David Beckman

Meet David Beckman, WACSC Board Member

David joined the Board last year, and agreed to share aspects of his life, and what being part of WACSC means to him. David writes:

I was born in Jamestown, New York, and in high school was involved in debate and student government, and elected Student Council president. Thus was born a keen interest in public life and events — how they’re shaped by people, politics and ideas. An equally strong fascination was with literature and writing. How would these two diverse interests find expression?

I went to Brown University on scholarship and majored in English, determined eventually to attain “the writing life,” whatever that meant to my 20-year old self. I couldn’t see any traditional career path, but that was okay — it was the 60s, and tradition was out the window. A bedrock conviction was that I would eventually work and live in the Big Apple — New York City.

After graduating from Brown with a BA, I went to the University of Edinburgh for a graduate degree, doing a thesis in the verse plays of William Butler Yeats. Did I mention that at Brown I had been bitten by the acting bug — bad? Playing the heroic Richmond in a production of “Richard III” had done it. (The speeches, the sword fight, the applause!) So on returning from Scotland I joined the National Shakespeare Company, where we toured all lower 48 states, mounting five plays over eight months. It was something of a fantasy interlude, but upon returning to New York, reality hit me broadside: The Viet Nam war raged, and my draft notice awaited.

I was (and am) deeply anti-war, and so I applied for Conscientious Objector status, and I got it. The requirement: I would do two years of civilian alternative service. More than fair. I performed my duty at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York, during which time I did some needed soul-searching and emerged knowing that I had to return to what I’d always wanted — to write. I was 28.

Two years of odd jobs, a tiny walk-up apartment, experimental novels, and reams of unpublished poems prompted me to wake up one morning and say, enough! It’s time I got paid to write. But how? The answer: Advertising!

I went to work as a copywriter for Oglivy & Mather, getting trained in direct marketing and working on accounts like American Express, Cessna Aircraft and my favorites — the New York Public Library and the Museum of Modern Art. I loved it, and good things ensued: first and foremost I met, across a conference table, the love of my life, Sharon, and we married in 1981. Additionally, I had a very marketable writing skill. I was wooed by Time Inc. as a promotion writer, and rose to Promotion Director. And finally, with Sharon’s blessing (she had become a very successful marketer with Columbia House music) I turned to writing advertising freelance so I could have the time finally to write the poetry (three books), novels (one published) and plays (three produced) I always had in me.

Eventually came a series of terrible winters and the attacks of 9/11, and in 2003 Sharon and I surprised ourselves (and all our New York friends) and moved west to Sonoma County. Here, we bought our dream house, made many new friends while trying to keep our old ones, and took on a full slate of volunteer work, including raising puppies for Canine Companions, and going into maximum security prisons to facilitate conflict-resolution skills with inmates via the Alternatives to Violence Project.

We also became members of the World Affairs Council and, just last year, when the opportunity came to join the Board, I jumped at the chance to participate with wonderful people in helping bring speakers on all-important, pressing issues to Sonoma County. Something that high school boy from Jamestown approves of wholeheartedly.

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