How Companies Should Respond II: Government Edition

2013.01.13 How Companies Should Respond to Potential Customers II Government Edition
Last week I wrote about Minute Maid’s clever, Ghostbusters reference-laden response to my request to bring back Ecto-Cooler. Seems like it’s not only corporations who are giving out clever responses. So is the government.
In December, a petition of a required 25,000+ names went forward to the White House to ask them to build a Death Star. I can’t find the origins of this petition (I have a sneaking suspicion the whole deal started over at reddit) but apparently when a petition sent to the White House reaches a certain number of names on it, someone on White House staff has to official respond. Well, they did. Here are highlights from the whole thing:

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

By Paul Shawcross
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations…
Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun…
Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

There’s fun Star Wars talk in there and plenty of real science (the original article has links to several excellent projects). But there’s more than that. A response is required to the petition, no matter how ridiculous it is or what its origins were. What isn’t required is the fun sense of humor, the wink that yes, we’re in on the joke, too. That’s what makes this such a fun story. A staffer could have just as easily written one word, “No.” Really, that’s all that a ridiculous request merits. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the staffer did something remarkable. He gave people a story to tell. And not just the petitioners but everyone now that it’s hit the media. In the midst of political polarization, this remarkable move bridges wide gaps if even for a moment.
A quick teachable moment for improv performance. If this were an improv scene, this would be an amazing example of “Yes, and…” in which one scene partner makes an offer (here’s our petition for a Death Star!) and the second scene partner says, “Yes” to the offer (thanks for the petition) and adds to it (and it’s simply not possible for the following Star Wars-related reasons).
Someone please do me a favor and let me know when the next big Star Wars petition comes along. I want my name on it. And, on a serious note, if the same core group of persons who put this together could now assemble people to sign a petition in the name of a social justice cause, well, who knows what real change could happen? And for much less than $850,000,000,000,000,000, I’d wager.

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