The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Sunday, November 19, 1995              TAG: 9511170741
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   80 lines


He bounded onto the stage at Kellam High School dressed in black. The tall, thin man with the wild shock of curly hair wore a black suit, black shirt, black boots and red-and-black striped tie.

Dolf Droge, the self-described ``exclamation point with hair,'' has been confidant to three presidents - Johnson, Nixon and Reagan. The foreign policy expert is a much-in-demand lecturer and talk-show guest, who came to Kellam Tuesday night as part of the school's second annual Awareness Lecture Series to speak, to challenge and to entertain an auditorium filled with students, faculty and parents.

Droge is an angular amalgamation of futurist, benevolent agent provocateur and good old Indiana yarn spinner. Droge co-anchored a weekly radio news hour, ``The Real World,'' from 1989 to 1992 in Washington. During that span, he was also board chairman of the Council of the Defense of Freedom, an agency involved with foreign policy and economic development.

In his own words, though, Droge has been a civil servant for 32 years. He used the last as a jumping off point for the main thrust of his talk: participatory democracy and each citizen's role therein.

``The politicians are hired hands working on a ranch that we own,'' he told the audience. Not only should we question and demand accountability of those officials we elect, we should be even more demanding of the unelected bureaucrats who stifle the democratic process.

``We disenfranchise ourselves when we don't participate in the process,'' Droge said, offering more specific instructions: Our brain is the instrument that can guide us down the path to empowerment and achievement. Read. Write letters. Hound those in whom we entrust leadership. Think. Analyze.

``The mind is like a parachute. It only works when it's opened,'' Droge said.

Those who know how to process and disseminate knowledge will have a valuable edge, he explained.

``Going to school is the only time you're ever going to rewarded for reading on the job,'' Droge said.

He grew up ``watching'' the radio for news, he said. Television has transformed us from the active role of reading to the passive role of watching.

Droge imagined Japan saying to America: ``We gave you Pearl Harbor and that was damaging. You gave us MTV and that's going to be fatal.''

The reason that the Japanese economy thrives is because of their emphasis on productivity, he said. ``We invent it, they produce it. They work hard. They die at 40 from working so hard.''

Reactions to Droge's speech varied.

Rorry McCoy, whose daughter Natalie finished second in the class of 1995, said, in a word, that Droge's vision of an America where everyone is linked by computer and works at home ``stinks.''

``Communication is the key,'' McCoy said, summing up Droge's lecture. But social interaction is vital to human beings, McCoy added.

``This is the only nation I know where education and sports go hand-in-hand. The emphasis is on games. The emphasis should on teaching people to communicate with others.

``I'm paying for my daughter to go to college and someone who plays tennis can go for free.''

Andy Sedaca is a senior at Kellam. He thought that the talk was good, but he had some misgivings about it.

``I don't know if he used the right approach,'' Sedaca said. ``Some of his historical references, like Hitler. They might have missed the mark.

``You had to have some basic knowledge to understand him.''

Corey Penton, another Kellam senior, disageed with his classmate.

``Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it,'' said Penton, echoing philosopher George Santayana's famous admonition.

``Why do you have to learn from your own mistakes, when you can learn from the mistakes of others?'' ILLUSTRATION: Photo by Gary Edwards

Andy Sedaca and Elizabeth Layden listen to Dolf Droge, confidant to

presidents Johnson, Nixon and Reagan. "The politcians are hired

hands working on a ranch that we own," he said. ..."We

disenfranchise ourselves when we don't participate in the process,"

by CNB