Marie Bass

“The relationships that we made, activist women, through working on the ERA were relationships that we carried on forever in our careers.”

Interviewed by Judy Waxman, Oral Historian, December 2022

MB: I’m Marie Bass. I was born in West Texas. I grew up on a farm near Plainview, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, in what is today very Republican, very conservative territory, I’m sorry to say.

JW: And what year were you born?

MB: I was born in October, 1947.

JW: Tell us a little about your childhood on the farm. Siblings, ethnic background, whatever you’d like to share.

MB: Well, my father was a cotton farmer. The farm was fairly large in terms of farms that size. My father was a pretty successful cotton farmer, and so I grew up in that world, when that kind of farming was actually possible. It really isn’t anymore. My father and others like him, bless their hearts, not knowing the damage they were causing, were taking all the water out of the aquifer for irrigating cotton, which needed a lot of water. Anyway, it’s a sad story. All the farms these days have trouble even having enough water. They have to rely on rainwater, and there’s not a whole lot of it.

When I was 14, actually, my parents had divorced and my mother moved us into town, which was only 18,000 people. But for me it was great. I loved being in town and eventually loved living in the city of Washington and I’ve never wanted to go back to being on the farm. I went to public schools. I’m a product of public schools in Texas, which actually, I have to say, as I look back, I had a pretty good education in public schools. I mean, I learned grammar, for example, which I think is not so well taught these days. I won the local spelling bee one year and I was a pretty good student, although it was a small pool of people.

I liked school, and I did pretty well. I have a brother and sister. They’re both younger than I am. One still lives in that area of Texas, my brother, and my sister lives in Denver. We’re all within five years apart in age. We have different political views, shall we say, but for the sake of family togetherness, we try to stay on good terms and we do the best we can.

JW: Yes, sure. Well, were there influences in your childhood that led you to ultimately be interested in women’s issues?

MB: I can’t say that there were, Judy. I grew up in that day and age when, as girls, we aspired to be teachers or librarians. And actually, just one generation older, my mother’s generation, women were not supposed to work outside the home. My father always said he wouldn’t want any wife of his to work. Well, of course, my mother worked very, very hard in helping with the farm and so forth, but women were not supposed to work outside the home. It’s ridiculous to look back on that time. I have to say I didn’t have a lot of awareness of so-called women’s issues. What I saw in my mother’s generation, were women who were very strong, very capable, but they had to play certain roles that really kept their lives very limited, very sad.

JW: So, what did drive you to be interested, ultimately?

MB: Well, fortunately, my parents – who had sort of never had many choices in terms of going to school and getting educated – both encouraged me. I ended up leaving Plainview and flying off one day in the early fall of 1966 to Washington to attend GW, George Washington University. And for a little country girl wet behind the ears, it was quite an experience and I loved it. From the first day I was in DC, I loved it. And of course, the GW campus, as you know, it’s three blocks from the White House. You walk everywhere. I just thought I had landed in paradise. I mean, I had to work hard to get myself up to speed academically, because my school, in fact, I knew eventually, hadn’t been all that tough. So, I did have to work at it. But I did.

Through a sort of bizarre set of circumstances, I ended up working just to make some extra money part time, for Senator Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign. He ran for President and did surprisingly well in New Hampshire in 1968. By then, I knew some people in DC and I got a job. There weren’t any real campaign finance laws in those days. The regulations were very lax. His whole campaign at that early stage was being run out of his Senate office. So, again, for me, it was so exciting and so much fun, and it was a great experience, and it did help me begin to be much more politically aware, just much more conscious of so many things. So that was sort of an accidental beginning in the political world.

JW: Did you go to the ’68 Convention? The Democratic Convention.

MB: I did not. By the time of the convention, sadly, Robert Kennedy had been killed. The McCarthy campaign was really slowing down, and it was clear that he would not win. So, no, I did not go. Believe me, I was at the lowest of the low level. I was on the finance staff. It was kind of depressing because by that time, the campaign was terribly in debt. I worked very closely with a man, he was a personal friend of the Senators, who was trying to negotiate with American Express and all the vendors that were owed a lot of money. So that was my job.

JW: Well, you got a reality check, right?

