The White House—Edward Barner is a returned missionary from the Berlin Mission, a communications graduate of Brigham Young University, and president of his own Los Angeles-based public relations and personal management firm. But for the past several months, Ed has been housed in the White House as special adviser to the director of communications for the Executive Branch of the government. In short, he was a consultant in the development of an executive speaker’s bureau that now clears all the requests for the time of the members of the U.S. Cabinet, members of the president’s family, and the vice-president. As a consultant, Ed will continue to serve in Washington several days a month. Here are some of his thoughts about his Washington experience.
What are the people like who work in this highly important building?
“I can tell you one thing—most people would be totally amazed at the dedication and extra hours put in by people in these positions. They have an enormous sense of commitment and feel deeply that nothing comes before their jobs. I wouldn’t have believed it. I have gone into my office at 8:00 A.M. and found my secretary there regardless of when we quit the night before—sometimes at 10:00 or 11:00 P.M. And this is common throughout the White House. If work is to be done, no one looks at the clock. Lots and lots of ‘little people’—of which I was one—work innumerable hours. Of course, you have to realize that most of these people at the top are a different kind of person. They are very success-oriented. Some of them have sacrificed much to get where they are, and then when they get there they work eighteen hours a day to do the job right.”
Does everyone feel committed to the decisions of the Administration?
“No. People have minds and differences of opinion, but they do work as a cohesive group. Many of them feel—just as occurs in any large corporation—that mistakes are made. Many of them have specific ideas they would like to see implemented, but that does not stop them from supporting the president and being enthusiastic supporters on his team. I know that some of them continue to stay in government because they want to influence some matters on which they have strong feelings. They may ride out one, two, even three different presidencies waiting for the chance to make their influence felt.”
What about the campaign process? From one who observed it at close hand, what do you think of the American electoral system?
“It’s tough. Real tough. You see candidates in both parties [Democrats and Republicans] cut to shreds by opponents. People will begin rumors, make up things, even try to destroy the opponent politically. Both parties do it. But let me say something about this tough business of campaigning. I do not believe there is any more dirt in it than in any other business where there is competition. The dirt is just more out in the open. For example, in business the dirt and grime of competition are spread out over the lifetime of a company or over perhaps a ten-year period. In campaigning, you boil all of this down to a two-month period—no wonder it looks like dirt. Also, in campaigning you make all of this dirt totally public, whereas in business this is often known only to the competitors. Furthermore, you aim all of this attention at exactly the same audience, trying to appeal for the audience’s vote. It’s easy to see how politics looks a lot dirtier than it really is. I’m absolutely convinced it is no dirtier than any other activity done by average and good people. And I can tell you from my experience that it is much, much cleaner than many activities in society. I have found the people I associate with to be really concerned about the public’s welfare. I was and am proud to have been associated with them.
“I certainly hope many young Latter-day Saints plan to become active in the political process of their city, state or province, or nation. But I’ve learned one thing: You need plenty of courage, and you’d better know where you stand on things. Even more important, you’d better be prepared to admit that you don’t know as much as you think you know and be prepared to grow and learn yourself. Most people don’t know half as much about things as they think they know, as leaders at the top of any large organization quickly learn.
“I’ve learned another thing. This experience has given me an insight into life that I’ve never had before, and given me an insight into the job that the Church has to perform in dealing with so many different kinds of people and problems around the world. And in so many, many ways, the Church has met the problems much more head-on and met them so much better than national governments handle them. I’ve been immensely proud of the Church as I’ve compared how the Church and the government approach a similar problem, and how each succeeds or fails. Maybe part of our success in the Church, where we succeed, is that we’re communicating with each other with much more than words. We’re communicating with the Spirit. We have a common bond and testimony to build upon. That’s basic. There’s nothing more important for any of us than that. Get the Spirit—and keep the Spirit. Get active and stay active.”
