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Why I'm in Love with Peggy Noonan

Created: 22 Feb 2009 • Updated: 05 Nov 2012 • 1 comment
Doug McLean's picture
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WARNING: This posting is off topic.  It's going to happen occasionally.

To be clear, I've never met Peggy Noonan, nor do I ever expect to. As such it's not really Ms. Noonan herself with whom I'm in love. It's her writing. For the last year or more, my regular Saturday morning routine has included reading her column on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. Normally, Ms. Noonan covers political matters, but this week's column focuses on the impact of an apparently still deepening recession. I'll get back to this week's column in a minute, but first let me tell you a few things about Ms. Noonan.

Peggy Noonan first came to national prominence as Ronald Reagan's speech writer. Her book on the experience, What I Saw at the Revolution, is considered one of the seminal descriptions of the Reagan White House. She also worked as a speech writer for George H.W. Bush during his 1988 presidential campaign. She's written a half dozen books including two on how to communicate clearly, which she does exceptionally well.

What I love about Noonan's writing is that despite her work in support of two of the more conservative presidents in the last 30 years, she's evolved into a rare voice of moderate reason in an increasingly polarized political and editorial environment. I don't know if this is because she's changed or the environment in which we live has, but having watched both Congress and the California state legislature fail to build any sort of bipartisan coalition in the last two weeks to address the economic issues each faces, I find Noonan's perspectives particularly sensible and refreshing. If you really want to understand what happened during the 2008 presidential election and why, I'd encourage you to read her '08 columns in the archive on her website.

This week's column is a bit of a departure for Noonan in that it doesn't really focus on the poltical environment. Instead it highlights the quintessential American trait of finding great opportunity in the midst of economic adversity. As she wrote in the final paragraph:

"Dynamism has been leached from our system for now, but not from the human brain or heart. Just as our political regeneration will happen locally, in counties and states that learn how to control themselves and demonstrate how to govern effectively in a time of limits, so will our economic regeneration. That will begin in someone's garage, somebody's kitchen, as it did in the case of Messrs. Jobs and Wozniak. The comeback will be from the ground up and will start with innovation."

I've been fortunate enough to spend nearly my entire professional career in the Silicon Valley where almost all companies begin in someone's kitchen or garage. Sometimes these companies turn into a Hewlett-Packard or a Mrs. Fields Cookies, but more often than not they fail, but it's in those failures where magic often happens. Because the technology economy has developed a remarkable ability to learn from its mistakes, it has allowed us to move from failed products such as the Go tablet computer, to the more successful Palm Pilot, to the ground breaking iPhone. Peg Noonan well understands the underlying spirit that drives this sort of dynamism and economic resilience. I only wish she'd write about it more often.

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Nathan's picture

I liked the conclusion as well, but I sure did have to wade through a lot of doom and gloom to get there...

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