MB: Yes, I did. And most importantly, I met people around in that world who then helped me for the rest of my so-called beginnings of my career in DC, which was fortuitous for me. I was very lucky. I ended up actually coming back to Texas and getting my degree at the University of Texas in Austin. But as soon as I graduated in 1971, I went straight back to DC. And I worked then for an old, old liberal Pac, in those days called the National Committee for an Effective Congress, and it was started in 1948.

Eleanor Roosevelt had signed one of the early letters, and the whole purpose was to raise money on the east and west coast, and contribute to candidates running throughout the country, but mostly in the Midwest. And so, I proceeded to work for NCEC, as it’s now called, for six years, through the Carter election in 1976. That was also a very heady time. There were two offices. The group was really run in New York, that’s where the money was raised. In Washington, we had a two-person office, and my job was to interview the candidates who came to Washington seeking money.

During that time, the famous class of ’74 was elected, if you remember, the year that Nixon resigned. And many very impressive young Democrats came to the House, and many of them stayed and went on to the Senate and became well known in their own right. A few of them are still there, not many. We not only at that point were giving money, we were sending political consultants out to work in the races and the campaigns of people. So, the NCEC had a lot to do with some of the key elections that year. So that was very heady. Now, I have to say, with respect to women’s issues, that they were still not really on the radar screen of even liberals.

JW: It was all men that you gave money to, is that right?

MB: There were a few women. Not too many, but a few. But the main issues were the war. I mean, it was really the Vietnam war that was the key issue. And there were a lot of groups working, of course, against the war, and then there were some beginnings of the environmental groups starting to be formed. The League of Conservation Voters I remember; I worked a little bit with Sierra Club. A lot of the groups were really in infancy at that time. Women’s issues were just not really in the forefront. At the end of 1976, I decided that after six years, I should see whether there was any other job opportunity for me in Washington. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know anything other than the job that I’d had for six years. I decided to venture out and just see if I could get another job. I really wasn’t sure I could.

Sheila Greenwald was a good friend of mine, a social friend. Sheila was one of those fantastic Republican women. There was a whole cohort of great Republican women. Sheila was running ERA America, which was pretty new, and it was the coalition of a lot of the women’s groups – the League of Women Voters, Business and Professional Women, and some labor groups. NEA, AFL, NOW at the time, although NOW later pulled out of the coalition. But anyway, Sheila was running it. I called Sheila one morning and I said, “I’m going to be job hunting. If you hear of anything,” you know how we always network that way? And Sheila said, “Listen, I need help. Could you come over this afternoon for a meeting?”

By that afternoon, I had a job with ERA America. So that was the beginning of ’77 and 35 states had already ratified, but it had slowed down. And so, the whole job was to go find three more states, and Sheila sent me out. I packed a little suitcase, and I went around to all the states to do analysis of whether we had a shot, and if so, how reasonable to ratify. So that was a terrific experience. And of course, in my tenure anyway, a couple of years, we didn’t get any more states, and that was really disappointing. And of course, unratified states were working their hearts out and ratified women in ratified states were raising money for the rest of us. So, it was a huge effort.

A lot of us have talked about this over time. The relationships that we made. We, meaning activist women, made through working on the ERA, were relationships that we carried on forever in our careers, to do everything else we ever did from then on, because we had all these terrific relationships, both in unratified and ratified states. I mean, there was an extraordinary time of women building relationships with each other. And I always said for me, and I think for many women, it was really on the job training. How to organize, how to fundraise, how to lobby, how to strategize. And ultimately, I think we won so much. Even though we didn’t reach the goal, we won a great deal.

JW: Were you part of the extension debate, extending the time limit?

MB: No, because it was a weird dynamic at that time. In my own personal opinion, I may have been possibly wrong, I thought that when the whole effort changed from making the original deadline to getting the extension, suddenly all the focus was on Congress rather than state legislatures. I wasn’t one of those who thought it was a good idea, because I thought we were very close. Of course, the majority of people were really on to getting the extension.

In the meantime, my personal circumstances had changed, and I went to work for our local member of Congress in Montgomery County who had just gotten elected, Michael Barnes. He got elected in ’78. I had worked on his campaign while also working at ERA America, but in the meantime, I got pregnant and had a child. I couldn’t travel anymore really, or didn’t want to, so Mike asked me to run his Montgomery County district office, and I agreed to do that. So, I stopped working on the ERA at that point and I worked for Mike Barnes. He was a great guy. He ended up in ‘86, unfortunately, in a primary for the Senate in Maryland when Mac Mathias was stepping down, and he ended up in a crowded primary, including Barbara Mikulski, and she won.

