This fall, the postal community lost two of its giants within just a few weeks of each other with the passing of Murray Comarow and Tim May. They were icons of the industry, and two of the postal community's founding fathers. Murray was the executive director of the Kappel Commission, formed by President Lyndon Johnson to reorganize the old Post Office Department into today's self-sufficient Postal Service. He wrote eloquently and passionately on the Postal Service he clearly loved, even when it gave him fits. Tim was general counsel for the Post Office Department, appointed by the same President Johnson in 1966. He went on to a distinguished career in the private sector as an attorney with Patton Boggs, representing many mailers and associations. They say you earned your merit badge once you had been cross-examined by Tim in a rate or classification proceeding before the then-Postal Rate Commission.

Many people in the Postal Service and stakeholder community considered these men to be mentors and friends, even if they found themselves on opposite sides of a policy debate or a rate-case proceeding. Their deaths reminded me of what a unique community the postal world is. Even as we disagree with each other and argue over strategic issues, we often discover that we all want the same thing - a healthy and viable postal system.

A former boss of mine in the mailing industry often noted his respect for the leaders of the postal unions, even when he vehemently disagreed with them. They worked hard to represent their members' interests, and we were working hard to represent our members' interests. So even when heated rhetoric was flying in newsletters and in press interviews, we all understood that we were doing our jobs. To borrow a famous quote from The Godfather, "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business." With this attitude, it's easier to have a drink or share a meal with someone with whom you disagree. This keeps the lines of communication open and allows us to hear an opinion different from our own. This approach helps to build a community, which is something I think the mailing industry should be proud of.
 was fortunate enough to be taken under Murray Comarow's wing when I first started as a young trade reporter covering the Postal Service and the mailing industry. He generously shared his knowledge with me and he listened to my opinions, which certainly were not well-formed when I first started in this business. He encouraged me to reach out to a wide range of postal executives and stakeholders, to learn as much as I could from them, and to listen, really listen. Murray was famous for gathering disparate parts of the postal community at his favorite lunch spot, the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., and engaging them in conversation and debate. It would not be unusual for Murray to gather the chief financial officer of the USPS, a privatization proponent from a libertarian think tank and a lobbyist for one of the unions. And everyone would listen to each other and speak with civility, which was one of Murray's many gifts to the postal community.

Civility is often missing in the Capitol Hill debate on postal reform. Our legislators appear to have stopped listening to each other and have taken to shouting their positions in two-minute sound bites. Unfortunately, this is the way business gets done in Washington, D.C., these days. Positions are formed on one end or the other of an issue, and it is getting harder and harder to come together to find that middle ground. It's almost like our lawmakers would rather let the problem worsen - let an infrastructure collapse - rather than give an inch to the other side. This is no way to run a country.
I'd like to make my new year's wish a little early this year. I hope that we can tap the wisdom of our industry's founding fathers and talk, debate, disagree and listen to each other. And when we discover that we all want essentially the same thing - a healthy U.S. Postal Service - let's figure out a way to make it happen sooner rather than later. The demise of the Postal Service would be catastrophic to commerce and communications. And we'd not only disappoint the postal community; we'd let down an entire nation.