You Were: The Eminence Grise

November 15, 2010

In 1922, you graduated from high school and took a job with the local paper in Sudbury, Ontario. Your hero was American journalist Nellie Bly, and you wanted to follow in her footsteps as an investigative reporter. On your first day in the office, you were informed that you’d be the paper’s new advice columnist.

You weren’t pleased, but you decided to take the job seriously. Some advice columnists try to be funny or folksy. And most never say what they really think. But whenever people wrote to you for love advice or professional guidance, you gave it to them straight. You never hesitated to tell them to quit their jobs, leave their spouses, empty their savings accounts, or flee the country.

At first people found your style a little too . . . honest. Then they started taking your advice. Soon, Sudbury was the happiest, most productive town in Canada. That’s when the government of the United States took notice. (Yes, Canadians. We’ve always been watching you.)

Warren G. Harding was a terrible President—quite possibly one of the worst. But at least he knew it (which is more than you can say for some that we’ve had). Before he went into politics, he’d been a successful newspaperman, and even as President he kept his eyes on the papers. That’s how he found you. A week later, on the last day of July in 1923, you were sitting across from him in the Oval Office.

Harding told you all about the scandals and corruption that plagued his presidency. And one by one, you offered solutions to his problems (not all of them professional—Harding was known as a ladies’ man). If he’d followed your advice, Harding might have gone down in history as a much better leader. Unfortunately, he kicked the bucket three days later.

Of course that wasn’t the end of your career in politics. You were an advisor to every President from Harding to Kennedy. (Though some leaders paid more attention than others.) FDR was referring to you when he said, “I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.”

Though you married a movie star (long story), you lived your own life in the shadows, and your contribution to the world has gone unrecognized. But if you look closely at photos taken of US Presidents at historical moments, you’ll find the same attractive blond lurking somewhere in the background.

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2 Responses to “You Were: The Eminence Grise”

  1. Alli Says:

    Thank You Kirsten! I love it!

  2. Cricket Says:

    Knew we Canadian’s were being watched. I blame the NIA.


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