Strolling onto the colorfully lit stage in downtown Chicago's Sheraton hotel ballroom, best-selling author and well-respected economist Ben Stein delivered the 19th Annual NIC Conference luncheon keynote with a light-hearted, humorist punch.
Telling several jokes to a room of seniors housing professionals--some of whom have been beaten down by the economy, others whom are growing more and more terrified of inflation--it became obvious Stein was working toward a positive mood shift in the room. Admitting his initial observation of "a bunch of sad, serious-looking young men" in the hotel lobby upon his arrival, Stein had a message to them, the "equity and lending people," and it came from a story of his youth.
Stein recalled a conversation he had as a young author with his father, Herbert Stein, about inflation: "You have to know this one thing about all inflations," Stein said his father instructed. "They all end."
"So do all recessions."
I know, this old dialogue does not predict any immediate respite for American business. But to a room full of men and women eager and impatient during the past year for the economy to jump start, it may have been the best news they've heard in quite awhile. And coming from a guy who is confident enough to wear sneakers while delivering a keynote address, it probably wouldn't hurt to at least hear Stein's message and find a reason to laugh off the economic woe for an afternoon. The 1,600 in attendance sure did.