When I think of Marilyn Laurie, who passed away yesterday, I think of guts. Specifically, I think of my all-time favorite quote about integrity, spoken by Marilyn at the end of her Arthur W. Page Society Hall of Fame induction speech in September 2002:
"I don't think it takes an MBA ethics course to know right from wrong. But it takes guts to wrestle many of these problems to the ground and do the right thing."
Too many people, when faced with a crisis, don’t have the guts to stand up for what’s right and do the right thing. Marilyn was not one of those people. Her finely honed sense of right and wrong was always operating, and she was quick to let you know how she felt about any issue, big or small, damn the consequences.
Marilyn’s Hall of Fame speech, delivered at the time of the Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and other corporate scandals, is a must-read for anyone who cares about public trust in business. It’s the only such speech I can recall in which the speaker reveals the most difficult moments in her career.
I asked Marilyn to come to Hartford once to speak to my corporate communications organization when I was head of communications at Aetna. I dare say her appearance was not highly anticipated, as my team had no way to know what was to come. By the time she left, they couldn’t get enough of her wisdom; her compassion; and her hard-won, in-the-trenches experience.
In recent years, I could count on seeing Marilyn at the New York City Ballet, where we shared an interest. Lynne and I so enjoyed being with her and her beloved husband, Bob. And I was privileged to receive an occasional call, as I suspect many others did, which invariably started, “I have an idea I want to bounce off you.” I was always startled at how advanced her thinking was on the most pressing issues of the day.
I will always remember Marilyn Laurie as being tough as nails, smart as a whip, and honest as the day is long. And I will miss her.
I will miss those chance meetings and occasional phone calls. I will miss receiving her unvarnished opinions on everything from business to politics to choreography. And I will miss those wonderful holiday cards with Marilyn’s words and Bob’s art.
Thank you, Marilyn, for being a shining example of the best that a strategic communications adviser can be. And thank you for being a friend.
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