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Secrets To A Long Life

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“There are three things in life once gone never return: time, words, and opportunity.” Herb Salinger

I met Herb on a Riverboat cruise in France. He stretched out his arm reaching to take my hand and said, “Hi, my name is Herb.” I returned, “Herb, gotta last name?” He replied, “Salinger.” I exclaimed, “Like Pierre?” He said, “That’s my brother.” For you young readers, Pierre Salinger was President Kennedy’s Press Secretary. This is an example of why I love to travel. You just never know who you are going to meet and meeting people all over the world is the best education.

Herb Salinger is currently 87 years young, born in 1926. He does not wear glasses and reads to a third grade class every week. His career went from putting lye in outhouses to being appointed assistant to the Secretary of Labor, Arthur Goldberg, in the Kennedy administration. Many of his working years were spent in education. He received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a teacher, principal, superintendent, and finally, the Executive Director of the California School Boards Association. He was also the Executive Director of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators. Every year a person is honored in Herb’s name with the distinguished “Herb Salinger Personnel Administrator of the Year” award. Herb will be attending the event in San Antonio this October. He reminisces about teaching with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s son, James Roosevelt. (Now, what textbook would I learn this in?). He writes limericks while sharing dinner and keeps me laughing.

Herb is a humble man, like so many people from his generation. I am a serious history nut and he re-lived a story that happened at the close of WWII. He sailed on seven ships in the Pacific war zone during WWII and ended his Merchant Marine career as a Second Mate. On one of his ships docking in Norway, he decided to have an adventure while on a four-day leave. He met up with another young soldier who had been discharged from the Norwegian Army that day. At midnight there was to be a huge party celebrating the end of the war. The men were playing soccer by the 2 a.m. fading sunlight. In the shadow, Herb could see a dead man hanging from a goal post. The man had been a quisling, a supporter of the Nazi Regime. Almost 70 years later, Herb cannot get that memory out of his mind.

Think about how your culture influences your style of communication.

On a much lighter note, during the 1960 Democratic National Convention, Herb was asked to take Teddy Kennedy to a TV interview. As luck would have it, they ran out of gas and hitchhiked to the TV station. Herb did not see Teddy again until 2003, when he delivered the eulogy for Herb’s brother, Pierre.

I asked Herb the secret to his longevity. “Myself,” he said. He explained that his father had died when he was 13 and that his French mother was busy in her career as Art Editor for the San Francisco Examiner. He partly attributes his longevity to falling in love twice…the second time at 70 years old…and to always having a purpose in his life. Even at 87, Herb continues to work for causes such as universal pre-school. He serves as a great example of someone growing old gracefully.

He continues to have a strong sense of purpose and a clear mission for his life. He wants to contribute to a greater good. He also has a strong family network and maintains his good friendships. Herb has a great family…three children, 10 grandchildren, four great grandchildren, and a large number of nieces and nephews. I feel privileged to be one of his friends. Herb is an inspiration to me!

When I did my research on how to live healthy to 100, I discovered that centenarians have several things in common. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that having a positive attitude/outlook and a sense of humor definitely play a role in living a longer, healthier life. Since that is the case, I expect Herb will be around for a long time!


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