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Guest opinion: Singing the praises of political harmony

By Jay Hudson - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jan 19, 2023

In a world going topsy-turvy, our leaders struggle to do what is right for both big governments and small town councils. Sometimes they even get on the same page, but most of the time we quarrel, squabble and throw chairs. We hope a statesman will arise out of the crowd, verbally pick us all up, shake us, put us down and point us toward unity. Recently, the president of the European Union ended his term of office and said thank you for five years of mostly working together. He came from Slovenia, had a name hard to pronounce and was generally unknown to the Western world. Then he reached into his suit pocket and brought out his harmonica. As he played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” the parliamentarians rose to the Union’s theme song. When he finished, the applause was thunderous. No one knew it was coming and suddenly there was unity. Suddenly, a politician became a statesman. It didn’t last all that long but it was appreciated and palliative.

Then there was the country of Estonia, which won its independence from Russia. At the end of WWII, Russia annexed Estonia and moved in so many Russians that the country was losing its identity. No one knows just when the singing started, but before long a musical revolution was in motion. Small groups of people began to sing together. The Russians didn’t know how to stop the singing and soon the entire country was singing. People came together just to sing, but by singing they found unity with their neighbors and they became a singing army. The people of Estonia won a bloodless “Singing Revolution” (see movie) and began a democratic movement which has moved the country into a safe place to visit, a country that has contributed to science, engineering and the arts.

Then there was the appointment of a man as U.S. ambassador to Uruguay, South America. He didn’t know the language, had never been to Uruguay and lacked a network to ease into his new position. He learned the language by singing Uruguayan folk songs while playing his guitar. He won the hearts of the people, became part of the culture and brought thousands into the fold as friends of America. I once asked women carpet weavers in Uzbekistan to sing a working song. They refused but invited me to sing something. I began “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” and my group pitched in. Everyone loved it! Don’t ask a break dancer to sing to his gyrating, it could be mistaken for a fit. My army unit marched to cadence music that drew out a bit of the agony. It brought us together. Irish football fans do a lot of singing when they are winning, and every college in America has a “fight song.”

So I choose music as the instrument to peace. Playing an instrument should be a prerequisite to running for office. It has proven to have an impact and win new friends. Every politician should consider carrying a harmonica in his/her pocket and bring it out as a leadoff to a speech. It is a winner at a campfire, in a train compartment, at the table aboard a cruise ship and can get the children to stamp their feet. It may even change a mood.

Perhaps it would make a difference in this topsy-turvy world.

Jay Hudson is a retired hospital CEO and served as an assistant to former Ogden Mayor Glenn Mecham.


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