Thursday, June 26, 2008

A handshake once said it all

This first published June 26, 2008 in the Boulder City News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

There is a breakdown in the moral compass of American society, which seems to be spinning wildly as though it were seated on the North Pole.

Look at the headlines of teenage girls making a pact to get pregnant so they can raise their babies together, as though it’s a free pass to adulthood. The story is now being denied by city officials, while the high school principal is having a memory lapse, unable to recall where he heard the rumor. Either way, it is a sad indication of society.

Then there are more than 400 people connected to the real estate industry who have been arrested for fraud and other conspiracies connected to the mortgage crisis.

Remember the days when a man’s word was his bond and you could take it to the bank where the teller, who knew you, would accept it based upon your own word? I do!

Some of those folks were the ones who believed in Las Vegas and its potential to thrive, then blossom.

Some were of the unsavory kind. However, if they said they would do something like break your leg, you could count on it.

Then there were respectable ones who made a promise or even an indication they would do something and always followed through.

Growing up, I met many of them through my parents, who had the same high level of integrity.

I’m reminded of these folks who lived by their words after seeing the documentary “Where I Stand: The life of Hank Greenspun.” The film, produced by his granddaughter, Amy Greenspun, and directed by Scott Goldstein, was amazing.

Personally, it chronicled many of the incredible facets of Hank’s life that I already knew. Each segment was akin to untying a ribbon from a present, then opening it up only to discover another present inside. It unfolded the integrity of a man who feared nothing in the pursuit of justice, even if it involved the unjust actions of those sworn to uphold the law.

I said it chronicled many of the incredible facets. Not all, because there was much more to his life that may never see the big screen. His infectious adoration of children, his generosity to employees, his loyalty to his friends and his word as his bond.

Hank was magic, and he had a magic closet to prove it. Just ask the hundreds of children who experienced the mighty publisher opening the closet filled with joy in the form of stuffed animals, trinkets and a treasure chest. With their parents watching, Hank would invite the children to pick a toy to take with them.

I’m not sure who relished in the joy more, the lucky child or the inner child of Hank basking in a moment of unconditional love only a child can give.

He was generous with those who worked for him, even in the most challenging times.

Twenty-nine years ago, he gave a kid a job, even though the kid’s father thought it wasn’t a good idea. Hank said he would help him find a summer job, however. He would never promise then fail to keep his word.

The kid didn’t mind sweeping the mailroom and prepacking inserts for the Las Vegas Sun that summer. Who knew it would be the beginning of a lifelong career in publishing for that kid? Hank gave me my first job in the newspaper, or rather he suggested to someone else to do so.

It’s no secret my dad worked with Hank on a handshake that would extend another 15 years beyond Hank’s death, with his son Brian, until my dad’s death in 2004.

It had then become an annual ritual between my dad and Brian Greenspun. My dad would say, “It’s been another year,” and Brian would ask if he wanted a contract. The answer was always no, because he had one bonded by a handshake.

Hank was a fine example of the moral fabric that made this country great. If you ever get the opportunity to see “Where I Stand,” take it!

It may provide an opportunity for you to take inventory of your life and consider what you can do to help reset the moral compass of America. Perhaps, it’s as simple as following through on your word.

It sounds simple, but is it?

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or He writes a regular blog at

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