Harvey Mackay’s Column This Week
The staying power of Paul Harvey
And now we know the rest of the story. We said a final “good day” to beloved radio commentator Paul Harvey Feb. 28. Among the many lessons we learned from him, I think one of the most important is staying power.
Paul Harvey was one of my heroes. In fact, I was scheduled to interview him this month so I could write a column about his phenomenal career. Instead, I’m writing a posthumous tribute.
Paul Harvey worked for ABC Radio Networks for more than 50 years. At his peak, he was heard on 1,200 stations and reached more than 24 million listeners. He also wrote a syndicated newspaper column carried by 300 papers. Staying power.
I loved listening to the anecdotes he shared in “The Rest of the Story,” where Paul described some element of famous people’s lives. He said the stories were intended to capture “the heartbeat behind the headlines.” With his son Paul Jr., who helped research and write the pieces, he shared moving descriptions and little-known details that explained, inspired and entertained us for more than 30 years.
The rest of his story is fascinating. Paul was born in Tulsa, Okla. His father, a police officer, was killed when Paul was a toddler. A high school teacher directed him toward a radio career because of his melodious voice. He started his career at a Tulsa radio station in 1933. And we all know the rest of that story.
He progressed from those humble beginnings to become one of the most trusted men on radio. In a tribute, ABC Radio Networks President Jim Robinson said, “Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation’s history.”
Retirement was not on his radar. In fact, he once said, “I’d hate to get up every morning and have to play golf.” Far from that, in 2000 he signed a 10-year, $100 million contract with ABC Radio, which would have taken him past his 92nd birthday!
Staying power was evident in his family life as well. He met his future wife, Lynne (who he called Angel), while working at a St. Louis radio station. They married in 1940. She was his longtime producer, and he credited his success to her influence. She died last May. Paul Harvey Jr. said of his parents: “My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news. So in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents and today, millions have lost a friend.”
No matter how many tributes pour in, I think his own words illustrate why he has staying power. Among my favorite Paul Harvey quotes:
• “I’ve never seen a monument erected to a pessimist.” Looking for the positive and inspirational was one of the biggest reasons his listeners tuned in every day.
• “If there is a 50-50 chance that something can go wrong, nine times out of 10 it will.” A little humor went a long way in keeping his audience engaged.
• “In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.” Truer words were never spoken—and how apropos to today’s times!
I think his apology to business owners illustrates perfectly Paul Harvey’s profound understanding of American life and business that made it possible for him to relate to us. And that’s why we could relate to him.
“You put up the money to start the business that creates jobs for the rest of us. You gather the raw materials, importing some of them, devise salable products, advertise them and sell them. You pay all the operating expenses. You pay your employees 90 percent of the dollars that are left. You assume all the risk and invest most of your profit in additional equipment, additional facilities and new research.
“You pay out in taxes three times what you pay yourself. You businessmen and businesswomen create work, goods and services. You give more generously than anybody to churches, schools, foundations and charities of all sizes.
“By any reasonable rationale, you should be the focus of a grateful nation’s primary appreciation. As a public servant and provider, you should be on the cover of Time or Newsweek. You should be heralded on CBS, NBC and ABC. You should be esteemed by your government, by the media and by your fellow man.
“You seldom are. For my part in a nonproducing profession that ridicules or ignores you, I apologize. I wish I could promise it’s going to be different, I can’t.”
Mackay’s Moral: You’ll always be among friends, Paul. Because you still have staying power.