Hamilton, New Zealand—Janice Russon is the daughter of President and Sister Leo Russon of the New Zealand North Mission. When her father was called to be mission president, she left her high school in Salt Lake City and is now in her last year at the Church College of New Zealand. Janice talked with a New Era correspondent about some differences she notices in the different school systems.
How does school life at the Church College compare with that of your American high school?
“It is quite different, even the name. In New Zealand, they say we’re in college, but it is about the same as a high school back home, except that the last year here is really the equivalent of the first year at an American junior college. The subjects are about the same in both places. But here they seem to go deeper into the harder subjects. They stress the teaching and learning process a lot more than the social activities. We go to school all day, from about 8:45 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon; then we come back to school at 6:15 and study until 9:15, and we study hard for those three hours. I guess the main difference is the amount of study required here.”
Are they strict here at the college on dress and conduct?
“Very strict. They nave a group of sixth formers and seventh formers (equivalent to seniors in high school and freshmen in college) who help keep watch over the students. You know, just as in other schools in New Zealand, we wear a school uniform. We have to wear the dress, the shirt, the right socks and shoes precisely according to the rules. Also, girls have to wear their hair a certain way—it has to be tied in back.”
And what happens if you forget a rule?
“If your hair is done improperly, or a button is undone, you get put on detention, and you have to work in the garden or scrub floors or wash down chalkboards or do some other chore. Everyone knows the rules and the discipline for breaking them. For instance, we had a fight here, which is very rare; and the boys involved were sent home. The school does not stand for any back talk from students, either. If you talk back to a teacher, you’ll be sent to the office or home or be put on detention.”
How about extracurricular activities? I suppose you participated in some of them in the States. Are they different in New Zealand?
“Back home I was lucky to be in a few service clubs, and I was president of the pep club. I also sang in the seminary choir. We have a pep club here, but it is different. Most of the girls and many boys participate, not only in marching drills similar to those of other pep clubs, but also in sports events. We have indoor and outdoor basketball, and there are dorm competitions for everything we do. Right now we are having an open house, which is a full day devoted to competition. It starts off with all kinds of sporting events, tug-of-wars, races, and ball throwing. Then we march before judges and the groups sit in their part of the bleachers that they have specially decorated for the occasion. Then we all do cheers and we are judged on these.”
How has your social life outside school changed?
“Well, since we live at the school here, dating is still centered around the school. There are only a few pakeha (Caucasians) here, and so it is a new experience for me to be in the minority. There is one pakeha boy from California.”
What do you do on dates?
“First of all, dorm life is different. I haven’t been used to it before. I like it, but the dating is completely different there than back home. First the boy asks you for a date, and then you tell your dorm parents who you are going with, and the boy tells his dorm parents. Then the dorm parents get together and talk to each other and see if it’s okay if this couple goes out together. And then you sign a paper saying that you’re going out and that you have a date. The big thing of the date is that you get to be walked home by the boy.”
Where do you usually go on your dates?
“Always to the cafeteria. Every Saturday night they have an activity, usually a dance or a show. They have very strict dress standards, and at the dances and in the movies you have to sit in a place that is reserved for your dorm and form [grade].”
What do the students think of your accent?
“I thought the accents down here were kind of funny at first, but then they told me I was the one with the weird voice. I sat by this boy in art the first day, and he made fun of me for rolling my r’s and for holding onto my words too long. The people here talk so fast I couldn’t understand them at first. I had a date with a boy, and he couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him. We really had a communication problem, but it was fun.”
Do they have a lot of words and phrases that were new to you?
“Yes. I have been writing some of them down. When Americans would say, ‘Oh, what a cut!’ because we are embarrassed, they say, ‘I got the biggest shrink!’ Or Americans would say, ‘Oh, that person is crazy’—you know, just really funny. Here they say, ‘Oh, she’s mad.’ And they call a kiss a pash.”
How is this experience affecting your spiritual life?
