“You Took My Speech!” – by Gene Sheehan

That’s apparently what happened at UConn on Tuesday night, in an incident that immediately garnered national attention and, quite honestly, left no one looking good.

According to published reports, while alt-right commentator Lucian Wintrich was delivering a speech entitled “It’s OK to Be White” to a room of a few hundred people – amid loud protests from many in the audience – a State Community College Adviser took his speech from the lectern and made off with it. The speech itself was certainly meant to be provocative and probably intended to be disruptive, and I’m not defending its point of view.

But let’s remember something.

“Speech” itself is pretty much the only thing that separates us from the animals, and it is so important to us as Americans (and as humans) that our Founding Fathers ensured that the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contained a provision guaranteeing its absolute freedom from government intervention.

And once the words are taken away from people, the only option that usually remains is getting physical. That seems to be what happened here – something of a brawl ensued and the event was cut short, with the physical violence resulting in police arrests.

So much for the state of civil discourse in our current academic environment.

I participated in some of the disruptive social protest in the 1960s, and I understand the communication value of political theater. I also understand that a certain amount of disruption can be good and support positive change. In the end, however, we must depend on words and reason in order to live together.

After all, when you take away people’s speech, often times all they have left are their fists.



How Filler Words Can Erode Your Credibility – by Gene Sheehan

First, let me confess, I am not the most eloquent speaker. Because I speak like I write – composing each word – I am prone to pauses as I struggle to frame a thought or come up with just the right word. But better the occasional silence than the prolonged ums or ahs or, far worse, the annoying repetition of filler words that add nothing of substance while distracting from our message.

One of the worst examples of this has come from those who feel they need to begin every response with the word “so.” I’m not certain how this started or who started it, but I suspect the academic community. It mimics a professor’s knowing response to a student’s question and perhaps lends an air of authority to the speaker. “So we looked at the Land Rover and the Ford Explorer, but there was really no comparison between the two.” So this. So that.  So what? Or more to the point – why “so?” Another ubiquitous filler word is “look”—again at the beginning of a sentence. “Look, my position on this has been totally consistent.” You “look.” I’ll listen.

The bottom line is that the consistent use of nonessential filler words is viewed as a crutch by the discerning listener, causing them to focus on how you’re saying things rather than what you’re trying to say.

Best to opt for the thoughtful pause.

The Day I Met Glen Campbell – Gene Sheehan Remembers

It was at Charlie Kaman’s house in Farmington at a small fundraiser for the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Glen had a major role in the success of the Kaman-designed Ovation guitar, which he had prominently played on his national television show, and he and Charlie became friends for life.

A devoted Beach Boys fan, I was pumping Campbell for details on his early session work with the group when he was part of the “Wrecking Crew” and his experience of going on the road with the Beach Boys to replace an ailing Brian Wilson (they needed someone who could sing the high notes on their hit record at the time, “Caroline No”).

He was gracious, thoughtful and funny in his responses. Thank you, Glen Campbell, for giving this fan a magical afternoon all those years ago in Charlie Kaman’s living room.

This clip will give you an indication of the magic he could make with an Ovation guitar.

A Lesson in Holding Your Ground


By Dan Tapper

We frequently remind clients of the need to stand your ground when being interviewed by a journalist, particularly when the interview is at least a bit contentious. “Don’t let them dictate what you are going to say,” we say over and over. “Don’t let them speak for you or put words in your mouth. Their job is to ask the tough questions. Your job is to hold your ground and speak for yourself.”

It’s advice that never gets old and never gets any less important. Everything you say to a reporter, on or off the record, has to be the truth. But you get to deliver it on your own terms, not anybody else’s. And if you have messages that you believe in, that you are willing and able to not just stand by but to stand up and tout, chances are you will come out ahead.

Recently I saw a rather perfect example of the value of holding your ground, from an article written by a sportswriter in 2012 commemorating the death of Marvin Miller (pictured at left), the man who formed the first ever Baseball Players Association in the 1960s and, in the eyes of the majority of baseball fans, changed the game forever, and largely for the better. No less a baseball authority than legendary broadcaster Red Barber once said, “Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history.”

This sportswriter, Joe Posnanski – now a senior columnist for Sports Illustrated – recalled at Miller’s death an interview he did with him 10 years earlier in 2002 about the then-current labor situation in baseball, when a strike was being threatened and the growing sentiment seemed to be many in the public had turned against the players in favor of the owners.

