I have watched with great interest the success of John Callahan. Until recently I believed someone with such a meteoric rise had to be one of Bethlehem’s Golden Boys born within the confines of the Sun that was Joseph Leeson Sr. As previously discussed he is a self created Golden Boy encouraged by his wife. I have observed him at social events, charity fundraisers and making a quick stop at the Apollo Grille for a meet and greet. He owns every room he is in, everyone wants to be in his orbit, women want to be with him and men want to be him.
I met him for the first time before last year’s local election primary at the home of a neighbor (a local mover and shaker) who was hosting a reception for the candidates he and his wife were supporting for City Council and District Judge. We mingled with neighbors we rarely see. Bethlehem’s Mayor came over to us and said “Hi I’m John” not I’m Mayor Callahan or even I’m John Callahan but “Hi I’m John”. Having spent a lifetime of stroking the egos of politicians I responded with “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mayor Callahan” (these guys love being called by their titles, even out of office) but he seemed uncomfortable by my formality so I called him John. While speaking with us his attention never left us and he seemed actually interested in what we had to say. I was the one who moved on and ended the conversation; it is usually the other way around with politicians. He spent a few moments with no one to talk to but did not seem uncomfortable with it. At the time the highlight of the evening was Linny Fowler asking someone to summon us to her side because she had not met us and just had to. I was honored to say the least.
This past Tuesday I attended the Mayor of Easton state of the city address before members of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. I love these things and if I had my way I would have attended each mayor’s address but I could only justify attending the Easton one. I was standing there looking a little awkward because I had no one to talk to at that moment and looked over and there was the Mayor of Bethlehem the Democratic Candidate for Congress of one the top 5 congressional races in the country doing the same thing. When I looked over I caught his eye and I figured he recognized me from somewhere so I walked over and introduced myself.
“Hello Mayor I’m the guy who said nice things about your wife last week”. I am not sure I have been embraced so warmly by anyone I hardly know in my life. He laughed and thanked me a few times. We talked about what I wrote, how hard Mafalda worked on her remarks. We talked about his children, me, the campaign and some of the reactions to what I wrote; the good, the bad and ugly. What impressed me most though was in this room full of important people, men and women he should be speaking to asking them for support and contributions. A room full of movers and shakers, a room full of Republicans that he could be working his many charms on and he chose to pay all of his attentions on me. He never once looked around the room or looked over my shoulder for someone more important to speak to. When we started speaking we could have been the first two in line for the buffet but now we were two of the last people to get to our seats.
This ability to focus only on one person or small group of people at a time is a skill only the most successful of politicians have. He has the rare ability to make the person he speaks to the most important person in the room. I have had conversations with the high & mighty and small town & wannabe politicians; I have met few candidates with the people skills of John Callahan.