Mike has had a very happy life post Congress. I ran his district office, I ran the constituent service work, and I handled so called women’s issues for him. I remember he would always bring me to the Hill for special things going on around women’s issues. My child was born in February, so, when the Right to Lifers were doing their annual march on January 22nd, he said, “Listen, I really need you to come to the Hill to meet with these people.” So here I was, pregnant, out to here, waddling down to Capitol Hill and meeting with all these constituents. I remember this one woman, and Mike was giving his usual, why he unfortunately didn’t agree with them, et cetera. This one woman speaks up and says, “Well, I’m glad your assistant doesn’t agree with you.”

As my child grew up, by the time he was three or four, actually, my first husband died in that period. I ended up sort of eventually doing my own thing, my own consulting, and I wanted to move back into the city. I was living out in Silver Spring. I wanted to be back in the city. Lo and behold, my friend, because we had known each other through ERA days, Nanette Falkenberg, called me one day and she at that time, had taken over NARAL from Karen Mulhauser. Nanette was running it, at all of, I think age 25 she was at that time, or some very young age, and she said, “Listen, I want you to come and run the PAC. We’re getting a lot of money.”

This was after Ronald Reagan had been elected, and people really thought in those days, very serious threat, that Roe would be overturned then. And she said, “It’s the age-old story. The devil is at the door, and our contributors are really coming, really helping, and they’re sending a lot of money. It’s a separate account for the PAC, of course.” And she said, “I need you to run it.” So, I said, “Okay, I will.” That was for the ’82 elections. And so, I had left Mike and started working for Nanette. That turned out to be a really great year for our various issues.

 A lot of good young Democrats got elected, and NARAL sort of took it upon ourselves to go out on a limb and support a woman named Harriet Woods in Missouri. I had been out to meet with her and her campaign. I talked to people in Missouri that I knew from ERA days, and Harriet was in the state Senate. She was well respected. She was really tough. And a few people said to me, “If she could get a real campaign going, she could win.” Well, NARAL got behind her. She was actually a first cousin of Howard Metzenbaum.

So, we got into this thing with Metzenbaum about raising money for her from the unions. And this was when I really got to know Ellen Malcolm. Ellen was still very quiet and very anonymous in most ways, but she was generous with her personal money. Anyway, we really worked hard for Harriet and unfortunately, the Democratic higher ups didn’t pay any attention. They didn’t think she could win. Anyway, long story. She came within a half percentage point of winning that year, 82%. That was a big disappointment. That was really a disappointment. And everybody, of course, had their post mortems about everything, but the fact is, she really could have won.

One of the interesting things was, this is a side note, we had encouraged her. We, her little team of people, including her pollster and a couple of us. The only issue that really separated her and John Danforth was the issue of abortion. He was very anti-choice and he was an Episcopal priest and he was very religious, and he was not good on that issue. We encouraged her to do a television spot, looking straight on at the camera and talking about why she believed the issue should be a woman’s choice with whoever she would consult with. And that it was not something the government should be involved in. And we had the polling to show that she could gain a couple of percentage points at least, by doing that.

She was going to do it and at the very last minute, her cousin, Senator Metzenbaum, one of the most pro-choice members of the Senate ever, got wind of it and he said, “Harriet, that is insane. You will not do that.” Nobody had ever done that so publicly. This is 1982, right? And all the major Democratic pollsters, I mean, I had argued with them until I was blue in the face. So had Nanette. We had our own polling information. They could never ever accept that this issue could actually be a plus for candidates instead of a minus. And it’s so interesting, Judy, all these many years later, I had some of those consultants say to me, we’ve got 25 years of unlearning to do around this issue. That’s after Dobbs, and so, this issue is fascinating.

JW: I have to ask you this. Do you think it was more the men who were like, “No, this is crazy,” or not necessarily?

MB: Well, I don’t think we can blame it all on the men. I mean, obviously there were women, like Phyllis Schlafly, but all the political consultants in those days, with only a couple of exceptions, were men. Sometimes I think our best liberal guy friends are the worst because they can be so condescending. And they just think they’re so smart. It was really hard to argue with them. It’s really, really hard to argue. They just didn’t believe, even their own data they couldn’t believe sometimes.

