Introducing Alden McLaughlin: The Premier You Thought You Knew

Some media, “Tweets” being the best (worst?) example, are meant to be swallowed and digested in a gulp – 140 characters, usually nutritionless, sent by the billions across cyberspace into deserved evanescence. Japanese haiku poetry, limited to 17 syllables, appears to be a distant relative.

Conciseness and economy of words have long been worshipped by editors who spend much of their lives eliminating the unnecessary, an adjective here, a redundancy there. Good editors, an endangered species for sure, perform such surgery with a scalpel (leaving no trace of their cuts); those less skilled perform their craft with a weed-eater mentality, cleavers in hand, verbal scars in evidence. Careful writers, meaning writers who care for words, need to beware.

(But back to brevity for an amusing anecdote: A bunch of reasonably bright, but somewhat lazy, editors once sat around a newsroom trying to figure out how to make the most money by writing the fewest words. Haiku, and indeed all poetry, met the word-count test but failed the money test. Composing country tunes ranked high, but writing ransom notes was the clear winner.)

In this issue of Grand Cayman Magazine, indeed in all issues, brevity rarely crosses our mind. We write and edit with Thorstein Veblen in mind. Mr. Veblen, the American sociologist and economist, is best known for his book “The Theory of the Leisure Class,” which was published in 1899.

Our premise is that the leisure class, meaning many of our readers, has time to peruse, time to explore, time to enjoy and time to appreciate the finer things in life. Grand Cayman is their magazine – not to be rushed, not to be read for “information” (as if it were a textbook or a telephone book), but a publication to be savored at a slower pace. Think of us not as a “quickie” but more of a sybaritic indulgence . . .

In the current issue, we introduce you (at some length) to someone most Caymanians think they already know – but don’t: Premier Alden McLaughlin, who has been in public life for nearly 20 years and recently was re-elected to lead our island-state for another four.

When we first approached Mr. McLaughlin with the idea of our doing a long-form story on the “real Alden,” we expected reluctance and resistance, but we encountered neither. After agreeing to minor “ground rules,” Mr. McLaughlin generously made himself available to our writer, Spencer Fordin, for hours of interviews and relaxed and engaging conversations. Fortunately, Mr. McLaughlin has been widely photographed from the time he was a toddler to his present status as a statesman, and he made his “scrapbook” available to us as well.

What emerges from these talks with Premier McLaughlin is a portrait of a well-rounded and well-grounded man who has traveled a path from modest beginnings in his home district of George Town to a successful career in law to the pinnacle of public service, the premiership of these islands.

Mr. McLaughlin appears to take solace in his land, as did so many of America’s presidents, from founders Washington and Jefferson to Carter, Reagan, and Bush. Perhaps there is something in the land – the tilling, the toiling – that leads our leaders to thoughtfulness and introspection.

Speaking personally, we have known Alden McLaughlin for many years, extending to decades. While this article was being prepared, Mr. McLaughlin called this editor and asked (hesitatingly) if he might request a favor.

It seems his son Daegan was being admitted to the Cayman bar to embark on his own practice of law, and our Premier wondered if the occasion might be an appropriate news story for the Cayman Compass, our sister publication.

That was an easy call – of course it was – but what was remarkable about the conversation was the emotion and obvious pride of a father for the success of his son.

No, the Alden McLaughlin story cannot be told in a “tweet,” a poem, or a country tune (although “Barefoot,” Cayman’s troubadour, has written and recorded a song or two that made a pretty good try at it).

Alden’s “biographer,” Spencer Fordin, writes at a leisurely pace, taking more than 5,000 words (an opus, even by magazine standards) to introduce our islands to the man we thought we already knew.

Please turn to Page 46 to meet our Premier . . . (or click here.)