“I know I am getting a lot of experiences here that I wouldn’t have back home. I’m gaining a stronger testimony of the gospel, especially as I see what other kids sacrifice to join the Church. Some of their conversion stories are really great! I take advantage of my opportunities here more than I did at home. When you get to hear on radio parts of a general conference, it is so great, and everybody listens. And when the Church publications come out, people read them from cover to cover. They have the highest usage rate of anything in the library.”
M-Squad at Expo ’70 in Japan—They called themselves the M-Squad—the Mormon Squad. After all, there they were, twelve young Latter-day Saint men serving as guides at the United States Pavilion at Expo ’70. All of them had learned their Japanese while serving as missionaries in Japan. Two of them report on their experience: Steven Albrecht—“My most valuable experience at Expo, in addition to trying to honestly represent my nation to other people, was to see how the gospel applies in actual work situations. Many of the non-Mormon fellows who were guides at Expo often commented on the M-Squad’s conscientiousness and diligence in our work. The Church teaches us responsibility and how to carry out our assignments.
“There were many parties for the personnel at the American Pavilion. Often they amounted to little more than booze parties. Of course, like other Mormon youth, we had the opportunity and challenge of not partaking and yet not criticizing others because they didn’t think or act as we do.
“The subject of parties is interesting, because after attending many such parties, the M-Squad decided to hold a party for the personnel at our pavilion. We wanted to show them what kind of party a Mormon would have. We made about twenty gallons of root beer and had root beer floats, sloppy joes, and other foodstuffs. We had swimming, dancing, and then got everyone involved in a talent show. Before the night was over, the ambassador was playing his violin. Everyone had a great time, and they came to know each other a lot better and to appreciate each other more. For weeks we heard nothing but praises and good comments about the kind of parties the M-Squad held.
“While at Expo we kept active in the Church. We had our own little branch and usually had about forty people out to our private little meetings. I was the branch president. We met early Sunday morning at 7:30 and had family home evening on Wednesday nights.”
Michael Herrick—“I certainly was glad to have the opportunity to return to Japan to meet again the wonderful Japanese people. They are just fantastic. I love them. While at Expo I learned to appreciate the close friendships we can have in the Church, but I also came to see the many possible friends we can have outside the Church. Members of the Church sometimes tend to avoid people who do not belong, just because they do not belong. If we do so, we miss out on many choice friends.
“One of the choicest experiences was to see one of the American guides, Claudette Polka, join the Church because of what she saw and observed of the M-Squad. She had always wanted to find a future marriage companion with whom she could kneel and pray. She saw in the M-Squad the kind of person she was looking for in her ideal man. To watch her become interested was a real thrill. (We were asked not to preach the gospel at Expo because we were representatives of the United States, and our actions could easily have been misinterpreted, had we done so.)
“Soon Claudette was attending our home evenings. We made her the ‘mother’ of our home evenings. After she attended our services, met with the missionaries, and learned about the Church, she invited her parents to come to Expo so that she could tell them personally of her desire to join the Church. To hear her testimony and to join in the baptismal service was a wonderful experience.
“It was a great honor to try to represent my country with dignity—and to represent the gospel in all my actions.”
New York City—Donald J. Lewis, president of WHBI radio station in New York, wrote the following to Brigham Young University leaders: “I am not certain I saw any future presidents or movie stars, but I am certain that I saw bright, intelligent future leaders of our society. If they had done no more than just stand there on stage, it would have been gratifying and reassuring to urban eyes that are tired of seeing the defects of what mankind has wrought.” He was writing of the BYU International Dancers, who performed at New York’s famed Lincoln Center. What an impact!
Sutton, England—The Hamburg (Germany) MIA Choir won a standing ovation here recently from an enthusiastic audience of British Saints following a highly successful concert. The blending of cultures and the great surge of spirit was a joyful experience to the German and British youth. The choir gave concerts elsewhere in England, all of which were equally well received. President Clifton I. Johnson of the England Central Mission called the event “fantastic! It is fitting that from a nation such as Germany, with such a remarkable musical heritage, there should come such a truly great group of youth singers.” Director of the choir, Rolf Gluck, said that his young singers loved the hospitality of the British Saints.