What Mike does, page 4

 
 

I Learn to Fly...Very High!

   I had met Bryghte Godbold at my last meeting with Mayor Jonsson before I joined Goals for Dallas.  The Mayor had told me that Dr. Godbold had been a general in the Marine Corps.  After he retired, he earned a Ph. D. in higher education.  The Mayor had enticed him to Dallas to be president of the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies, a institution that the Mayor and the other two founders of Texas Instruments established to be a four-year technological college.  It is now the University of Texas at Dallas.

    Dr. Godbold was the Executive Director of the Goals for Dallas program.

* * *

    I can (still!) clearly remember coming to Dad during my high-school years and asking him if I could do such and such.  He would reply, “Why do you want to do that?”  I would answer, “Well, gee Dad, all the other kids are doing it.”

    And Dad would tell me, “Son, all the other kids’ last name is not ‘Engleman’.”

To me, this exchange between Dad and I is symbolic of the gift my parents gave me.  I left my home at 808 South 9th Street in Edinburg, Texas, to begin my “adult” life in Dallas, Texas, with the knowledge that Mike Engleman can do anything he sets his mind on doing.

    “Find yourself facing the bad guys out there in the uncharted wilderness?  Just pull back on the hammer and begin firing away.  You’ll do fine, boy.”

    Which is the attitude I took with me to my new Goals for Dallas position.

The Quiet Hero

    As an ex-Army buck sergeant, I had never met a general.  But I did know all about generals.  Which is, “When you meet a general, be afraid.  Be very, very afraid.”

    Marines are strange different fellows.  One of the editorial writers at the News was a former active-duty officer in the Marine Corps.  Notice that I did not write “former Marine.”  I learned from Jim Wright, my fellow editorial writer, that, once a Marine, always a Marine

    Jim knew a lot about Bryghte Godbold.  As a Marine Captain, Dr. Godbold commanded a battery of 105 cannons on Wake Island, during World War II.  His guns were the last to stop firing, as the Japs overran the island.  He was taken prisoner on December 23, 1941 and was in a Japanese prison camp until the end of the Pacific war.

    A career Marine, he had joined the Corps in July of 1936.  He served as a peacetime Marine office after WWII, then was also in the Korean war during some of the heaviest fighting in Inchon, Hungnam and Chosin.

    He was the holder of two Legion of Honor medals, the Bronze star, Air Medal and two Presidential Unit Citations.

    I learned none of this from Dr. Godbold.  None.  He never talked about it.

    “Dr. G.” as we called him, was a stiff-appearing Marine general in street clothes.  Or, so I thought.  Turns out, he was a warm guy, a gifted organizer and a fellow who knew his limitations and could spot individuals who could make up for them.  I was his opposite--a creative flake who could not find his checkbook, much less organize it.

    So, under Dr. G’s gentle guidance, I began the transformation from writer-flake, looking for his checkbook, to planner and implementor.

* * *

    During my time at Goals for Dallas (the one-year contract stretched to two) I wrote and published three books, worked with a cinematographer to create a 15-minute 16-millimeter film and caused 456 neighborhood meetings to be held all across the city.

    It was a demanding and thrilling experience for 29-year-old Mike Engleman.

    The idea of holding citizen meetings had been a part of the Goals for Dallas program since its inception.  Input from the average Dallas citizen was crucial to the success of the program.  Without broad support from Dallas voters, the agreed-upon goals would be--in the minds of the politicians who would be the ones to turn the goals into realities--nothing more than the opinions of a few do-gooders.

    While the idea of broad citizen input had always been a part of the Goals for Dallas master plan, the how-to-get-it-done part had not been considered.  That was my job.

    As best I recall, the neighborhood meetings were Dr. G’s idea.  As was the brief booklet that outlined the goals and a ballot for voting on them.

    My job was to get the meetings held, in every part of Dallas.  A typical meeting had a leader, who showed the film, then invited discussion, then got a ballot filled out by the meeting’s attendees.  The ballot enabled each attendee to rate each proposed goal as to its importance and, also, to suggest new goals.

    But...how to get these meetings done?

Go, Go, Go!

    I recruited a group of guys my age--late twenties to early thirties.  We had an organizational meeting--a cocktail party at the ritzy Petroleum Club, hosted by Mayor Jonsson.  The message was, “Are you willing to give up one night a week for the future of your city?”  It was delivered, of course, by the revered Mayor of Dallas.  And, he made it a very personal invitation. 

    Of course, the response was an enthusiastic ‘Yes!”

    We called the group of guys “The GO Team.”  As a member, you were likely to hold meetings anywhere in the city, including the not-too-safe neighborhoods.  You drove to the Dallas Morning News parking lot guard shack (which was open late at night), where you picked up a projector, a copy of the film and enough books and ballots for the estimated crowd at your assigned meeting.  Meeting crowds ranged from two or three to more than 100.

    Most of the guys were married and my best guess is that the majority of them had babies at home.  Generally, a meeting began at 7 p.m., which meant that the volunteer leader had to pick up his meeting materials at the DMN in time to drive to the meeting site, get the projector and screen set up and greet the attendees.  Always, doing a meeting meant your night was shot to hell.  It was not unusual for a guy to leave home at 5:30 p.m. and return home after 10 p.m.  And, of course, there were always enough Saturday and Sunday meetings to mess up a GO Team member’s weekend at home.

    To have 40 up-and-coming guys, most of them with wives and/or families, give up one night a week for more than a year was unusual enough.  But what is, perhaps, unique is that we never had one single meeting to which a member of The GO Team failed to show up.  A total of 456 meetings and not a single busted meeting!  A remarkable group of guys.

    Finally, the votes were in and tabulated.  The findings were published in the last book I produced for Goals for Dallas and Mike Engleman was out of a job.


I swim in a new ocean.  On My Own!  (Click Here)