iUniverse reviews asks what makes a great memoir? There are as many ways to write a great life story as there are ways to live a great life. Some of the best reads are about people who made important contributions you didn’t appreciate until they shared their story.
They can offer the kind of insight which reminds us that every action has an effect, even large changes can result from lives touched by seemingly casual encounters.
An important aspect of well written memoirs is sharing with the reader the importance of what initially seem to be insignificant encounters in life and connecting the dots for the readers. An effective biography exposes the critical junctures in a writer’s life, and gives them impact.
iUniverse self-published author David George Ball says:
In A Marked Heart, iUniverse self-published author, David George Ball describes how a three day visit from a then mostly unknown Southern Baptist minister lead indirectly to the modern 401(k) plan.
“Scarcely a week goes by without a story in the press about pension plans, and the theme is always the same. More and more old fashioned pension plans encounter serious financial problems and the number of participants continues to drop. In 1981 there were over 30 million participants in traditionally defined benefit plans. Today there are less than 30 million. Some of these plans are drastically underfunded. The most dramatic of these is General Motors, which recently emerged from bankruptcy facing a $25 billion shortfall in pension obligations.
My memoir, A Marked Heart, describes how the limitations of these plans became apparent in the workplace, and how I became caught up in the development of 401(k) plans to take the place of these outdated pension plans. It all began when I was a student at Yale, and Martin Luther King Jr. was my guest for three days. He inspired me to help make the world a better place.
At first I thought my calling was civil rights, but following my commitment to change inspired by Dr. King led me in an unexpected direction. I became interested in helping workers who changed jobs, and were unable to take their defined benefit pensions with them. If they left before they vested, they lost their benefits. In 1981, while I was corporate secretary of AMAX, Inc., I championed the first 401(k) plan adopted by a large industrial company. These revolutionary plans have a significant tax benefit, and once the contribution is made it belongs to the workers. They can take their benefits with them when they leave or retire.
I had hoped other companies would follow our lead, but at first many companies hesitated, because 401(k) plans give workers control over their own investments. Some management teams were afraid of liability for losses from workers’ instructions. This problem needed to be addressed by a federal regulation.
In 1989, then President George H. W. Bush nominated me as assistant secretary of labor for pensions. My mission was to develop a road map to launch the 401(k) program. It took three years, but in October 1992 that regulation was published in the Federal Register under my signature. After the regulation became effective in 1994, the growth rate of 401(k) plans accelerated rapidly. Today over 70 million workers have 401(k) plans.
Recently, I sent a copy of my book to President George H. W. Bush. In the transmittal letter I mentioned that I believe the federal regulation opening up the 401(k) program was one of the most important domestic policy achievements of his administration.
In June I received a reply from Mr. Bush saying, “You have indeed helped make the world a better place.”
The 401(k) is thanks in part to Martin Luther King. It is an interesting and fitting tribute to the famed civil rights leader that his dedication to changing the world for the better lead directly to me, an Englishman, fighting to improve the lives of the American worker. Indeed inspiring the heart of just one person can lead to the betterment of many.“
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