Who’s picture should appear on the next batch of postage stamps? Why yours… and mine, of course! An audacious proposal.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. The United States Postal Service is in deep doo doo. There’s no question about that. The question is what are they doing to clean up the mess and run in the black again? Elvis Presley has already helped the Postal Service out once before; he was featured on the 29 cent stamp in June, 2004. So, I’m again calling on the King to assist… this time with his catchy little ditty, “Return to Sender” (released 1962)). You’ll find it in any search engine. Enjoy! And, remember, if the Postal Service cannot solve this problem, His Majesty’s words will be prescient indeed — “no such number, no such zone.” At least in that case the USPS will have an excuse for non-delivery. They won’t be so lucky in general.

Crisis at the USPS.

As I have written before, the lumbering United States Postal Service, founded in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin, is reeling from crisis to crisis. I have reported on their pressing problems, problems which have been worsened by the tortoise-like speed with which they react, slow, slow, aggravatingly slow.

It took them far too long to react to the advent and significance of the Internet and e-mail. While the world was flocking to these and other methods of communication and fast delivery — (quick! can you say “Federal Express”?) — the postal service maintained an establishment that any emperor would envy. It was immense, costly, unnecessary and the whitest of sacred cows, politically sacrosanct, untouchable.

Sure, they cut jobs… but too few, too slow.

Sure, they closed post offices. Again, too few, too slow.

It was all reactive, always too little, too late.

And while they fiddled, Rome burned… money… huge amounts of it, too. They needed — had to have yesterday — at least ten billion bucks, not least for pensions for their overworked employees! Their general attitude seemed to be the same as Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman: “What me worry?”

Until now…

I don’t know whether this idea came in from an overpaid consultant or was put into the suggestion box by a bright lad or lassie… but, at last, someone is brainstorming ideas not just sitting around figuring out how many days remain until they can retire and get their pension.

The idea goes like this.

Living people should be placed on stamps for the first time ever.

Sounds logical to me. The USPS needs money. Put the living to work by placing them on stamps — thereby helping the dead who are, you’ll admit, past the business of helping otherwise than by using their mugs on the stamps.

Of course, the minute this idea was floated by USPS, the venerable Boston Globe, sure to be on the wrong side of any progressive idea, weighed in with its usual ponderous, pompous, and (may I say) downright silly response.

I quote from their sonorous, sententious editorial of September 28, 2011, thus

“… its decision to abandon a longstanding policy by allowing living people to appear on stamps in hopes of boosting sales is short-sighted. The service concluded that it could no longer afford to pass up the opportunities of, say, an Oprah commemorative stamp, or perhaps a first-day cover for the season premiere of ‘Glee'”.

But the Globe-ists are just warming up. “But for a modest financial gain, the service is sacrificing a rule that has kept disreputable characters off stamps — imagine the Pete Rose commemorative, circa 1985 — and more importantly, helped insulate the agency from political disputes.” It then concludes with that orotund flourish for which it is famous: “The Postal Service should let history render its verdict before delivering its own.” They all but said forsooth and nevermore. It is for such an organization with such insular thinking that the word fustian was invented.

What we need is to extend the recommendation… not kill it. Here’s how we do just that:

1) It should be the policy of the USPS that people should appear on postage stamps, whether living or dead does not signify.

2) Worry about whether some living person placed on a stamp later is found to be disreputable in some way or another is a complete waste of time. For one thing, there are plenty of dead folks with skeletons in their closets who have been honored (Thomas Jefferson and his forced liaison with Sally Hemings comes immediately to mind)… and if the public disapproves of one person or another, that’s unimportant. The postal service needs the money and that’s that. However, I suspect that given the usual propensities and proclivities of stamp purchasers and collectors, the more notorious the crime, the more that stamp will sell. Elvis is a very good example.He was hardly a model citizen.

Thus, let’s develop a list of, say, 100 currently living Americans who are, each and every one of them, contributors to American life, culture, and welfare. This should include authors, scientists, inventors, statesmen, athletes, entertainers, business titans, and a catch-all category for other worthies and notables.

Now let’s make this proposal truly audacious, bold, and ground breaking. Let’s go for broke and completely change the basis for appearing on stamps, just like the Blair Ministry in the United Kingdom changed the basis on which the royal honors are given out, so that anyone could get an honor… if deemed suitable. And that’s the way it should be for our postage stamps. Sure, Bill Gates should be on a stamp… but so should the executive director of a vibrant, helpful historical preservation society. Equally, while Patriot Tom Brady should be honored (especially if he retains his wind-blown locks) so should a hero helping polar bears survive or running a rescue league… and, of course, if you and I have a claim… we should be allowed to put our reasons in writing and say so… It’s only right and proper.

The only category of folks who should be excluded is… current office-holding politicians holding any elected post whatsoever. They can — and should — wait to be honored until dead… and etch that prohibition in stone, or they most assuredly will find a way around it. And that’s a fact.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at worldprofit.com and JeffreyLantArticles.com

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