CQer Leaves Poignant Farewell Note

Today we find in our inbox a touching, personal goodbye note from CQ Roll Call Senior Political Analyst Bob Benenson, who leaves the publication after 30 years.

It’s worth a look…

Dear CQ Roll Call Colleagues:

Rock artist Neil Young tells a story about a town in north Ontario “with dream comfort memory to spare.” And he sings, “And in my mind, I still need a place to go. All my changes were there.”

For me, there is a place in Washington, D.C., that was called Congressional Quarterly, then CQ, and now CQ Roll Call. It has been my professional home for 30 years, more than half my life, and I have been part of its family for nearly half of its 65-year existence.

I can’t say that ALL my changes happened while I worked for CQ — I lived 25 years before I moved from New York to Washington to join this company. But most of the biggest changes did.

In 1981, CQ took a chance on me, four years after I graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in television and radio and dreams of being a sportscaster. I had written a lot of term papers and background papers, but had never written a word that had been published professionally.

CQ taught me how to be a writer and a reporter, then let me cover politics and elections, which had always competed with sports as my main passions. And then, after a pretty lengthy apprenticeship, CQ trusted me to be politics editor, following a trail blazed by journalism pros such as David Broder, Alan Ehrenhalt, Phil Duncan and Ron Elving. I ended up serving in that position for 11 years, longer than anyone else, and had the honor of being mentioned in the same breath as Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg in the niche world of election handicapping.

In my personal life, I was married 26 years ago to a farm girl from Illinois, where we now will soon move to better take care of a relative who needs us and to start new careers, whatever they may be. I made many dear friends, some of whom got married and had children who grew up and graduated from college, all while I worked for CQ.

There were sad and challenging times too. Barb and I each saw our parents grow old and ill and pass away. A CQ colleague and close friend was killed in a crime that defined “senseless.” And when I was 48, I had major surgery for a type of cancer that men are more likely to contract when they are 78.

There is no way anyone can live for 30 years, whether you work for one company or 10, and not have some ups and downs. But as I prepare to leave CQ Roll Call today for what I hope will be my next big thing, I know full well just how fortunate I have been. I got to do a job that I loved, I got to do it for a very long time, and I woke up looking forward to going to work more often than most people do in a lifetime.

I want all of you to know that if there is ever anything I can do to help you, reach out. I would be absolutely honored to be quoted in any CQ or Roll Call publication as “veteran political analyst Bob Benenson.” And if you have friends in Chicago who I should look up — or, um, people who might be able to suggest good job leads — please let me know.

My home e-mail is BLANK, my cell is BLANK, and I’m easy to find on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; hopefully, I will have new work coordinates to send you soon.

I have so many people I owe for what good fortune I have had, and there is too much risk that I would leave someone out who I shouldn’t. Whether they are now at CQ Roll Call or somewhere else, I’m confident they know who they are, and they should know that they will always have a piece of my heart.

I know that old-school characters like me are supposed to be crusty. But I’ve got a pretty thin crust, and what’s under it is mostly marshmallow.

To wit, I am a sucker for “It’s a Wonderful Life.” No matter how many dozens of times I’ve seen that movie, I always well up at the end when George Bailey reads the inscription his guardian angel Clarence has written in the ancient copy of Tom Sawyer that he left behind: “No man is a failure who has friends.”

In fact, I like to describe pivotal junctures in life as “George Bailey moments.” You never know how many lives you’ve touched until the chips are down. And the dozens of encouraging notes that I have received — many of which came with offers to provide contacts who might be helpful to us as we write our new chapters in Chicago — have moved me deeply.

I am proud to know there are so many people who think of me as a friend and valued co-worker. I am even prouder to know that there are younger journalists I helped, and in some cases gave their first professional byline, who think of me as a mentor.

Which is why anyone familiar with “It’s A Wonderful Life” will understand what I mean when I say that I am “the richest man in town.”

I wish you all the best of success and a world of happiness.

Bob