COMMENTARY

Saying goodbye to colleagues

Alan Balutis is senior director and distinguished fellow at Cisco Systems’ Internet Business Solutions Group.

It’s been a harsh winter, and it has taken a toll. On a recent morning on the subway, a young woman offered to give up her seat for me. Feeling old, I began thinking about the previous weekend. At a school fundraiser, I was asked to recommend a good cardiologist, heard the pros and cons of different blood pressure medications, and otherwise watched my youth fade. Fortunately, no one tried to usher me off the dance floor for fear I'd have a stroke.

The season has taken its toll in other ways, too. Our community and our profession are the lesser for some recent losses. A few stand out for me.

  • Daniel Bannister, former president and CEO of DynCorp. I first met Dan at the Tower Club, when I admonished him for wandering off with the Sports section of my Washington Post. I survived that encounter, a tribute to his graciousness. Dan was a true gentleman, a philanthropist and a very successful business executive. He made $1.65 an hour when he joined DynCorp as an electronics technician. When he retired, he had become chairman of the board and one of its largest individual stockholders.
  • Steve Horn, a California congressman and chairman of the Government Reform Committee’s subcommittee on government efficiency and financial management. He was ruthless in enforcing strict time limits on testimony, with green, yellow and red lights to control verbose witnesses. In 1996, he co-sponsored a bill that expanded the Freedom of Information Act to include electronic information. A moderate Republican, he held oversight hearings to improve executive branch implementation.
  • Alan Dean, a fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration. Alan began his federal career in 1941 at what was then the War Department. He moved to the Bureau of the Budget, where he helped draft the legislation that created NASA. He later served as the first assistant secretary of administration at the new Transportation Department. In his obituary, Alan was remembered as the winner of the Washington Post’s annual “Ideal Father” contest in 1955. Is there a higher honor?
  • Ollie Matson, a bronze and silver medal-winning Olympic sprinter and a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back for what were then the Chicago Cardinals (now, of course, the Arizona team). He was traded for nine — yes, nine — players after the 1958 season. Just think what Dan Snyder and the Redskins would have given up for him! Wait, he was actually productive. Never mind!
  • David Broder, columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner, often called the dean of the Washington press corps. Broder was known for visiting neighborhoods and talking with voters to gauge the national mood. He put the voices of the American public in his columns. He was legendary at the Washington Post for his messy office, so ghastly that it became a standard stop on tours that reporters gave. Dan Balz of the Post summed it up: “David Broder was the best political reporter of his or any other generation.”
  • Finally, Mildred Balutis, mother. She passed away at age 88 in Utica, N.Y., after a short illness. She was just a young girl when the Great Depression took her father’s business, his income, his home and finally his life. No doubt her words about how Franklin Roosevelt "saved this country and got us out of those terrible times" shaped my politics and my views on the role of government. I hope she died feeling she had raised a good son. What else can I say? I miss her — and all the others who left us this winter.

About the Author

Alan P. Balutis is senior director and distinguished fellow at Cisco Systems.

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