I got word yesterday that John Byerly will be retiring from the State Department later this year. You may not know him, but if you have ever flown outside the United States you likely have him to thank for the fact that you were able to go where you wanted to go, and that you were able to do it at a reasonable price.
John is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs. It may be difficult to remember, but a quarter century ago, almost all international air travel was so tightly regulated by a series of more than 1,000 bilateral agreements that any expansion of service (or in many cases reduction in price) had to be argued over route-by-route. This was done with the heavy involvement of mercantilist government and industry officials who were not keen to give an inch. But every administration since that of President George H.W. Bush has adopted a policy of promoting “open skies” agreements around the world.
As laudable as this goal might be, it would not be possible if we didn’t have the right people in the right places negotiating these agreements. John is the right person, and he came along at just the right time. His mindset has always been focused on how to get things done, and that comes across to his counterparts across the table. One such is my good friend Daniel Calleja of the European Union. The agreements that John and Daniel have made to open service and competition across the Atlantic have been astounding, unthinkable only a few years before.
John has truly made a difference. Vacations and family reunions and business deals and honeymoons have all occurred because of him. People are employed and jobs have been created because of him. He kept his eye on the big picture and made a difference for anyone involved in aviation. Even if you don’t know him, you should be thankful he came along…and join me in wishing him well in the next chapter of his life.
While I have your attention, I want to mention a few other classy folks. And it won’t surprise you that they come from the world of sports.
Ken Griffey, Jr. announced his retirement this week. In the decade of the 90’s he was simply the best player in baseball. With the bat and the glove, he was without peer. And his love for the game was contagious. I am old enough to remember (and have seen) Willie Mays when he was still great. Griffey reminded me a lot of Mays.
Two nights ago a fellow I’d never heard of, Armando Galarraga, pitched a perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. They’ve been playing professional baseball since at least 1876. There have been 26 men who have been president of the United States during that time, but only 20 who have pitched a perfect game in the majors. You are statistically more likely to become President than to pitch a perfect game in the big leagues. The problem two nights ago was that the umpire, Jim Joyce, missed the call on what would have been the final out. So, Galarraga had to get a 28th out, which he did. But, technically, he was denied the credit of being the 21st pitcher to have thrown a big league perfect game.
After the game, it was clear that Joyce had missed the call. The way both he and Galarraga have acted since can be a lesson to everyone. Joyce owned the mistake, and did so publicly. Galarraga, through what must have been great disappointment, forgave the umpire saying “no one is perfect” (though Galarraga was the other night). The Tigers fans rewarded both of them with a warm welcome before yesterday’s game.
In the end, this game will be talked about more in the years ahead than any of the 20 “other” perfect games. Each man will be tied to the other for the rest of their lives. They have both earned the respect of everyone, whether you are a baseball fan or not.