Thursday, March 12, 2009

Living The Artful Life

There was a wonderful interview in yesterday's WSJ with Art Linkletter (sub req). What a life this guy has had. Successful radio and TV star. Friends with Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, and Cary Grant. Been married to his wife for seventy-three years. And at age ninety-six, he's still going strong. A few favorite bits:

One of Mr. Linkletter's closest friends was Walt Disney, "my greatest mentor." He did the opening show for Disneyland. Another close friend was Cary Grant. Mr. Linkletter has been married to his wife, Lois, for 73 years, but he says the one woman he always pined for was Sophia Loren. Grant did have an affair with the actress, and Mr. Linkletter says he jealously asked: "'Cary, was she worth it?' And he said, 'Art, you'd better believe it!'"


Mr. Linkletter has also written and lectured on how to live a long life and make your dreams come true. "As early as possible in your life, find what you love to do and then do it. You will find you will do that better than almost anyone else." Also, have a positive attitude about life and "always try to find something to smile and laugh about every day." Is that possible even at age 96? I ask. "I always say if you can't find something to laugh about when you get old, just look at yourself in the mirror."

He has an interesting perspective on Social Security:

Mr. Linkletter does turn serious when talking about the mismanaged policies out of Washington. About Barack Obama, he says: "He's intelligent, a born performer and ambitious, like I was, but that spending bill [the stimulus] is the most terrible mistake in our history. I never thought I would see so much debt."

His passion is Social Security reform. "I'm a conservative, and I actually voted for FDR. At first Social Security was a terrific idea. Give people some financial security in their old age," he says. But the taxes grew and grew over his lifetime -- to 15% from 2% of each paycheck. "And as the time went on, this huge fund became an ATM machine for Congress. And now all they have left are IOUs. Nobody owns anything." He says: "I was one of the first people to ever pay Social Security, at age 22 starting in 1935. But now the program has become a rip-off, just like the guy [Bernard Madoff] who did the Ponzi scheme. We need to stop the congressional raid on the trust fund and turn this tax money back over to individuals so they can own it and control it."

Fixing Social Security would seem like a hopeless crusade for a 96-year-old, but he pledges "I'm not going to die until it happens." He's heading up a new group, called Team Grandparent, that is trying to organize senior citizens to challenge the AARP orthodoxy.

How can you not love that approach?

And that's a path Art Linkletter wants the nation to avoid at all costs. "We've become a rich country because of freedom. Freedom. The ability to speak and worship and do business and run your own affairs and have a limited government which promoted enterprise, in the early days, instead of trying to run everything -- like now."

Yet he retains the optimistic outlook that I suspect has been the secret of his success. "So much progress in my lifetime. TVs, radios, computers, heart transplants, and so on. And this is just the beginning. . . . I think that my life has been lived during the greatest time in the history of mankind. But the next fifty years are going top even be better."

If Americans can emulate just a portion of the spunk, hard work, and positive attitude that Art Linkletter has demonstrated throughout his life, I have no doubt that his prediction will come to fruition.

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