A good friend of mine has a ChicagoNow blog, and I was her featured guest blogger last Tuesday. I just realized that I never shared my piece on my own blog! Here it is.
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.
Where did you hear that recently? My guess is that many people, like me, heard it Sunday night during the second half of Super Bowl XLVII. The two-minute montage of color still photos depicting farmers, farm life, and farm families, with an unadorned speech track accompanying it, was eventually revealed to be an advertisement for Dodge Ram trucks.
Did you also notice, either when you saw it on TV or when you perhaps watched it again on YouTube this week, the name that flashed across the screen on top of the opening shot? Paul Harvey?
I must admit that I did not recognize the name. That may or may not be a clue into the influence of twenty-first century media technology on my life.
Wikipedia revealed that Paul Harvey was an American radio broadcaster who passed away just a few years ago. His work included news and news commentary segments that drew national audiences of over 20 million across some 1300 radio stations during the second half of the twentieth century. His career at one point took him to Hawaii (he was in the army during the Second World War), but he primarily worked from the Midwest, particularly, Chicago. Harvey won a number of awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He counted as friends many national figures such as J. Edgar Hoover and Billy Graham.
The speech used in the Super Bowl commercial (only slightly truncated in that use; the full version can be found in this article) was originally given at the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention. Harvey’s support of farmers is fitting with The New York Times’ obituary description of him as a champion “of the fundamental decency of ordinary people.” The Chicago Tribune, in its obituary of Harvey, noted that his litmus test for programming a given news story was “Would Aunt Betty care about this?”
The New York Times also noted Harvey’s unhidden passion for average Americans and his concern about “bureaucrats who lacked common sense.” “I have never pretended to objectivity,” he once said. He also refused a request to relocate to New York City, even as he gained a national reputation, preferring to stay in Chicago. I think all Chicagoans will agree that Harvey was a true Chicagoan himself, embodying the common sense, hardworking, neighbor-helping spirit of this great city.
As I continued to read about Harvey on Monday, I discovered (also on Wikipedia) that he had for many years attended the same church where I grew up and now and work, Calvary Memorial of Oak Park. I checked with more senior members of church staff, and they verified that information. My former senior pastor recalled that Harvey and his wife were “very friendly,” and it had always been a pleasure to see him at church. One older gentleman even remembered his preferred seat in our auditorium!
It made sense to me that Harvey had been an active church member. His Christian – specifically, Baptist – faith clearly influenced his opinions on many of the issues of the day, not least his nod to farmers (the “So God Made a Farmer” speech has in its opening line and refrain allusions to the Genesis account of Creation). He was known as “The Voice of Middle America” and “The Voice of the Silent Majority.” Jesus Himself was a champion of the “middle class” of His day – in fact, His first disciples were everyday, hardworking fishermen!
Thanks to Dodge, CBS, and the National Football League, Paul Harvey has had a surge in popularity. Hopefully, the issues and people he championed will have a surge in popularity as well.