Don’t Forget to Wish Willie Brown a Happy 79th Birthday

March 20 is the former Mayor of San Francisco and Assembly Speaker’s birthday. It’s also the birthday of Ozzie Nelson, Carl Reiner, Ray Goulding of “Bob & Ray” fame and Mr. Rogers, one of Brown’s mentors in keeping the Assembly’s membership and San Francisco Board of Supervisors in order. 

Brown talks about his life in some depth in this Academy of Achievement interview from 1996. An excerpt on the art of compromise:

“First and foremost, if you’re ever going to build a consensus, if you’re ever going to be the center of the compromise, you’ve got to be prepared to listen.  

As Mayor, shaming MUNI into better service by beating its speed -- on foot. Brown won both challenges.

As mayor, on Market St., shaming MUNI into better service by beating its speed — on foot. Brown won both challenges.

“Listening is an art that most people do not possess. Most of us talk. And when we finish talking, we start thinking what we’re going to say next.

“In interviews, I hate to be interviewed where the person interviewing me never listens to what I’m saying. They simply have a fixed agenda, and they’re going to get through that agenda no matter what. Now, the agenda may not be relevant to anything that I’ve said in each subsequent question, but nevertheless, they stay with the agenda, so they’re not listening. It takes greater skills to listen than it does to speak.

“Once you develop the skills of listening, and people believe you’re listening, they will listen to you. It gives you then the license to begin to build the compromise.

“There must be a perception, if you are to build a compromise, that you do have some smarts. There’s never been a person who’s been the mediator, or the negotiator, or the person who orchestrated the solution, who was not perceived as being pretty smart, well informed on the issues.

bro0-007a“It goes back to the question of education. You’ve got to be credentialed. People do not listen to non-credentialed persons. It’s a rare occasion when people will listen substantively to someone who doesn’t have society’s measurements of achievement. They may be artificial, but they are measurements of achievement.

“There are some people who credential themselves and develop a whole group of followers, because they have some natural skills at listening.

“It goes back to the perception and the perception tends to be reality. If you’re credentialed, and you’re perceived as smart, and you also have the unique talent to listen, you are literally designated to become the person who helps frame the solution.”

Another quote from Brown:

“A legislator deals with theory. The executive implements. A legislator does not have the responsibility to deliver anything but a theoretical framework for someone else to implement.”

Gifts of cash and check are welcome.



  1. When is Greg’s birthday and why no guitar jam?

    Comment by Michael T. Jarvis — 3.20.2013 @ 8:36 pm

  2. Willie, Happy 79th Birthday. At our age it is great having birthdays. It’s great being on this side of the grass. Miss seeing you. I was in Sacramento last week for a couple of days, which was the first time I have been there in three years. I realize all our old friends are also getting old. I hope things are going well with you. Old memories are still the best memories. My very best regards from Utah,
    Senator Bill Campbell

    Comment by Senator Bill Campbell — 3.21.2013 @ 11:31 am

  3. Feliz Cumpleaños Willie,
    We love you so much!

    Comment by Quentin Navia — 3.15.2014 @ 10:17 am

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