Shelf Life: Foote Finds Humor Between Book Pages

Posted April 11, 2013 at 5:09pm

Shelf Life returns to hear from another Washington insider about his favorite reads and go-to inspirational books.

This week, Tucker Foote, the head of U.S. government affairs at MasterCard and a former senior staffer at the House Financial Services Committee, discusses some childhood and sports favorites, with a few classics thrown in for good measure.

Q. Can you give us an example of a book you read as a child that influenced where you are today?

A. “Everyone Poops” [by Taro Gomi] was an all-time favorite. I don’t know if this book shaped my sense of humor or if my sense of humor when I was a kid caused me to gravitate to this book. Either way, the page about the elephant always made me laugh.

Q. Can you give an example of a book you read in high school or college that influenced you?

A. I remember racing through “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” [by Mark Twain] in high school. My English teacher at the time spoke at length about how smart Tom was to get his friends to paint the fence for him, but I just remember being grateful that my friends weren’t that dumb. The book has a great message that if you are loyal to your friends, you possess original thoughts and you aren’t afraid to get dirty once in a while, life can be full of wild and rewarding adventures. I think this is a particularly important lesson here in D.C.

Q. What about a book you’ve read as an adult?

A. [Former] Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly wrote a hilarious book, “Who’s Your Caddy?” in which he dedicates each chapter to a famous person for whom he has recently caddied. Reilly [now at ESPN] profiles Donald Trump, professional gambler Dewey Tomko, and Deepak Chopra, just to name a few. When you mix money, Las Vegas and eternal serenity with the common denominator of golf, it is hard for the book not to be an instant classic. I can’t say this book had a huge impact on my life, but it did keep me laughing for an entire three-hour plane ride. It also kept me from impulsively buying more junk from the SkyMall, which was an added bonus.

Q. What book would you recommend to members of Congress or congressional staff?

A. Can I go back to “Everyone Poops”? Provocative questions such as “What does whale poop look like?” may add some levity to the next all-night budget debate. If I am not allowed to use the same book twice, I would recommend rereading a classic like “Moby-Dick.” [Herman] Melville’s running theme of fate — and in the specific case of Captain Ahab, his unavoidable demise — for those people who are willing to bend and distort reality to fit their vision of the future, should be a lesson for us all. But, despite the voluminous challenges we face as a nation today, I would put my money on America and the policymakers that lead this great country over the Pequod any day of the week.