Anyway, so I worked for Nanette. Because my son was growing up back in the city, I needed some more flexibility with my time, so I just started kind of putting the word out I was available for projects or whatever. That’s when a group of us were starting EMILY’s List. And so, I was one of the first. I think it was Betsy Crone and me, and one or two others who actually got paid a little bit working for Ellen at EMILY’s List. It was really slow going in the beginning.

After Harriet Woods lost, Ellen pulled a whole group of us together at the Tavern Inn one day and talked about, what on earth are we going to do? There was still not one single Democratic woman who had ever been elected to the Senate without first following her husband. And frankly, the Republicans were better to their women in those days than the Democrats were. And so, those were the beginning discussions that eventually led to a group of us deciding, we’re going to see what we can do. And it took a while.

We look back and it looks like we were geniuses. Well, we didn’t know really what to do, or how to do it, for a while. But Ellen will always deserve fantastic credit because she just said, “We are going to do this.” And of course, she had her own resources. She didn’t have to take a salary. She could work full time. It was all the reasons the rest of us just volunteering our own time, because we had our regular jobs, we could just never make the same headway.

Then of course, Harriet Woods ran again in ‘86, but things had changed. She didn’t end up winning, but Barbara Mikulski did. And Barbara Mikulski has always said it was because of that early money that came in and shopped everybody, including my former boss and friend Mike Barnes. The envelopes with checks in them came to EMILY’s List office at 2000 P Street, and then we packaged them up and sent them off. And Barbara talks about how she would get this package with all these checks in it. She couldn’t believe it. These checks were $1,500 from all over the country. But anyway, that’s Ellen’s story and EMILY’s List. There’s a smaller group of us who meet monthly just to talk and catch up and keep each other company in our retirement. And it’s Judy and Marcia and Randy Cooper and Ellen and Joanne and others. Anyway, we have a great time and of course, out here in New Mexico, I’m so happy to still feel so connected.

JW: You continue to do women’s issues in your consulting, right?

MB: I did. Working for NARAL, I worked for Voters for Choice, EMILY’s List. I mean, it was kind of a hodgepodge, but in September of ‘85, Joanne Howes and I happened to be together socially, and of course we had known each other because she was at Planned Parenthood when I was at NARAL. She was with Barbara Mikulski on the Hill when I was with Mike Barnes and back even further to ERA days. So, our careers had kind of paralleled, and we knew each other socially, but she had run something called the Women’s Vote Project.

I know you interviewed Joanne, so you probably know this, but it had been active in ’84. It had slowed down. Anyway, so I saw her, and I said, “Joanne, what are you doing these days?” And she said, “Well, I’m kind of bored.” And I practically grabbed her by the shirt collar and said, “Can you help me? I’m doing consulting, and I have gotten too busy, and there are several projects you could really help me on. Why don’t we just share some of the work? Do you want to?” So, we started talking and meeting, and she started helping me on some of my projects.

And of course, people knew Joanne and they were happy to have her involved on anything. So that led us to start Bass and Howes in the end of ’85, beginning of ’86. And our first office was at 2000 P, where everybody was. We all shared one Xerox machine, which was, I think, in the Women’s Legal Defense Fund office. Somebody eventually got a fax machine that was like, big news. It was hilarious being there, and it was great. It was terrific. And Ellen’s Wyndham fund was there, so that was also EMILY’s List. I think we were on the fourth floor and she was on the fifth. Anyway, we’d run up to EMILY’s List office, Ellen’s office, at noon or so, when the mail came, we’d all stand around opening envelopes from people who were sending in their checks to join EMILY’s List. People had to pay $100 just to be on the list.

JW: I must have paid. I don’t remember that.

MB: It was amazing. So, we were literally keeping count of how many. And I remember one day, we were almost to the thousand level. 1000 people had joined, and my husband’s check came in. It was like, yes. Those were such heady days, Judy. The friendships that developed, personal friendships to this day, and the ways in which we all thought we were changing the world.