And it’s here where Posnanski pointed out perhaps Miller’s greatest strength—he always held his ground and never once budged from delivering his message. He was able to do this, it seems, because he so fervently believed in his message

As Posnanski wrote 10 years later, looking back on that interview: “For every question, there was an emphatic answer. For every proposition there was suspicion. For every search for middle ground, there was a powerful push back. But, through it all, I don’t think he raised his voice once. Through it all, I don’t believe he ever said one word that hinted at arrogance or dismissiveness. He was just explaining things, patiently, with some humor, without doubt.”

Read for yourself. Here are some excerpts from that 2002 story Posnanski wrote about his interview with Marvin Miller. And take special note at how hard Posnanski pushes him, and how hard Miller pushes right back. His refusal to accept what he saw as flawed premises, his refusal to accept a reporter’s questions as facts – this is, as the saying goes, how it’s done.

“It’s a different world,” I suggested. (Than it had been in the 1960s when the union was born)

“No,” he said bluntly. “It’s the same fight.”

“There are people who blame the players for not cleaning up the game by submitting to steroid testing,” I challenged.

“Do you want someone searching your car without proper cause?” he asked back. “Your house? No. Of course not. But you think it’s fair for people to search your bloodstream or bladder? That’s absurd.”

Some players — current and former — seem to feel like the union has already won so many battles, it should be willing to meet the owners more in the middle.

“I remember when we were trying to do away with the reserve clause (NOTE: This is the clause that essentially tied a player to one team for life; when Miller appealed to an arbitrator that it was illegal, he won his case, the clause was abolished and this directly led to free agency). I marveled at the fact that something like that could be in players’ contracts. … But even more, I marveled at the fact that, when I brought it up to the players, they gave me a response which, in effect, said baseball couldn’t survive without it. They had been brainwashed to believe the reserve clause was good for baseball.”

Yes, maybe, but what about fans? They cannot even relate to the money these players make. How can you expect them to relate to the players’ plight?

“I don’t expect that. Fans never have related. Here’s what I would say to that. Fans don’t seem to understand that the largest pocketbook issue that faces them is the tax money being used for essentially free stadiums for wealthy owners. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars in cities where schools are crumbling and highways and bridges need repair.

“Players make what they deserve to make on the open market. That’s all. And let me say this again: Fans have their rights. But they should have nothing to say on what a player earns. I liken it to an automobile company. Somebody might buy six or seven Chevrolets in his life. Automobile companies ought to listen to the things he has to say about how a car looks, how it runs, how it stands up. All important things. But I don’t think a car buyer has any right to have any input whatsoever on the wages and benefits of automobile employees.”

Here is the full interview for those who wish to read it. It’s a great lesson, from a person who knew as much as any the value of a strong, immovable message.

TUESDAY TIP – “Empty corporate banality is not the way to manage a very public crisis.”

“Re-accommodate?” Really???

When exactly will United Airlines stop digging this hole for itself? Who knows. But the company seems determined to keep going until they hit the Earth’s core.

As millions around the world have now seen, United began its descent into this social and legacy media nightmare when it was announced earlier this week to a full flight from Chicago to Louisville that four people would have to go to make room for four United employees who had to get to Chicago instead.

The seemingly cold, anti-customer essence of that request aside, what happened next was disgraceful—a 69-year old man was dragged, bloodied and beaten, off of the plane after he refused to relinquish the seat he had paid for. Most who have seen the video have likely recoiled at the sheer brutality of it all.

But then United’s CEO, given the opportunity to make things at least a little better in the public eye, went the other way.

“I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” That’s how United’s CEO Oscar Munoz chose to communicate in his public statement.

Webster’s Dictionary has several different definitions for the word “accommodate,” all of which center around providing something desired, something for which agreeable consideration is made. The final entry is the most succinct: “To make fit, suitable or congruous.”

And while we’re at it, the Webster’s definition of “re-accommodate” is simple: “To accommodate again.”

It’s fair to say that no one who has ever been treated the way this gentleman was—roughed up, battered, possibly knocked unconscious—has ever felt “accommodated.” And surely they would not want to be “accommodated” like this all over again.

