J. Edward Day was a Chicago attorney who, much to his surprise, was appointed US postmaster general by President Kennedy. He wrote of this experience in a wry memoir called My Appointed Round. In it, General Day recalled that:
Once we were asked to issue a stamp honoring the 100th anniversary of the pretzel industry. I suggested that we would be glad to issue a pretzel stamp if only someone would come up with a glue for it that would taste like beer.
[Day continued:] I repeated that remark in a speech to a small group in New Orleans after dinner at Antoine’s. A brewery owner present jumped to his feet and said, “Mr. Day: I have the solution to your problem. Our beer tastes like glue!”
It’s just as well the stamp being issued today is self-adhesive and needs no glue, because President Bush would have insisted it taste like a vodka martini.
George Herbert Walker Bush climbed to the White House atop all the personal notes and letters he wrote. Well trained by his formidable mother, he never let even a day pass before he took out a card or piece of stationery and penned his thanks, greetings, regrets, observations, congratulations, consolations, condolences, encouragements, jokes, gentle jibes, and much else to whomever he had just seen or just thought about.
Once an autograph catalog offered for sale a typical blue-bordered card on which the then-vice president had written something like, “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Steinhart: Barbara and I send our best wishes on your 50 years of marriage. Many, many more!” He probably wrote the card in immediate response to the request of a friend, a campaign aide, or a Secret Service agent. It was listed at $600. When I mentioned this at a White House staff meeting, the Roosevelt Room fell momentarily silent as my colleagues calculated the fortune in their files: Dozens and dozens of such notes times $600!
Quite quickly the reality of the market place hit: America was virtually papered with blue-bordered cards from George Bush. No way they could bring that much.
True, but what each card and letter did bring was a smile of gratitude for the simple thoughtfulness of a man who took the time to write them. And in conveying George Bush’s heart, those two or three handwritten lines on each card were more successful and impactful than pages of typed official sentiment.
To all youngsters present – and that means most everyone other than myself – this is the radical, outside-the-box, terribly effective business technique that President Bush’s life teaches us:
Yes, you can text or email or Instagram people today, and they will be glad you did. But if you really want to make them grateful – those friends, relatives, and clients – take out a piece of paper and a pen, and write them a few sentences in your own hand.
Oh: And don’t forget to put this handsome stamp on the envelope. It contains no glue in any flavor. Of this splendid tribute to the US Postal Service’s best-ever customer we can truly say, it can’t be licked.