Voice of Business

Voice of Business : The Man Who Transformed the United States Chamber of Commerce

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From small-town life to the world stage, Richard Lesher's inspiring tale is one of dogged determination. The son of an alcoholic and violent father in Depression-era Pennsylvania, Lesher worked his way through school, eventually overseeing NASA's vital technological transfer program during the race to the moon. His greatest achievement, however, was serving as president of the US Chamber of Commerce from the Ford through the Clinton administrations. Working closely with the presidents-especially Reagan-he modernized the Chamber over 22 years and dramatically expanded its national and international outreach. Believing strongly in the power of the free enterprise system, Lesher became a key voice and agent of economic change in former communist countries in the 1990s. Respected and admired by presidents, officials, and world leaders on both the left and right, Lesher has lived a hopeful and uniquely American story, a remarkable testament to personal perseverance and the ever-present opportunities in a free society.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 160 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 14.22mm | 385.55g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 24 b&w illus.
  • 0253026997
  • 9780253026996

About Richard Lesher

Richard Lesher earned his doctorate at Indiana University and was president of the US Chamber of Commerce from 1975 to 1997.

Dave Scheiber is an award-winning journalist and the coauthor of several books, including Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob.
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Review quote

"PRAISE FOR DR. RICHARD LESHER "Dr. Lesher is a thoroughly educated man, having earned a doctorate in business administration while simultaneously matriculating at the school of hard knocks - he held down two jobs to put himself through school. His background is one reason why he is as much at ease discussing economics and exports with presidents and prime ministers as he is talking about take-home pay and taxes with keypunch operators and small business people." -The late Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States "Richard Lesher (was) a singular voice for America's economic interests for more than 20 years. ... (He) was one of the earliest and strongest supporters of Ronald Reagan's 1980 supply-side program, which cut taxes across the board and initiated the largest peacetime economic expansion in history. This was a bold gesture and a perfect example of the kind of vision and leadership that we have come to expect from him." - Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Georgia "Small business is the driving force of the conservative revolution, and Dick Lesher understands it better than anyone." - Late U.S. Congressman Jack Kemp "From Capitol Hill to main street America, Dick has been a constant source of inspiration and advice. His knowledge of issues and his keen ability to navigate Washington has earned him the respect of Members from both sides of the aisle. We appreciate Dick's hard work, commitment, and contribution to America's political process." - Former Representative Constance A. Morella, Maryland "After more than 20 years with Dr. Lesher at the helm, the chamber's membership has grown to 215,000 business members, 3,000 State and local chambers of commerce and 1,200 trade and professional associations. Membership also includes 72 American Chambers of Commerce abroad in 65 countries. Since Dr. Lesher became president, the chamber's annual budget has risen from $40 million to over $70 million. Dick Lesher's energy and vision has transformed the direction and thinking of the chamber leading to the creation of the most advanced and effective communications network of any business organization." - Former Representative Michael P. Forbes, New York "I commend Dr. Richard Lesher for his long-term commitment to the Chamber and for playing a critical part in the policies of this Nation." -Former Representative John Shimkus, Ill. "In addition to creating the Chamber's debate show, It's Your Business, Dick thought it would help our cause to produce a daily business newscast airing at 7 a.m., First Business. Keep in mind, this was before the era of the ubiquitous business cable news programming with CNBC and Bloomberg News. We were well ahead of that curve. The only other business show on TV at that time was CNN's Moneyline with Lou Dobbs, and that aired in the evening - we had a monopoly in the morning. Looking back, it's amazing to think that the show was distributed for many years by ESPN, which was on its way to becoming the world leader of sports broadcasting. This was by no means a Chamber propaganda show, but it delivered the business point of view and we enjoyed excellent, worldwide viewership. And all the credit belongs to Dick." - Larry Kraus, former Vice President and General Counsel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce "As participant on It's Your Business, Dr. Lesher was a very powerful debater. He was also disciplined, because he was inviting people to participate in the show and knew he had to be a gracious host in engaging other people - often sitting next to the top members of Congress, or other political and business leaders. He was generous and polite but always able to weigh in with a very cogent point. His contributions helped create a show that filled a void and was very rewarding, as we became respected by both Republicans and Democrats alike." - Meryl Comer, Moderator of It's Your Business (1983-1997), Emmy-winning TV journalist "It might surprise people to know that he never registered with a particular political party. Dick was a registered Independent, because he knew the importance of working with people on both sides of the aisle. And because he's so smart, he knew the value of hiring smart subject-matter people and paying them well. He did a lot to upgrade salaries and positions during his time. The result was that the Chamber had many people who could sit down with anybody and argue the fine points of dozens of topics. We had high-level talent that could play a key role behind the scenes, and make substantive arguments on whatever business position needed to be heard. He understood that the heart of the Chamber was intellectual honesty and integrity when it came to its positions and people. He built the organization accordingly. And that's a great legacy to have left." - Jeff Joseph, Former Vice President for Domestic Policy of U.S. Chamber of Commerce "One of the things that made Dick Lesher so effective was that he was very smart, highly educated and courageous. He thought a lot about the issues. One of my hats was communications, and he really understood the importance of this at the Chamber. Dick was also very personable - a man with a very good sense of humor. But above all, he was a man with a vision." - Carl Grant, a past U.S. Chamber vice president and anchor of Chamber's national daily business show on ESPN "Dick is just an unusual guy who has great insight into people. He truly has a high regard for character - that is probably the most important thing that he looks at in his dealings with others. He's always put a big premium on his word and on people who give him their word. Beyond that, Dick is very analytical - a man who studies the issues closely - and he has high standards. He expects people to do the things he would do. With the Chamber, he worked hard to bring it from more of a right-wing organization to an organization in the middle." - Steve Lebowitz, Former member of the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Chamber Board of Directors, President and Co-Chairman of the Board of G&L Global Realty Corps "Dick has always been a strenuous advocate for minorities or people in challenging situations, to make sure that they have a fair opportunity to succeed. He believes that the principles our country was founded on are for everybody - and not just for those coming from a more privileged background. Dick is a conservative, but what he wants is for people to achieve their goals on their own, with a sense of self-reliance, and, if needed, some help along the way. That's how they can sustain achievement and success, as opposed to sustaining dependence." - Dr. Michael Gaudiose "I came to the United States from Brazil in 1984 without a job, hoping to find work and send money home to my wife and children. My daughter had a condition that attacked her knee joints, and I wanted to provide money for medical support. The Leshers hired me as their gardener and housekeeper, and Dr. Lesher was so supportive and encouraging in my eventual career with Goddard Space Center. My daughter has benefitted immensely from the medical treatments she would never have received if I hadn't come to America and later brought my family here - thanks to the solid foundation Dr. Lesher enabled me to build. I will always be indebted to both him and his wife, Agnes, for their kindness and help when I needed it most." - Oswaldo dos Santos, Civil Servant at Goddard Space Center, Maryland" -
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Table of contents

1. A Meeting in the Desert
2. Guiding Forces
3. Uncharted Territory
4. Shooting for the Moon
5. From a Big Stumble to One Giant Leap
6. A New Way of Doing Business
7. A New Show in Town
8. The Making of a Hit
9. Standing My Ground
10. Crusader for Capitalism
11. A New Fight and Direction
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