Moregood Foundation has encouraged us to take opportunities in blogs and in chat rooms to talk about President Gordon B. Hinckley.
His passing is creating interest on the web.
So here is my remembrance about how he taught me to reach out to my neighbors:
You may remember President Hinckley’s announcement at General Conference in April 1996 that he would be on the CBS's 60 Minutes.
This was quite a big deal. Not too many Presidents of the Church have been on such a high profile show. Especially significant is that the reporter, Mike Wallace, was not known for being soft on those he interviews.
President Hinckley expressed his trepidation about being interviewed. He weighed carefully the invitation and decided to lean into the stiff winds of opportunity, as he put it, rather than hunker down and do nothing.
This was perfect timing for me. At the time, I was directing the media effort for an event for Bangkok, Thailand stake. I was not a media relations veteran in any sense of the word, and felt very inadequate. One press release I had sent was maliciously edited to poke fun at and malign our missionaries serving in Thailand.
I never wanted to work with the press again, because I feared doing more harm than good for the church. I feared being mis-quoted or caught off-guard. I felt particularly vulnerable because of my lack of experience. Since I couldn’t control the outcome, I didn’t want to try anymore.
When I saw that President Hinckley was willing to take a risk to work with the media despite some concern for the outcome, I took great comfort. I decided I would not let a bad experience keep me from taking the opportunity to tell our story.
Since that time I have had wonderful experiences with the media. Many editors and reporters have become close friends of mine. We know that Mike Wallace became a close friend of President Hinckley.
President Hinckley reminded me that reporters and editors are real people too. We can tend to paint them with a broad brush, characterizing them as only wanting to create a sensational story without interest for the truth. I have found this is most often not the case.
President Hinckley taught me not to fear my neighbor, but to take a risk and reach out.
So many people confirm that President Hinckley was by nature a shy man. I believe he overcame any natural shyness, in part, by his love and devotion to God and His children.
I have been blessed a hundred fold for his example.
My heart is full, I will miss this great leader, but his example will be my beacon forever.
(photo at right: President Hinckley was often interviewed by CNN's Larry King)