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I normally do not need reminders of why I love what I do — teaching college students public relations management — but there are times when it all comes flooding back to me.

This past December was one of those times. The Public Relations Society of America, Maryland chapter, honored me with its Educator of the Year award. I was deeply touched by this. First, to be honored by PRSA-MD was incredibly special. Second, being honored for doing what I love to do is especially poignant.

Here is the official announcement:

The 2013 Best In Maryland Committee and the 2013 PRSA-MD Board of Directors are proud to announce the 2013 Educator of the Year recipient: Lester R. Potter.

Accredited Business Communicator Lester R. Potter, an MBA, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies at Towson University, Maryland. He is “ABD” (all but dissertation) for a doctorate in Instructional Technology at Towson.  At Towson, Potter teaches Public Relations Writing, Organizational Communication, Strategic Public Relations Planning and Management, and Public Relations for Nonprofit Organizations.  He has served as Faculty Advisor to the PRSSA chapter for ten years.

Prior to beginning his academic career, Potter was President of Les Potter Incorporated, an international consultancy he founded in 1998.  His firm helped organizations worldwide use communication as a strategic management tool to boost organizational effectiveness.  For over 30 years, Les Potter has improved business operation with innovative, results-oriented interventions.  To solve clients’ problems, Potter draws on successful experience in organizational communication, strategic and marketing planning, and human resources and project management gained from work with a wide variety of organizations and industries.

Les Potter’s background includes many different and enriching business situations that prepared him for successful client service.  Potter was Chairman of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) during 1991-92.  He was named an IABC Fellow in 1997, IABC’s highest honor.  He served on IABC’s executive board, accreditation board, and as a trustee of the IABC Research Foundation.  He earned IABC accreditation (the ABC designation) in 1978.

Les is also a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the invitation-only professional association for educators, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

You have heard me talk a great deal about my Communication/PR colleagues and friends who I consider to be true professionals. What does being a Communication/PR professional mean to you? How do you become a true professional in Communication/PR?

To get to the new Wal-Mart in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, about a mile from where I live in Vienna, you go down Route 7 until you see the Aston Martin dealership on the right. Then, you take the next left at the Porsche dealership.

You can’t miss the Aston Martin dealership, for it is across Route 7 from the Mercedes dealership.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is spending $250 million of his own money to buy the official house organ of the Democrat party.

Yes , “house organ”, a pejorative, old-fashioned term that fits the Washington Post perfectly.

One can’t help but wonder if this is a shrewd move to gain Washington access. What better way to get a seat at the table of the powerful in Washington, D.C. than to own the Washington Post, which has not made a profit in years. The darling of the glitterati, the Post has devolved into little more than a house organ for all things Democrat.

But power is power, and Bezos, reported to be a Libertarian, will have a pretty nice entry into the halls of power in Washington.

The Post is just one of a long list of failed newspapers. Perhaps Bezos’ purchase will transform the business model in new and sustainable ways. Let’s hope so. A viable press is necessary to sustaining democracy.

Maybe Bezos can mitigate the Post’s shameless partisanship that is skewed so totally toward the Democrat party. A good first move would be to fire  that hack “cartoonist” Tom Toles, whose 1940s images and obvious hatred for Republicans shows up in almost every cartoon he draws.

Journalism is supposed to be unbiased in reporting the news. The Washington Post gave up on that a long time ago. The result? It has become a moral and financial failure. I wish Jeff Bezos, a true entrepreneurial genius, great success in restoring it to some sort of ethical journalistic standard.

What is your greatest personal challenge as a public relations writer? How will you deal with this challenge?

Once upon a time, there was a course of study that addressed cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, along with other relevant topics to managing a household. It was called home economics, and it appears to have fallen out of favor in our fast-paced, modern world.

Here’s the paradox: while healthy eating has never been more popular than it is now, there is a concomitant obesity epidemic in America. What’s up with that?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
  • By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.7% in Colorado to 34.9% in Mississippi in 2011. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. 39 states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

Of all countries, America has the highest rate of obesity.  Yet we are bombarded with messages about organic foods and the value of fresh, unprocessed food. Where’s the breakdown?

Our  love for hamburgers, fries, soft drinks, and sweets, among many other foods that are considered bad for us, is partially to blame. Plus, we are all in such a rush that we do not take time to prepare healthy meals and sit down together to enjoy them.

But wait, that presupposes that we know enough about good food and its proper preparation to make a difference. I believe that we have lost much of that knowledge and ability and/or are too busy to deal with it.

Therefore, home economics should be required for both boys and girls. Men have every bit of responsibility to learn how to select and prepare healthy foods as do women.

We all must eat. We all must manage households, too. Why not require young men and women to learn some basics of home economics? It could only help students prepare for life and perhaps a much healthier life, too.

There is no gender stereotyping in my suggestion that young people should be required to take home economics. Quite the contrary. Men need this knowledge every bit as much as women. All Americans would benefit from home economics study.

There is a sad fact in the world of American employment. Organizations interested in investing in the U.S. are finding too few potential workers with the requisite skills.

About 600,000 jobs last year went unfilled in the U.S. due to a lack of skilled labor (Stuart E. Eizenstat & Robert I. Lerman). The skills needed are often that of machinists, welders, robotics programmers, and mechanics who can maintain equipment.

What is the reason for this? I have some ideas. I teach public relations/communication management at Towson University. Far too many of my students want to be event planners, not even PR/communication professionals, much less mechanics or machinists. I believe that impressionable young people have been brainwashed to view working with their hands as beneath their dignity. This is complete BS.

I believe that some people are better suited to working with their hands. And the truth is, we need many more people who can fix things than we need people to plan parties or weddings. Have you tried to hire a “handyman” lately? If so, chances are you were put on a long waiting list. We are rapidly losing our ability to fix and make things, hence the greater need to hire people to do it for us.

There is a real need to prepare people for skilled labor and subsequently, enhanced employment opportunity. Schools used to offer practical, helpful classes like “shop”, courses of instruction in a trade such as carpentry, electricity, or auto mechanics. I believe that such courses should be required for middle and high school students for both boys and girls. No sexism here.

Why require boys and girls to take shop? Because they will learn practical, useful life skills. And many young people will also learn skills that can mean employment opportunity. It just makes good sense for women and men to learn these things.

Employment in manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of jobs in Germany, 16 percent of jobs in Switzerland, but only 10 percent of jobs in the United States (Eizenstat & Lerman). Young men and women who take shop may find that they like the work so much that it constitutes a career option. The statistics prove that employment opportunities abound for such skilled workers.

Shop courses could offer such practical education as basic auto repair and maintenance for young people. An understanding of these concepts can help both men and women to not be ripped off by unscrupulous car repair shops.

Skills that help you learn to repair and build things, like carpentry or basic electricity, would also be useful. And again, career options come with it.

Academic professional/technical college instruction is often augmented by internships. For skilled workers, an expanded system of apprenticeships should be offered to provide hands-on experience. In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, for example, 55 to 70 percent of all young people enter apprenticeships (Eizenstat & Lerman).

To meet the needs of 21st-century U.S. employment, we owe our young people options for expanded employment opportunity. Becoming a skilled tradesperson is one such option. Working with your hands may just be a viable and interesting option for many.