Then Joanne and I, we started our business, and we wanted to be all things to all women’s groups. In the beginning, because of my background in campaigns and political action stuff and Joanne’s work on the Hill as a lobbyist and legislative, we wanted Bass and Howes to be both. And so, we had some political candidates in the beginning that we worked for, including Anna Eshoo, who lost the year we worked for her. She came back later and won, and she’s still there. We worked for a candidate who was running against Chris Smith in New Jersey. The notorious Chris Smith. His name was Jeff Laurenti. We raised a lot of money for him. He lost. Anyway, so after a little while, we decided to close down the campaign side of Bass and Howes and just concentrate on issues.

Over time, I think we worked for a lot of, certainly the major women’s organizations, and we helped a number of groups get started. I was particularly involved in starting the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. Our beginning issue was how to get RU 486 as it was then called, the abortion pill, to come to the US. Because it had been approved in France, and the political obstacles were big here, and no pharmaceutical company wanted to go near it and all that.

So, we started this group of major people from the organizations that were working on issues around population. Population Council, Population Action International. But then we also had key people from Planned Parenthood, from a lot of the major women’s organizations. So, we started RHTP, and I ran it out of Bass and Howes’ office. We housed it, we staffed it, I ran it for ten years. And then eventually Kirsten Moore took over. I don’t know if Kirsten is on your list. Kirsten has been very important. She worked for Bass and Howes and she was just brilliant.

Eventually, quite a way down the road, we were involved in selling Bass and Howes to a big west coast company. And so, we decided that RHTP, by that time, which was a pretty sizable budget and so forth, should not go with what was essentially an advertising firm. That they would not know how to deal with it. So, Kirsten took it out of Bass and Howes and ran it for ten years on her own, which was really a good thing. And then she’s gone on from there, and she’s really been right in the middle of getting the FDA to finally remove these ridiculous restrictions, which were put on the drug when it finally got approved in 1992. So that was a big part of what I did.

Joanne was very involved with the national breast cancer coalition. We had, of course, worked on family and medical leave. We had worked on the whole effort around getting women’s health research up on the radar screen. A woman named Florence Haseltine, who actually was the head of contraceptive research at NIH, came to us one day. She found us in our little rabbit warren offices at 2000 P, and she said, “I’ve heard about you two. I’ve heard you do things on women’s issues.” She said, “I can tell you, if you cared at all about women, you would teach them to raise hell about what goes on at NIH.” And she started with this list of bullet points that there was no place at NIH that looked at women as a whole.

We were divided into body parts and spread out across all the institutes. Ten at the time, I think. And that there was no place that just looked at women. And she said, “All these major trials, clinical research trials that have gone on around heart disease, cholesterol, this and that, no women in them, no women.” This is 1991 she’s telling us all this. And she said, “There are more veterinarians than gynecologists on the staff at NIH.” And she just went on with these things. I remember Joanne and I sat there. We were just amazed.

We said something to Florence, like, “We’re a consulting firm. Can you hire us?” And she said, “Of course not. I work for the government. I can’t hire you.” But because she was in charge of contraceptive research and a few companies, she knew the people really well, and she got a few checks from them written to Bass and Howes. So that’s how we started on the whole women’s health stuff and it was like a bonfire waiting to be lit. I’m sure you remember all the issues around no women or Black minorities in clinical trial research.

It turned out to be a wonderful experience for both Joanne and me. And then eventually our dear friend Nanette Falkenberg, who of course we’ve known from way back, and I had worked for her at NARAL. Nanette was in New York by then, and she started a New York office for us. It was less focused on women’s issues per se, but a lot of companies by then, like Pfizer, which was headquartered in New York, were setting up special programs related to women’s health. They all wanted to try to look good, and so Nanette did end up working on a number of those, but she worked on other issues, food allergies, quality of care issues in the health area. She did really well for us in New York, for the firm, and she became our third partner.

JW: Was that before or after you sold the business?

MB: It was before. We opened the New York office in ’96 or ’97.

JW: And when did you sell it?

MB: 2002. The three partners had to agree as part of our deal, that we would stay for a minimum of two years. The reason that it became at the time, a sensible merger, is that they had done some really innovative public service announcements around the issue of emergency contraception, which RHTP was very involved in. We worked with a whole team of this very delightful, fabulously, creative team at this firm. They were based in Seattle, and that’s when they started wanting to acquire Bass and Howes because they wanted to be a player in DC, and so forth.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, once it really happened, they thought they knew more than we did. They didn’t listen to us. So, both Nanette and I left when two years was up, and that was our obligation. Joanne stayed. She stayed for, I don’t know, two or three more years and really tried to help them learn Washington. And then she left and they didn’t last, and unfortunately, the whole firm eventually collapsed.

