Michael Keith Deaver, Vice Chairman of Edelman PR, died today of pancreatic cancer at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 69.
Deaver's family said in the statement that he fought his cancer "with the courage, grace and good spirit that he carried throughout his life."
Born in Bakersfield, California, April 11, 1938, Deaver was the son of a Shell Oil Co. distributor. He received his bachelor's degree in political science from San Jose State College. He worked for IBM, served in the Air Force and later was executive director of the Santa Clara County Republican Party. In 1966, he was part of the gubernatorial staff during Ronald Reagan's term as governor of California. In 1980 he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff under President Reagan.
As Deputy White House Chief of Staff Deaver worked primarily on media management. Under investigation he resigned from the White House staff in May 1985. He was later convicted on three of five counts of perjury stemming from statements to a congressional subcommittee and a federal grand jury investigating his lobbying activities with administration officials. He subsequently formed Michael K. Deaver, Inc. and became an influential lobbyist. In 1995 he joined Edelman PR, the world's largest independent public relations firm.
He is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and their two children, Amanda Deaver of Washington and Blair Deaver of Bend, Oregon.
"I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 'and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'"
Do you hear those words? Listen. It is a prophet writing on subway walls as a balm for a social dis-ease. It raises us up as we are naturally subtly persuaded to kneel.
Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech August 28, 1963. It is absolutely a masterpiece in American rhetoric. It is also a masterpiece in Public Relations.
Through the rhetorical device of allusion, King makes use of phrases and language from important cultural texts -- the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address the Emancipation Proclamation -- for his own purposes.
Again, think PR at its finest. Dr. King used the bad publicity that resulted from the violent reaction to his non-violent protest to affect anti-segregation demands. Dr. King then used the subsequent national focus to organize the 200,000-person march on our nation's capital. And then, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, which is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation broadly prompting the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The next year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Here is a brief one and a half minute clip. Watch it. Not just today, we in PR should watch it before we begin every day. If it doesn't directly inspire, it surely will embarrass us all into more dignified pursuits and initiatives.
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