Munoz’s tone deaf response was the height of empty corporate speak, as well as remarkably disingenuous and bafflingly unapologetic. The result has been international mockery and condemnation; pretty much universal outrage blew up on social media all day yesterday and it continues today, and published reports have indicated that in just one day United has lost roughly $800 million in value. So far.

No one should have needed hindsight to know that a real apology, followed by a decisive plan to correct the action, was the only option to protect United’s brand and move forward.

Instead the CEO opted to go in the exact opposite direction, doubling down and refusing to do the right thing for this injured senior citizen or for the company. This crisis is not likely to go away anytime soon, not as long as United thinks it can simply pass it off with thoughtless, empty banality.

Gene Sheehan Remembers: Two Giants, One Sad Day

life-john-lennon life-john-glenn

It’s been said before, figuratively, that the decade of the 1960s unofficially began with John Glenn’s successful orbit around the earth in 1962, and unofficially ended with the death of John Lennon.

What a sad and remarkable coincidence that both of these men, giants with few peers in their respective fields, died on December 8 – John Lennon in 1980, John Glenn just yesterday.

But rather than just mourn them, let’s also celebrate the monumental contributions each made, and how they each made the world such a better place by what they accomplished.


Dan Tapper Remembers: 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Today is the 75th anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy,” the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy that led to America’s immediate entry into World War II. We honor the thousands lost that Sunday morning in Hawaii, just as we celebrate the heroic actions taken that day which no doubt saved thousands of more lives.

Today’s anniversary brought me back to the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in 1991pearl-harbor, when I was a young reporter barely a year out of college for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. The newspaper that year (well before the age of social media) put out a call for surviving veterans of the Pearl Harbor attacks to come forward and tell their stories, and many of them did. The result was a wonderful special section with more than a dozen gripping, terrifying and often inspirational remembrances of that awful day.

I wish I could remember the name of the gentleman I interviewed for a story which ran 25 years ago today, but I will never forget the story he told. He likely was younger on December 7, 1941 than I was that day I interviewed him, and he recalled how that morning he had been given the rather unenviable task of digging a new latrine at the naval base. But he did as he was ordered, and was out there digging away in the early daylight hours when he saw planes flying fairly low. He thought it odd to see our U.S. planes out flying so early, but then told me how everything changed in an instant when he saw a dreaded but very familiar Japanese “Rising Sun” on the side of the planes. The bombing, as he remembered, started almost instantly.

But he’d been digging this new latrine, which suddenly and quite unexpectedly became a very convenient foxhole into which he could jump and take cover. He credited that ditch, at least in part, with helping to save his life – from that point he did all he could to help fight back and help others stay alive.

I was struck that day by how vividly he recalled those horrible events, in such precise detail, and how recent it still seemed to him all these years later. I also recall how proud he was, justifiably, not only of his service that day and in the war years to come, but of all those who served with him. They were young, too young – barely out of high school, many of them. But here they were at this unspeakably momentous juncture in their lives where nothing would ever be the same.

We honor the sacrifices, the bravery, the selflessness of all who served that day in Pearl Harbor, 75 years ago today – the more than 2,400 killed, more than 1,000 wounded and countless others who served and fought and saved lives and saw their own lives scarred and changed forever that day. The gentleman I had the privilege of interviewing, though long into his retirement, made it all so clear for me through his thoughtful recollections. You get older, you learn, you grow and your life takes you on a series of amazing journeys. But you never forget what happened and what you saw that day. You remember it all, and all of us – even those of us who weren’t alive yet – do all we can to remember it with them. And to keep saying thank you.

{Photo Credit: U.S Department of Defense}

University of Saint Joseph’s New Women’s Leadership Development Center Inaugurated


The University of Saint Joseph’s new Women’s Leadership Development Center was inaugurated recently with a panel discussion of well-known women business leaders. Titled Working to Elevate Women to the C-Suite, the event attracted more than 170 people to USJ’s West Hartford campus. The moderator of the panel, standing at left, was Nancy Roath (USJ, ’72), co-founder and senior director of Future 5 and retired Vice President of IBM Brand and Product Marketing. Panelists were, sitting from left, JoAnn Price, co-founder/managing partner, Fairview Capital; Madelyn Lankton, executive vice president and chief information officer, Enterprise Operations and eBusiness, Travelers; Patti LaMonica, executive director of Emergency Medicine and Pre-hospital Service Line at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center; and Sheila Hartnett (USJ, ’74), chairman/CEO of Geometry Global. The program concluded with closing remarks from Marty Gervasi (USJ, ’83), chief human resource officer at The Hartford. Following the event, attendees took part in a lively networking reception sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. (Photo credit: University of Saint Joseph)



