A press conference with the New Hampshire Attorney General. A participant named Howard. Cameras whirring and reporters attentive.
I’ve pictured this scene many times, the only change being which crime I’m being charged with. Sometimes, I’ve kept my promise to every employer I’ve ever had: “Everyone’s got a price. Mine is $10,000,000. If I ever have the opportunity to steal ten-million dollars from you—or anyone—I’ll manage to sear my conscience and assuage my guilt. Until I’ve got my shot at $10,000,000, though, you’re safe.” Sometimes it’s as a victim of a crime of passion. “Keith Howard, age 93, was fatally shot in the back by a jealous husband.” Sometimes the attorney general is laying out a series of seemingly unrelated allegations that add up to years in prison. “The defendant, a known parking meter scofflaw, submitted a false affidavit regarding sale of a 1974 Datsun in June of 1982, then repeatedly drove drunk until May, 2007. While we have no proof of these last crimes, Howard has repeatedly confessed to groups of drunks meeting in a church basements throughout southern New Hampshire.”
As you can see, any time the name Howard has been connected with “attorney general,” the result in my mind has been fear not joy. Turns out I was wrong.
This past Friday, my daughter Rebecca Howard, along with all the fine folks she works with, took part in a joint press conference with Attorney General Gordon McDonald. (As an aside, I was there, and met Becca’s supervisors and co-workers, but did not introduce myself to the attorney general. This was not because of any personal or political difference, but because of a children’s book I used to read to Becca and her sisters: Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. It’s a GREAT, GREAT, GREAT book, but I knew if I were to talk with Attorney General Gordon McDonald, I’d have to practice jackassery and ask him about the book. I didn’t want Becca to have to explain me.) The press conference announced the release of uSafeUS, an app available for iPhone and Android that provides information to victims of sexual assault, and, much more important, helps PREVENT such assaults. Briefly, while the app has many features, the one I’m most excited about allows a woman on a date that’s taken a turn for the creepy to casually pick up her phone and arrange to get a call in a pre-arranged amount of time from a number of possible folks: male friend, female friend, mom, dad. A voice on the other end gives a message that helps the woman escape her date. For instance, the female friend voice might say, “Why is there Cheeto dust all over my side of the room? I don’t care if you want to shorten your life by eating by eating florescent fat and salt, but get back to the room now and clean up!”
(Full disclosure: Becca, who is much smarter, sensitiver and a betterer writer than I, spends most of her time on serious academic research, but asked me to be the voice of the dad on this app. Thus, if you download it, you can hear Dad say, “Sweetie, I’m having an identity crisis. I still love Adrienne Rich, but I’m being drawn to reading much more male-identified poetry this evening. Please come home and help me with my testosterone outbreak.” Or something like that.)
Becca’s friend and co-worker, Becca Ludecke, the driving force behind the app, did great at the conference, as did the real Becca`. As did I. Becca L. outlined the features of the app. The real Becca demonstrated them. I kept my mouth shut (even when my pre-recorded voice was played) and stayed away from (Wilfred) Gordon McDonald (Partridge).
I wish the Prevention Innovations Research Center at UNH all the success in the world in encouraging other states around the country to implement this app and localize its information. Just so long as they don’t change the Dad’s Voice. It would be a great irony if, instead of my AG fears, this press conference led to adoption of a smartphone application where my voice would represent all dads everywhere.
I do want to find a Wilfred Partridge somewhere in America, so I can introduce him to the NH Attorney General at a press conference I’ve called, once I’ve been recognized as the father of my country.