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Critiquing the Powerful  

It made the front page of every newspaper in America: Former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert—Indicted.  The allegation: hush money—and lots of it—paid to keep a misconduct quiet. Hastert’s guilt or innocence is up for others to decide.  But may I share my own encounter with Denny Hastert?

Several years ago, I was tasked with writing and producing a series of anti-marijuana public service announcements for a radio campaign.  As a freelancer, I was asked to fly to Washington and record endorsements for this campaign from a high profile congressional Democrat and Republican.  Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, was the chosen Republican.

In the surprisingly dark hallways of the United States Capitol building I breathed in power’s musky fragrance, ultimately setting up shop in Dennis Hastert’s (impressively sized) office.  I handed him the script, powered up my recorder and we went to work.

The problem was this.  Mr. Hastert might well have been an effective legislator.  But a narrator he was not (few politicians are).  Frankly, his reading sounded unnatural, flat. But what was I supposed to do?  He was, after all, the man second in line to succeed the President of the United States.

In that perplexing moment (and it was a bit awkward) I chose to do what I always do when coaching “voice talent.”  I politely observed “that was a good first read. But I wonder if we could try it slightly differently—like this.”  He did.  It was slightly better. So we recorded again—and again, eventually getting an acceptable take.

It could be that the allegations against Mr. Hastert are ultimately found groundless. But if found guilty, I will always wonder how differently his life would have been if someone else had been there coaching him, critiquing him when he started making wrong decisions.

Proverbs 10:17, “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction.  But he who ignores reproof goes astray.”  

It may well be awkward giving—or receiving—reproof.  But it’s the only path that leads to life.


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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016