Monday, April 7, 2008

Judge Letitia

Late last week, I was enjoying cocktail hour with my wife and my mom and, of course, the phone rings. It was after formal business hours, but I do business with folks on the West Coast, so it was OK.

“Hello Peter, this is Letitia Baldrige. How are you this evening?”

I just about jumped out of my shoes! I do quite a few public speaking gigs, as well as some radio and television, but I found myself stammering into the phone. I mean, this lady is a legend. Shouldn’t I be speaking with someone from her staff?

Granted, I had sent Ms. Baldrige a fax to show her the copy we were planning to use for her bio as a judge for The Letters You Keep contest, but still…..

We had a lovely chat and then it really hit me. That was Letitia Baldrige! Letitia Baldrige is going to read and judge letters with Samara O’Shea and me. I’m definitely not worthy.

In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, Letitia Baldrige received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Vassar, did graduate work at l'Université de Genève, and is the recipient of four honorary degrees. She spent a decade in the United States Foreign Service, serving as a special assistant to Ambassadors David Bruce in Paris and Clare Boothe Luce in Rome. She entered the private sector as the first senior woman executive of Tiffany & Co. in New York in 1956.

She served as Social Secretary to the White House and Chief of Staff for Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960 and continued to serve as a pro bono advisor to subsequent First Ladies and therefore continued to have, as she phrased it, “a catbird seat overlooking the march of history.” She opened her consulting business in 1964, and pioneered as a woman director of several major corporations.

She has published 25 books on the subjects of entertaining, design and manners. She is a professional lecturer in the United States and abroad, and appears regularly on network television. She has been a front-row observer since 1948 of American political events, but she has also survived making major gaffes in elevated places during those years.
“The secret to almost everything,” Ms. Baldrige says, “is to keep your sense of humor, and if you don't have one, for heaven's sake, go get one!”

So, for those who might be on the fence about sending in your most treasured letters for consideration in Crane’s contest, just think about this: Your letter will be read by Letitia Baldrige!
How cool is that?

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