Tag Archives: History

Happiness and the Greater Good: The Power of Giving Back

Marty Russo speaks with radio host Lisa Cypers Kamen about serving the greater good and giving back through action and influence.

Today I joined Lisa Cypers Kamen on her Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio show once again for a half hour discussion. Last time, we talked about how our founders saw happiness. Today we focused on how the State of the Union is about reflecting on progress, setting goals, and trying to bring together a diverse group of people to achieve joint success.

Listen to, “Happiness and the Greater Good: The Power of Giving Back” below to hear about:

  • The State of the Union’s history and evolution into what it is today
  • Reflecting upon a personal State of the Union to take stock of ourselves for the year
  • How to lay out a blueprint for yearly goals and come up with an action plan to accomplish these goals

Chicago Columbus Day Parade

Former Congressman Marty Russo talks about the Chicago Columbus Day Parade in 1986 when Vice President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush joined in the fun.

George Bush, Marty Russo and Barbara Bush

Vice President George H. W. Bush, Congressman Marty Russo and Barbara Bush march in the 1986 Chicago Columbus Day Parade

As an Italian-American in Chicago, one of the iconic experiences is the yearly Columbus Day Parade put on by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.

Each year, it was an honor to march in the parade along with such dignataries as the mayor, the governor, state senators and representatives, local officials and other community leaders.

In 1986, it was an especially rewarding experience as my good friend, then Vice President George H. W. Bush agreed to join us along with his wife, Barbara Bush.

This photo with the Bushes is very special to me as it shows the close friendship and camaraderie we felt.

I have to admit there were a few raised eyebrows when the Republican Vice President walked the entire parade alongside a Democratic Congressman.  Indeed, later that day, the VP went on to several fundraisers for Republicans.It was the magic of sports that made us become close friends — first as the paddle-ball partner for the VP (and later President) as well as being golf buddies.

VP George H. W. Bush, Marty Russo and Barbara Bush

VP George H. W. Bush hoists 5 year old Rafael Thompson in the 1986 Columbus Day Parade in Chicago alongside Mayor Harold Washington, Congressman Marty Russo and First Lady Barbara Bush

It’s a reflection on the goodness and kindness of GHWB that when a small child ran out from the crowd toward the Vice President, he scooped him up without hesitation into a welcoming embrace.  It was totally spontaneous and the crowd loved it.  Mayor Harold Washington was marching with us and this photo by The Chicago Tribune showing VP Bush and young Rafael Thompson was front page news.

Its a good feeling to view this photo almost 30 years ago and remember the warmth on that (probably) cold Chicago day.


The Declaration of Independence and The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence and the pursuit of happiness are a good combination to celebrate on this Fourth of July holiday.

Former Congressman Marty Russo joins Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio to discuss.

It was fun to join Lisa Cypers Kamen on her Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio show for a half hour discussion of how our founders saw happiness.  I met Lisa in Scottsdale, AZ when she moderated interviews at the American Sleep and Breathing Academy conference.

Check out the podcast here or on iTunes.

Original Declaration of Independence

Original Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is considered the most influential document in American history.  If you are ever in Washington DC it’s worth a trip to the National Archives to see it in person.

The second sentence in the Declaration reads:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  This idea was based on the ideas of English philosopher John Locke who wrote that people have a “natural right to life, liberty and property.”

However, in the initial draft Thomas Jefferson changed “property” to “pursuit of happiness.” Although Jefferson’s first draft was highly edited,  the phrase “pursuit of happiness” stayed in the final version.  So it must have been important.

What is the pursuit of happiness?



What’s interesting is that in 1776 happiness was defined differently than today.  The minds of the great political thinkers of the 18th century tied the concept of happiness to civic responsibility.  In the context of the Declaration, happiness was more about an individual’s contribution to society rather than pursuits of self-gratification.   Our country was founded on the concept of liberty and freedom and the responsibility to contribute to society.  In fact, the purpose of the Constitution is to provide the framework of government to protect our right to pursue happiness.

The Fourth of July is a good reminder to us all that the Declaration of Independence is about pursuing the kind of happiness that comes from making our country and the world a better place.  That’s showing true leadership.

Whatever you are interested in, find a way to get involved and have your voice heard.   My observation over the years is that people who get involved in civic interests and helping other in the community are happier.   There’s a number of ways you can get involved –here’s a few:

  • Work with neighbors on a community issue.
  • Go to a public meeting on an issue that’s important to you
  • Volunteer to help other in need
  • Register voters
  • Volunteer for a campaign for someone who is running for public office
  • Find an organization that is active on issues that are important to you and volunteer your time and money

The Fourth of July is a good time to get re-energized on making the world a better place.


Putting Lesson with President George H. W. Bush

President George H. W. Bush recently celebrated his 90th birthday by jumping out of an airplane.  Former Congressman Marty Russo reminiscences about some fun times they had in the sports arena.

Seeing the Politico article about President George H. W. Bush skydiving on his 90th birthday  reminds me of what a great competitor he has always been.

Putting Lesson with VP George HW Bush and Congressman Marty Russo on Air Force Two

Putting Lesson with VP George HW Bush and Congressman Marty Russo on Air Force Two

Some of my fondest personal memories in Congress were those days when I served as the regular paddle ball partner for President George H. W. Bush.  We played as a team in the House paddle ball courts for all eight years he was Vice President and continued for the four years of his presidency.  I can tell you that he always played to win.

This reminds me of a photo taken by the official White House photographer in 1984 when I was flying on Air Force Two.  The Vice President and I were relaxing and next thing I know, the VP asked me to give him a putting lesson in the aisle of the airplane.  He was always looking to gain a competitive edge and took any opportunity to hone his game.

This scene was memorialized a couple years ago in a USA Today article titled, Golf, Politics and Presidents Prove To Be Range Bedfellows, by Steve DiMeglio.  It’s a great story of how presidents and golf intersect and ends with a quote from a good friend of mine, Republican Senator Mike Oxley.  In the article Senator Oxley is talking about how sports enabled a lot of bi-partisanship in the Congress:

 At the very least, golf provides memories. One of Oxley’s favorites occurred on Air Force Two, when he was traveling with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and Democrat Marty Russo, one of the best golfers ever to be a member of Congress.

“The VP was moaning and groaning about his putting. So one of the Secret Service guys went down into the hole and got his putter,” Oxley says. “There we were on the plane and he’s getting a putting lesson from Russo.

“It was a great moment of bipartisanship.”

Political Speaking With Close Up Teachers

Former Congressman Marty Russo Speaks About US Politics and Government

I’m sure you have all heard of the Close Up program which brings students from all over the US to Washington to learn about our government.  On April 7 I did a little political speaking to a large room of teachers who had accompanied students from a number of states.  We talked about the keys to influence and I told them some stories about Presidents I sPresident Dwight Eisenhower Quoteerved under when I was in Congress.

A major point of discussion is that the American Federal Republic is designed to work through influence, not power.  It is a major misconception among many people that Washington DC is mainly a place for power people who tell others what to do.

The truth is that in our government, there are many checks and balances built into the system so that no one group is too powerful.  The founders of our country did not want to return to the unilateral power of the King, so they put a number of competing interests in play throughout the government.  So getting something done among all these competing interests requires influence much more than power.

I like to share a great quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done, because he wants to do it.

Here’s a few more of the Prezi slides from that presentation:

CloseUp April 7