News & Views from 465 California Street

The Final Screed

Clint Reilly

Today marks my final column after three years of weekly dissertations. That’s 156 columns, or about 100,000 words.

Writers know sleepless nights and the midnight oil. Frankly, I’ll miss them both.

There is satisfaction in communicating a simple thought in writing – however difficult it can be at times. And there’s something gratifying about sending your thoughts out to be critiqued by the literate masses.

Am I inflating my vitae to call myself a columnist when no newspaper actually hired me? Will the résumé police unmask my inflated biography? Many readers simply thought I was buying the space – a blowhard’s advertorial.

That would be a plausible explanation in a day when novice politician Meg Whitman is spending tens of millions to become a public servant.

But readers know by now that I was really given the space by this newspaper’s owner.

Imagine if you could pretty much write anything you wanted in 650 words every seven days as long as it wasn’t X-rated or otherwise unfit for a family newspaper. In these angry times, there is plenty to rail about.

When it first came to light that I was given a free space to expound, the newspaper companies denied it and tried to claim that I was buying an ad. Reporters muttered into their monitors and editors braced for explosives.

You have to understand, this was before Willie Brown became a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

“How could an ex political consultant be given a free column in the daily paper?” astonished insiders pecked in emails.

My enemies cowered. The smartest immediately called to offer feigned congrats. A few editors and reporters got word to me that they were just doing their jobs when they commissioned tough stories on my career. It was nothing personal – just business.

My friends laughed out loud.

While the buzz got louder, I broke out in a cold sweat. My bluff had been called. Did I, in fact, have anything at all to say?

Yes, I did.

I wanted to say a lot of things, particularly about cynicism toward public service. I am an unabashed believer in social change through civic participation. That was my motivation for becoming a political campaign manager back in the 1970s.

And that’s why my real estate business, which I founded after leaving campaign management in 1995, has been heavily involved in both politics and philanthropy.

In his book, “Giving,” Bill Clinton extolled the work that nongovernmental organizations are doing globally to move the human race forward.

Paul Hawken’s “Blessed Unrest” chronicled the countless non-political movements for reform that groups of ordinary citizens initiate around the globe.

I finally got married 15 years ago after a lifetime as a bachelor and we now have two daughters. I prefer to believe that my family is living out some of the principles espoused by both Clinton and Hawken.

My wife, Janet, is currently a candidate for Supervisor in San Francisco. The first question she gets at forums usually comes from an incredulous citizen wondering why she wants the headache.

Her answer is that public service is still one of the best ways available to improve lives and change the world.

But politics isn’t the only way she is involved. Janet has spent the last two years helping to open a free health clinic with a national nonprofit called Volunteers in Medicine. In more than 70 such clinics across the country, retired doctors and nurses provide free care for working uninsured families.

I am still active in politics as a volunteer, donor and fundraiser. But I am also working with nonprofits. I recently spent many great years as President of the Board of Catholic Charities CYO, an experience I found richly rewarding.

So, if I may use my soapbox one last time, let me encourage you to do one thing: Volunteer for a candidate or a cause that you believe in. Whatever your ideology, don’t succumb to the cynicism that says we can’t achieve great things. Get involved.

Thank you for reading.

Comments (10)

  • Clint,

    As a devoted reader I am sure going to miss your weekly scribes. It’s been one of my favorite places to come to engage in public discussion on important issues. While we don’t always agree, your column has been a forum for all to participate in what makes our democracy work…debate.

    Kudos on a job well done! I will miss keeping you in line on Obama :)

    Posted by: melinda maginn | June 8th, 2010 at 4:58 am

  • Well done, Clint … we’ll miss your columns out here in the hinterlands of the East Bay!

    Posted by: Joe Fanucchi | June 8th, 2010 at 8:15 am

  • Clint
    The pen is mightier than the sword especially when it motivates citizens to informed and compassionate action for social change to improve the lot of the many and to care for the indigent and poor.
    We too will miss your weekly columns but I’m sure you will continue to share your thoughts and ideas on a weekly blog.
    Thanks for the three years.
    The Dells Family

    Posted by: Steve Dells | June 8th, 2010 at 8:50 am

  • Clint–
    Thanks for all of them, and especially this last.

    Posted by: Clay Jackson | June 8th, 2010 at 9:01 am

  • Clint:
    Thanks for the columns, for your commitment to public service and social justice and for your tenacious pursuit of something larger than ourselves.

    Posted by: Jeff Bialik | June 8th, 2010 at 9:59 am

  • Encore!

    Enjoyed every word . . . well, almost.

    Posted by: Jerry Carroll | June 8th, 2010 at 10:05 am

  • I will continue to follow your blog and hope, after this very nasty campaign, you will talk about why campaigns have gone so negative. I’ve been wondering about this since Edmund G. Brown ran a spot noting that “an actor killed Lincoln.” Regan, the actor, won that election.

    Posted by: Hersh Brown | June 8th, 2010 at 11:04 am

  • Will miss your thought provoking insights! Looked forward to Tuesdays! Since meeting you, I have become very involved in South County (my home area rather than Oakland) and it has been very rewarding! Your last words were very inspirational! Be Well and God Bless!

    Posted by: Terry Roderick-Alderete | June 8th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

  • Hi Clint–

    I have been a loyal reader and will miss the column. Thanks.

    Ed S.

    Posted by: Ed S. | June 8th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

  • Hello Mr. O’Reilly,

    First I better tell you that I’m a registered Republican, actually a RINO. When I first read your column in the Vacaville Reporter I thought, oh, a democrat operative, well, this will be interesting, so I read the first few with my morning coffee and while I may have disagreed with some of your thoughts, I generally thought, and still do, that you have (1) a talent for writing clearly and (2) expressing fact and philosophy, uncovering rumor and claims, very well. In brief, you kept my interest. I continued to disagree and agree and very frankly, I’m very disappointed that your column which I looked forward to is over. Bummer. I’m an older rascal, 72 in about two weeks, but I like to read a good factual argument, not political monologue. I’m in something of a quandary, as I suspect many of my RINO friends are; not much of a choice over on our side for governor. Heck, I’d vote for Arnold again. Jerry… don’t know. I remember him very well, sure liked his dad, and Reagan, as governor wasn’t my favorite. Reagan was in my book a better president than governor.

    I’m starting to take up space so better stop. Mr. O’Reilly, I’m delighted that the Reporter had the good sense to sign you on. I wish you would continue. Put that into your “positive message” basket.

    Roger A

    Posted by: Roger A. | June 8th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

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