLETTA SPEASE is among the most accomplished high school coaches in New York State history, winning five state championships and 12 sectional championships in 21 years as head girls’ basketball coach at Nottingham High in Syracuse and preparing dozens of players for collegiate basketball. In 1996, she became the first woman inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame. She retired four years later with a career record of 408-63. “She was just a phenomenal woman,” one of her former players told Syracuse.com. She was 84.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

—    Henry James

THE SIGNOFF

AN ELEPHANT IS NOT A PERSON: Glad New York’s highest court cleared that up.

PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Emily Behan, Claire P. Tuttle, Skip Dickstein, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, and Tara Hutchins.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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