The First Electronic Church of America
S A I N T S &
B I R T H D A Y P A G E
The liveliest of the muckrakers, a group of crusading journalists who were at the peak of their influence in the U.S. from 1902 to 1908. Steffens had fine schooling (at the University of California in Berkeley, and at the Universities of Berlin, Heidelberg, Munich, Leipzig and Paris), then used it in, of all places, the newspaper business, at a time when most reporters and editors had no more than an eighth grade education. Steffens specialized in exposes of municipal corruption, and he did them to most effect on a magazine called McClure's. In 1904, he published his series in McClure's in book form, The Shame of the Cities, and followed that with a book on corruption in state governments, The Struggle for Self Government. Steffens' reporting set a standard for advocacy journalism in general, and confirmed the aptness of the adversary mode for dealing with political and corporate reality in the U.S. His work was marked with a certain foggy idealism (an ethical fervor, compassion, generosity and good hope), but he was enough of a realist to make the statement that he could trust an honest grafter more than he could many reformers. The honest grafter helped others while he helped himself. The reformers usually turned out to be hypocrites who helped no one but themselves. Steffens broke some journalistic rules. He often moved from the status of simple observer to becoming a participant-observer in the action and passion of his times. Covering the trial of the McNamara brothers, union organizers accused of blowing up The Los Angeles Times, he became an advisor to the McNamara's lawyer, Clarence Darrow. Covering the revolution and civil war in Mexico in 1914, he became an advisor to the Carranza government. In 1919, he made a famous trip to Bolshevist Russia with the U.S. diplomat William C. Bullitt, and returned with the words, "I have been over into the future and it works." That faulty judgment (as we now know, Bolshevism didn't work) helped turn a whole generation to the left. Read: Lincoln Steffens by Justin Kaplan, a fine biography by a fine biographer, published in 1974.
MODEL: Steffens' enthusiasm. There was something refreshing (and something very American) about Steffens' quickness to join a good cause. "If he had been a woman," one of his friends remarked, "he would have always been pregnant."
Your Birthday Today:
Curious George. If you were born on April 6, you love to experiment, to probe everything around you to see how it works. Automobiles, stars, people, places, emotions--nothing escapes your curious eye. This can help you come up with innovative ideas of your own. Ruled by the number 6 and the planet Venus, you are well-balanced and interact well with people.
What's wrong? With even the most ordinary things, you try to find out what is wrong and fix it. When experimenting is required and you need a guinea pig, you often call on friends and family, though they may tire of your quests. You have a great ability to see the big picture beyond the immediate problem and visualize possibilities.
Tunnel vision. You are very logical and base your theories on solid experience or data. You can be open and speculative, but sometimes when you get results you weren't expecting, problems arise. You stubbornly refuse to realize that your hypothesis was wrong and continue to test over and over again. A true sign of maturity is when you can admit you were wrong and move on.
Strange ways. You usually seek the best way to accomplish something, even if it seems like the weirdest, most oddball thing to do. Others can find this funny and charming, but some may be perturbed by it. Though very serious while working with these odd solutions, in the end, you have an ability to laugh at yourself. This keeps you sane and endears you to others.
A bit of advice: Don't fall in love with your pet theories. Remain objective and throw them away if they don't work. Don't lose sight of your friends and responsibilities; you will need their support later.
Also born on this day: James Watson (DNA co-discoverer) Harry Houdini (escape artist) John Sculley (Apple computer president) Richard Alpert (LSD experimenter, guru) Janet Lynn (champion figure skater) Anthony Fokker (Dutch airplane manufacturer) Merle Haggard (country-western singer) Andre Previn (conductor, pianist, composer) Charlie Rouse (jazz saxophonist) Peter Tosh (reggae musician) Barry Levinson (director) Billy Dee Williams (actor)