JW: Tell us a little about how you keep in touch now.

MB: My husband and I moved to Santa Fe in 2006. I continued to have a couple of consulting contracts unrelated to Bass and Howes specific work, but I did continue to work a little bit out here. Particularly Joanne and Annette and myself and a woman named Joan McLane. Joan was the one who came up with the whole idea for Gerry Ferraro to get onto the ticket with Mondale in 1984. And Joan was one of my roommates in DC and had worked for the Women’s Political Caucus when I was at ERA America. Then when I left to go to work for Mike Barnes and have a baby, Joan took over my job at ERA America.

So, she and I knew each other. And then we ended up sharing an apartment in DC. After the ’84 election, which, of course, was very disappointing from the standpoint of everybody who had had high hopes for the first woman vice presidential candidate as well as Mondale himself. Joan went out to Ohio State. She got her PhD in government and political science and she went on to teach at Ohio Wesleyan and continued to teach there until just a few years ago. But Joan used to send her best students to intern at Bass and Howes. Some of them went on to stay with us for a while. We’re very close. We celebrate birthdays together. Happy times, sad times. We’re very close, the four of us. A number of former caucus women started a book club 1000 years ago and they’re still going strong. Anyway, I don’t know if this was your experience, but so many professional relationships were also personal relationships.

JW: Absolutely.

MB: I talked to friends of mine out here in Santa Fe and they don’t have that experience in whatever their careers were. They had professional friends and then they had personal friends. And for me and so many others, it’s pretty much all the same.

JW: How would you say your involvement in the women’s movement affected your personal and professional life? What would you like to say in closing?

MB: It just meant everything to me. I mean, just the richness of the ways in which I think we, the big we, and then the smaller groups of us who worked in various areas like the partnership, we really made enormous progress with some real losses and disappointments along the way. And, of course, it’s horrifying to see the issues that are backsliding, and hopefully in the longer run, we get back onto a more realistic footing. I’m so happy to observe so many younger women coming along. Oh, my God, it’s so incredible.

Yesterday we had one of our meetings. Ellen Malcolm invited Laphonza Butler, who’s the new head of EMILY’s List, to join us. And she’s just incredible. She is incredible. And then this young woman who had run EMILY’s List program in Michigan where Gretchen Whitmer was re-elected, they turned around the Senate and the house for the first time in Michigan, first time in 40 years they’re Democratic. And this young woman, I mean, she has a two-year-old. She might be thirty-two or thirty-three but not much older. I mean, she was so brilliant, it took our breath away.

Anyway, for my most personal front, through total coincidence, one of the first people I became really good friends with here in Santa Fe when we moved here, is Teresa Leger, and she decided to run for Congress. She ran in 2020. I helped her. I took her to DC. She met all the important people, et cetera. She eventually got EMILY’s List support. So we raised a lot of money for her both here and at the national level. Joanne and Mimi Major held her first fundraiser for her at Joanne’s house in DC and Teresa got elected in 2020. So now my main political activity is, I chair Teresa’s Finance Committee. I know where every dollar for her is buried in Santa Fe, and I go after it. A lot of friends have helped in DC. She’s really a bright young star in the Congress, and she just got reelected her first term.

JW: That’s fabulous.

MB: I was just seeing emails between her and Joanne this morning, because Joanne still does work for the National Breast Cancer Coalition, and they’re trying to get this piece of legislation through the breast cancer bill through in these last days of Congress, and Teresa is helping, and so they’ve been copying me on their email changes. So, I feel like I still have a foot in at least, and I really enjoy it. I’m very lucky.

JW: Yes, that’s great. Anything else? Any closing thoughts?

MB: Oh, I think it’s so great what you’re doing, Judy. I really do. And I’m honored that you asked me. I appreciate history and oral history much more than I ever did. History wasn’t ever my field of study. I guess as many of us were focused on the here and now, and looking ahead, not back. So, it’s taken me all these years to really understand the importance of having history written down. One of my first bosses a long time ago used to say, “If you don’t write the memo, it’s going to be somebody else’s story, not yours.”