Friday, November 30, 2007

The Congressional Recommendation

When I began writing this blog back in April, referencing events purely in chronological order wasn't possible, though things are a little more orderly for the moment. In fact, some of the more important entries were inserted in those first few weeks.

Nevertheless, I always knew that once a little chronological order kicked in, this very moment would arrive -- an occasion where I would bring before my readers something of curious significance. As usual, I'll let you be judge and jury.

In recent years I've mentioned the existence of "the letter," and various Web sites comment either correctly or incorrectly about the circumstances. But the truth is, I doubt that I ever showed the document itself to more than six people. Okay, maybe ten people, but, then again, probably the number six is too high. For three decades I've carried a photocopy in my wallet, just in case (of what?), and I even made sure it was a very poor photocopy, just so that if I did show it to somebody they would say with extreme doubt, "Oh yes, sure, look at this thing, it's an obvious fake!"

No, actually the letter is quite real. I'm proud of the whole thing, but. . .then what? So what? What to do? Where to go with this?

If you've read this blog from the start, you know that I've included several letters from former, now deceased, Syracuse Congressman James M. Hanley. Jim Hanley, as I've said previously, was one of the best congressional representatives Central NY ever knew, and he served several terms beginning in the early sixties. The James M. Hanley Federal Building in downtown Syracuse was constructed and named in his honor.

Prior to the 1976 elections, congressional redistricting or some such activity resulted in my area being represented by another congressman, and on at least one occasion when I tried to contact Rep. Hanley about some matter his office wrote back, replying that congressional courtesy required that the new representative handle my letter because Mr. Hanley no longer covered my area. I was (obviously) a chronic letter writer in those days on numerous matters, so dealing with a different office really presented no problem. Well, not until. . .

Until Jimmy Carter won the presidential election in 1976. As many people know, Carter believed he saw a UFO in 1973, and the kicker was that classic June 8, 1976 National Enquirer article in which Carter was quoted to say, "If I become President, I'll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public, and the scientists."

Upon reading that, my dilemma surfaced like a periscope smashing into an iceberg. What if? What if Jimmy Carter won? Would he? Would he really do it? Would there be a new UFO project?

And what if I communicated some thoughts on UFOs to my "new" (Republican) congressman's office, with which I'd conducted nowhere nearly the level of correspondence about UFOs that I had with the other (a Democrat) for over 10 years? I truly doubted that anybody there would care, particularly because this was the opposing political party. I didn't care which party was which, just that they represented two opposing sides, and there's nothing like politics to muck up the best of intentions.

So I took the chance and wrote my original congressman, hoping this letter wouldn't get passed on like the other. On November 12, 1976 I wrote Jim Hanley a long letter, reaffirming my interest in a comprehensive UFO investigation after Carter assumes office. This was the time when my articles appeared in national magazines and I was teaching the UFO course at a college, and I simply posed the question, how could I be considered for a position in any proposed UFO project the Carter Administration might initiate? I wasn't a scientist, so the strengths I could offer would include anything involved with an historical perspective, publicity or writing in such a project.

Based on past expectations, I fully expected the letter would go to Rep. William Walsh, my then-current member of Congress. However, much to my surprise, Hanley sent me a letter on December 1 (displayed here), informing me that he had forwarded my letter to the Carter-Mondale transition team for a response.

However, my sense of surprise ascended to cascading explosions of astonishment two weeks later, when a December 15 letter from Rep. Hanley arrived, accompanied by a December 6 letter from the Carter transition staff, signed by the prominent Frank Moore, one of Jimmy Carter's key people.

Yes, the letter's words are routine, but all of this came about because Rep. Hanley had taken a giant step by actually recommending me to Carter's staff as a potential UFO project participant. I never for a moment anticipated that he would put his name and immensely golden reputation on the line by doing for me this incredible kindness.

That's where the story ends. There was no follow-up by Carter's people, apparently no UFO project and certainly no clandestine midnight meetings between men in black nor hooded alien figures and I (I bring these folks into the mix only because some inventive bloggers hovering on the edge out there may be looking for precisely this improbable collaboration, and I don't wish to deny them their impressions).

I do suspect, however, that I may be the only UFO researcher, and probably the only anybody, ever awarded a congressional recommendation to work in a government UFO project. Me, just a regular guy, neither rocket scientist nor brain surgeon. More animal than human, some might say, but I do digress. . .

Okay, now you know the letter is real. As I said, I'm proud of it -- but I've never been quite sure about including it on my resume. Especially when a little explanation might be required. Wow, can you even imagine?

All too often, what might have been or, arguably, should have been, will never be. All during the time I served at an Air Force base in Carter's Georgia from 1971-72, I never once ran into Jimmy Carter or Billy Carter, nor had I even a chance encounter with Miss Lillian at a supermarket. What were the odds?