The Unforgettable Energy
Class—that unique energy that makes people truly unforgettable—
is easier to recognize than it is to define. We
know it when we see it—but what is “it”? This book will
not only help you answer that question, but also to really be a
“class act” in every area of your life. When you do this—and it
isn’t easy—you will literally make yourself unforgettable.
(By the way, just as class is easy to recognize, the absence of
class is also easy to detect in a man or a woman. That’s not something
you want people to see in you!)
We’ll have much more to say about what class is and why it’s
important in the chapters that follow. You’ll have a chance to
evolve your own definition of class—and you’ll gain practical,
powerful tools for making yourself unforgettable to everyone you
meet. Whether it’s in business or in any other area of life, nothing
is more valuable than that. You may not realize the full importance
of class right now, but when you reach the last page of this
book, you most definitely will.
We’ll begin by looking at the often unclear meaning of class,
as well as the very clear
effect it can have in both business and
personal interactions. We’ll see how class was really the deciding
factor at a critical moment in American history, and we’ll explore
how you can make the lessons of that moment work for you.
In subsequent chapters, we’ll explore essential elements that
compose class in the truest sense of the word. Lastly, in the book’s
final chapter, we’ll look at how class expresses itself through
achievement in the material world—for you and also for those
around you. This ability to create success for others is one of the
most admirable qualities of class. Like a great athlete, a class person
always plays the game at a high level and makes better players
of his or her teammates as well.
To begin our exploration of class and what it can do, let’s look
at a case in point. There has never been a clearer example of
class in action than history’s first presidential debate. The debate
took place on September 26, 1960. The participants were John F.
Kennedy, then a senator from Massachusetts, and Vice President
Richard M. Nixon.
Over the years, whole books have been written about this
event, but it’s rarely been discussed from the perspective of class
in the way that we’ll be using the word. Yet class was a huge factor
in the debate. It made the difference in who won and who lost,
and in that sense it changed the course of history.
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were both in excellent
form at the time of their televised encounter. Each of them had
good reason to feel optimistic about the election. Their résumés
were very different, but were impressive in their different ways.
Each candidate in 1960 had been nominated on the first ballot
at his party’s national convention. Kennedy, whose nomination
had come first, had won impressive victories over the more experienced
Senator Hubert Humphrey in the primaries. Kennedy’s
wins in West Virginia and Wisconsin had made an important
point about his chances for gaining the presidency, since there had
been some doubt about whether a Roman Catholic could actually
win an election outside a predominantly Catholic state such as
Kennedy’s religion had given rise to uncertainty within his
party, but the Democrats more or less forgot those worries
after West Virginia and Wisconsin. Then, immediately after his
nomination, Kennedy made a bold and politically practical move
in his selection of a running mate. His choice of Texas senator
Lyndon Johnson may have surprised Kennedy’s core supporters
in the Northeast, but now the Democrats had a powerful national
ticket. Johnson, who was the Senate majority leader, was a supremely
experienced politician who knew Washington inside and
out. He was definitely a fighter, and usually he was a winner.
Perhaps the only drawback to Johnson’s selection as the vicepresidential
nominee was that he and Kennedy could hardly stand
each other! But Kennedy put aside his emotions to make an effective
practical decision. Was that a “classy” move? We’ll come back
to that question later in this chapter.
Two weeks after Kennedy’s convention, Richard Nixon became
the Republican nominee. In light of what the future held for him
when the Watergate scandal broke, it may be difficult to grasp
how popular Nixon was at the time of his nomination. In those
years America was preoccupied with the nuclear threat from the
Soviet Union. Nixon had won huge acclaim when he forcefully
argued with the Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev at a tradeshow
exhibit. He had also faced down a large anti-American mob
during a visit to Venezuela. Nixon seemed to offer security and
competence at a frightening time in American history. True, he’d
already had a few embarrassing moments. But he’d always come
out whole and on top. And it seemed as if he would again. He was
definitely the favorite to win the general election.
The actual positions presented by Kennedy and Nixon were
similar in some respects and very different in others. Both spoke
of America’s greatness in more or less conventional terms. But
Kennedy challenged people’s complacency while somehow still
sounding positive. In many of his speeches he referred to a “missile
gap”—a supposed advantage the Russians possessed in the
number of intercontinental weapons. No such gap existed, but, as
with his selection of Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy seemed willing to
sacrifice certain things to gain his objectives.
In light of the Republican Party’s generally hard line on
defense issues, it may be difficult to imagine Richard Nixon as
a dove. But compared to Kennedy, that’s how he seemed in the
1960 election. Not long before, President Eisenhower—who had
been the supreme Allied commander in the war against Nazi
Germany—had warned against the growth of a “military industrial
complex” that was threatening to dominate American life.
Eisenhower’s speech on this topic was worthy of the most ardent
dove, and Kennedy may actually have agreed with most of it. But
instead, he cast himself as the defender of America’s freedom
against the Soviet military threat.
As the incumbent vice president, Nixon’s campaign speeches
always referred to a secure present and a brighter future, but
he spoke of this in the context of Republican principles such as
free enterprise and decreased government spending. Besides the
overall message of pro-Americanism, Kennedy and Nixon shared
wariness of the Soviet threat and agreed on other foreign-policy
issues, although Kennedy put more emphasis on the need to
strengthen the military. The similarity of the two candidates’
stated beliefs forced the campaigns to seek out ways to distinguish