Bees.Posted: July 1, 2008
In the fall of 2006, I entered a Chicago Tribune essay contest run by columnists Mary Schmich and Eric Zorn. The task was to write about an experience involving losing; the winners of the contest (there would be four winners) would, by virtue of winning, turn that losing experience into a winning one.
I was a winner.
Here’s the essay that nabbed me the honor:
1962, Baltimore. My friend Mark and I were the ones who remained standing in the spelling bee that would determine Mt. Washington Elementary’s representative at the citywide competition.
Back and forth we went in our mutual excellence. Words of all stripes—mere child’s play to us. The longer we went mano a mano, the more I realized I really had a chance to win, the giddier I became. Yet a tiny voice spoke to me, clashing with that of the teacher calling the words. It said that ever since I’d known him, winning had been Mark’s birthright, not mine; it said that he was the perpetual hero of the story, and I the sidekick. I knew that victory for me now required silencing that tiny voice.
My word. A noun. Singular or plural? I couldn’t quite hear. Clarification on this mattered now more than anything. I asked for clarification. The answer: Singular.
I spelled it with an “s” on the end.
Within a second, I knew the terrible thing I’d done. I grew dizzy even before I heard the gasps of the others. What had made my mouth say what my brain knew better than? An impulse from my unconscious that second place was safer? More familiar? That I might win a bee and lose a friend? That there was danger as well as glory in the spotlight?
Mark went on to become a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. I went on to enter this contest.
Now, an addendum. Last week, I received this email press release about Mark:
J. MARK IWRY NAMED ONE OF THE “100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN FINANCE”
List Released in June 2008 Issue of Treasury & Risk Magazine
WASHINGTON, DC – J. Mark Iwry, Principal of The Retirement Security Project, Nonresident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, Research Professor at Georgetown University, and Of Counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in Finance” in the June 2008 issue of Treasury & Risk Magazine. He was one of five individuals recognized in the category of Retirement & Benefits for his efforts to “take the case for simpler, broader retirement savings options to the corridors of power.”
On behalf of The Retirement Security Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts in partnership with The Brookings Institution and Georgetown University, Mr. Iwry works to promote effective policy solutions to improve the retirement security of all Americans. He has authored numerous proposals and reforms that are changing the way Americans save, including the automatic IRA proposal he co-authored through the Retirement Security Project, which is pending as a bill in Congress.
Mr. Iwry served at the U.S. Treasury Department from 1995 to 2001 as the principal Executive Branch official directly responsible for tax policy and regulation relating to the Nation’s qualified pension and 401(k) plans, employer-sponsored health plans, and other employee benefits. Under his direction, Treasury launched an integrated strategy to increase saving by defining, approving and promoting 401(k) automatic enrollment and other default arrangements, including the introduction of automatic rollover to curtail pension leakage. He was a principal architect of the Saver’s Credit to expand 401(k) and IRA coverage for middle- and lower-income workers and of the “SIMPLE” 401(k)-type plan, and was centrally involved in developing the sweeping Presidential proposals to expand coverage through “Universal Savings Accounts.”
Mr. Iwry. regularly advises Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, often testifies before Congress and State legislatures, and has advised five Presidential campaigns (2004 and 2008), GAO and other federal agencies, private-sector organizations, and foreign and State government agencies and officials on strategies to expand saving and retirement security. He is active as a lecturer and author, and his views are frequently reported in the major media and trade press. Formerly a partner in the law firm of Covington & Burling, chair of the D.C. Bar Employee Benefits Committee, and member of the White House Task Force on Health Care Reform, Mr.Iwry is an honors graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He is a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court and is listed in Who’s Who, Best Lawyers in America, etc.