Communications: Builders vs Politicians

My big brothers Jimmy and Wally are twins and both have been in construction their entire lives. They are both smart, generous, hard-working and funny. If my mom could have heard the language they adopted in construction, she would have washed their mouths out with soap. Still, they are the ones you want to have building your house; they are builders, not talkers.

I’ve been invited to sit on a panel at a conference of the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy to discuss the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Pearson Centre is not generally the kind of group that would invite a Conservative like me to address their members. I give all kinds of credit and kudos to them for being open to hearing opposing ideas and opinions.

I’ve thought a lot about what I would like to say, and I keep coming back to the difference between politicians and builders.

In politics, we work in the realm of thoughts, ideas, words, messages, and rhetoric. “Words ARE action in politics,” Ronald Reagan once noted. Sometimes, when I hear people speaking harsh or horrible words, it actually causes me to cringe in physical pain: my ears hurt.

Builders work in a different world, the world of concrete reality. “Matter matters,” my brother Paul observes.

I have six brothers and many nephews, and most of them are builders. They communicate using language so completely different than political rhetoric, I am sure it hurts the ears of many listeners.

My brother Jim, a builder for 40 years, is the best example. He has a repertoire of phrases that still make me laugh after decades.

“C’mon, people, we’re burning daylight!” he barks when the crew is not in action at 6am.

“C’mon, people, we’ve got a dime holding up a dollar!” he exclaims when a petty detail is holding up a project.

One day, Jim fired a man. The man returned to the jobsite the next day; he had a sawed-off cane handle tucked into the waistband of his pants, so it looked like he was carrying a gun.

“What did you do?” I gasped when Jim told me.

“What do you think I did?” he exclaimed. “I shit little blue putty balls!”

Oh….that was not the first thing I would have thought of, but I understood what he meant.

Jim was hired for the television show “Extreme Makeover” as Project Manager on the build of a house to be donated to a family in need, which would be featured on a special episode. The show also hired a handsome and charismatic actor to stand in front of the cameras and PRETEND to be the Project Manager, explaining to the audience what was going on.

Ten hours into the build, the show’s producer approached my brother: “We have a problem. Your team is building so fast, we can’t get all the shots we need. We need you to  slow down.”

”We can’t slow down. The volunteers already have their modified schedules,” Jim snapped back. “You’ll have to shoot faster.” They did.

While Jim’s words might hurt your ears, I have no doubt that if he was building your house, it would be perfect. If Jim did a walkthrough and the floor was not level or there was a gap around a window frame, the air would be purple with profanities. No amount of words, rhetoric, language or messaging could fix the problem: competent subs and trades will fix the problem. You might not appreciate his language, but you don’t want a talker to build your house. You want a builder.

Donald Trump is a builder. I’m sure his words hurt the ears of many listeners, but at this point in its history, I think America needs a builder, not a talker.

Happy anniversary!

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