By Lyle R. Hill
There it sat … on the middle of my desk … and let me tell you, I was feeling
pretty good about it! Sure I’d received plenty of invitations in the past.
For weddings, graduations, birthdays and retirement parties too. But this
one was special. Very special. For you see, it was from Newt Gingrich,
general chairman, Washington, D.C. and it was an invitation to a private
dinner because I was being named Illinois Entrepreneur of the Year. I
would be dining with Newt and 49 other award winners representing their
When I was in the fourth grade, I had a pet water newt. Newts are semi-aquatic
salamanders. Thinking that the guys in the neighborhood would really be
impressed, I had wanted a western diamond-back rattlesnake, but my dad
thought the newt was the better way to go. I had named my newt “Sir Isaac”
after the famous mathematician Sir Isaac Newton.
The dinner with Newt Gingrich and the other 49 invitees would take place
at the National Republican Club of Capital Hill which is located at 300
1st Street in Washington, D.C., just one block from the U.S. Capitol.
The menu for the dinner included lobster bisque, filet mignon and, for
dessert, chocolate truffle cake with coffee.
Sir Isaac the Newt had a relatively restricted diet. He could eat bugs,
but bugs had a hard time getting into the little terrarium that Sir Isaac
called home so I had to buy him special food at the pet store. The money
for his food had to come out of my allowance. One day, quite by accident,
I discovered that Sir Isaac had a real liking for Cheerios which were
purchased out of my mom’s grocery allowance. From that point forward,
Sir Isaac the Newt dined exclusively on those little rolled oats.
I don’t consider myself a Republican. Nor do I consider myself a Democrat.
Over the years, I have voted for any number of candidates from each party
and, on an occasion or two, I have even voted for third-party candidates.
I guess that makes me an Independent, but I certainly wasn’t about to
let this keep me from going to Washington for dinner at the National Republican
Club, getting my award and, as the invitation announced, getting to meet
and talk with Newt Gingrich. The invitation also said that Newt was interested
in hearing my ideas about how to get the economy moving again.
One afternoon, while I was feeding Sir Isaac the Newt, he began shaking
violently then collapsed on the floor of his little terrarium home. And
in spite of my best efforts and those of the paramedics called to the
scene, he could not be revived. I felt as terrible as a ten-year-old could
feel. My father, who had grown quite fond of the little guy during the
few months that he had been with us, ordered a complete autopsy.
The invitation also informed me that I would have a photo session with
Newt and that not only would my time with Newt get me in on the ground
floor of helping Newt and his council turn the country around, I would
“not be herded into a massive ballroom like cattle.” I had a problem conjuring
up an image of a bunch of cows being crammed into a ballroom in Washington,
D.C., for a dinner with Newt Gingrich, but I thought that this must be
important or it wouldn’t have been mentioned in the invitation.
As I had feared, the autopsy of Sir Isaac the Newt indicated that
he had choked to death on a Cheerio that had apparently become lodged
in his little throat. On a more positive note, the report also revealed
that Sir Isaac had an exceptionally low cholesterol level, although this
did little to console my father.
The invitation informed me that I needed to call the 800 number provided
to “firm up my itinerary and travel plans.” I dialed the number and a
very pleasant-sounding woman named Carol answered the phone. I told her
why I was calling and she seemed quite pleased that I had made contact.
She asked me to listen to a prerecorded message from Newt wherein he told
me how much he was looking forward to meeting me and how important my
input was going to be as to how to get the country and its unemployed
citizenry back to work. After I had listened to the recording, Carol came
back on the line and reiterated some of what had been mentioned in the
invitation. She particularly stressed yet again that I and the other 49
award recipients would not be herded like cattle into the ballroom for
dinner. I now started to think that this must somehow be much more important
than I had realized. Maybe the Democrats have cattle herds at their dinners
or maybe there are just large herds of cattle roaming around Washington
creating all kinds of havoc. Very strange I thought.
Not wanting anyone to suspect that the sudden demise of Sir Isaac the
Newt was in anyway linked to me, my good friend Johnny “The Mooch” Rago
and I hitchhiked to Indiana and buried him in a cornfield. Shortly thereafter,
I approached my father and asked him if he would consider advancing me
enough allowance money to acquire another newt. My dad, a wise and thoughtful
man, made me an offer. He would allow me to borrow the money from him
to purchase another newt, or he would give me enough money to buy a new
baseball bat to replace the one I had recently broken. Even at a young
age, I knew that free and clear was a whole lot better than borrowing
Carol, the pleasant lady who was going to help me firm up my itinerary
and travel plans for my dinner with Newt Gingrich and 49 other award winners
at the National Republican Club in Washington, D.C., one block from the
Capital where we would spend important time together to help Newt and
his team figure out how to get the country back to work and where, most
importantly, we would not be herded around like a bunch of cattle, then
asked me if I wanted to make my contribution to the cause by way of check
or credit card. I now came to realize that a string, so to speak, was
attached to my award. I asked how much of a contribution was expected
and was informed that a minimum of $5,000 would be
Sir Isaac Newton (the mathematician and not the semi-aquatic salamander)
was born in 1643 and by the time he had reached the age of 26 he was recognized
as one of the great mathematical minds of his day having begun revolutionary
advances in mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy. Newt Gingrich
was born in 1943 and by the time he was 26 he had courted and married
his high school math teacher. He would later have divorce papers served
on her while she was in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Both Sir Isaac and Newt were named after their fathers and, for a time,
both were college professors.
“Carol,” I asked, “would I be correct in assuming that maybe there is
going to be more than one of these award dinners taking place in the next
several weeks and that in each instance, the recipients will be named
as Entrepreneurs of the Year from their respective states and asked to
make a contribution in the $5,000 range?”
“That’s a strong possibility Mr. Hill but I don’t make those decisions.”
“I see, Carol. But how about this … how about giving me the names and
phone numbers of the other 49 people who were going to be at my dinner?”
“Why Mr. Hill?”
“So I can call them and tell them that we don’t need to come to Washington
to meet with Newt to tell him how to put people back to work. You see,
the money we’re going to give to Newt and his team could put a whole bunch
of people back to work right away.”
“Doing what Mr. Hill?”
“I don’t know for sure Carol … but perhaps they could start by helping
with that cattle problem you guys seem to have there in Washington. Maybe
it’s simply time to start thinning the herd!”
From 1669 to 1687, Isaac Newton involved himself with mathematical
research that some scholars claim was never equaled for it prolificacy
and importance. It was during this time that Newton advanced his theories
of gravity. However, in 1687, at the age of 44, Newton accepted a political
assignment in London as a highly paid government official and, as many
historians point out, after accepting this appointment he seemed to lose
interest in mathematical research and produced very little meaningful
work thereafter. Newton Gingrich sought out political fame and fortune
at an early age and Newsweek, the magazine, once defined what it called
Gingrich’s Newtonian Law: conflict equals exposure equals power. There
are no known records that would indicate that either man ever was part
of a herd, worked as a cowboy or even owned a cow … or for that matter,
a water newt!
Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries
of Chicago. Mr. Hill’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily
those of this magazine.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.