A powerful press conference held on 10-14 by the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation

This was a powerful press conference the Schaghticoke  Tribal Nation held on October 14 in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, announcing a lawsuit against the State of Connecticut, seeking $610 million for land taken by the state for which the tribe never received compensation. Please check out our Facebook Live stream below:



Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Sues Connecticut for $613 Million for Land Unlawfully Taken


HARTFORD – Friday, October 14, 2016 – The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) has filed a lawsuit in Connecticut Superior Court seeking more than $610 million in damages for the state’s unconstitutional, uncompensated taking of more than 2,000 acres of tribal land over a period of 117 years from 1801 to 1918. Taking land without compensation violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution, and attorneys for the tribe say this suit is strictly about the tribe finally being compensated for what it is rightly owed.

The complaint was filed on Thursday, October 13, 2016 in Connecticut Superior Court in Hartford, and was announced this morning at a news briefing in Room 1B of the Legislative Office Building. Representing the tribe are Austin Tighe, of the Nix, Patterson & Roach law firm and former U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of the Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman law firm.

“It’s important to note this suit is only about fair compensation for STN, not recouping land,” Attorney Tighe said. “There are three incontrovertible facts about this case – the state took land from the Schaghticokes on 91 different occasions over a period of 117 years, the state promised to pay the tribe for the land and repeatedly broke its promise, and both the United States and Connecticut Constitutions prohibit such uncompensated taking of land.”

“It is clear to me that the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has been treated unfairly for a long time, and STN has meritorious claims against the state,” Senator Lieberman said. “As this lawsuit demonstrates, the State acted unconstitutionally and breached its statutory fiduciary duties in taking tribal land, and STN is entitled to be compensated by the State for those wrongful acts.”

Both attorneys added the state has taken over 2,000 acres of STN Reservation land – more than 80% of it – under the guise that the state would eventually pay STN the proceeds from these sales, but that never happened. This unconstitutional taking of STN land without just compensation, followed by their mismanagement and misappropriation of tribal funds, have caused Schaghticoke funds to be totally depleted and its reservation reduced from 2,400 acres to a mere 400, they added.

Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky said, ““The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation is only interested in a fair and just financial settlement for the land that was unconstitutionally taken. Beginning with the creation of our reservation in 1736, the state has blatantly and dismissively manipulated the system against the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation for nearly three centuries. With this lawsuit our tribe is seeking justice that has long been denied to us.”

Austin Tighe noted his law firm Nix, Patterson & Roach (“NPR”) is highly selective, taking approximately one out of every fifty lawsuits they are asked to handle.  NPR was one of the five Texas Tobacco law firms, recovering over $17 billion for the State of Texas.  Just last year, NPR recovered $3 billion for the State of Florida from BP over the Gulf Oil Spill.  And in August 2015, NPR resolved 100-year-old claims for the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian Tribes alleging that U.S. government officials failed to properly protect tribal interests in the sale of timber lands from 1908 to 1940.  NPR was part of a legal team that included Judge Michael Burrage, a former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the first Native American in history to be appointed to the federal bench.  That case settled for $186 million.

“The personal involvement of Senator Lieberman along with our law firm underscores the viability of the legal action and the gravity of the injustice that has occurred,” Attorney Tighe said.

Tom Rodgers, an enrolled Blackfeet Tribal member, leading Native American advocate and Jack Abramoff whistleblower who is working with STN on this complaint, said under the Obama Administration the U.S. government has paid Native American tribes more than $6.7 billion in settlements for past wrongs – including $3.4 billion in one case alone – with some cases more than 100 years old.

“Native Americans can pursue relief for historical wrongs, and have done so successfully over and over again for the past eight years,” Mr. Rodgers said. “This is an historical wrong which needs to be corrected. Overseers abused their fiduciary duty when they sold this land, and in doing so the state in effect stole this land from the Schaghticokes.”