In March 1992, House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich sent copies of two major speeches to a man about twice his age living in Washington.
The first speech was what Mr. Gingrich referred to as his “basic speech.” He called it “the necessary revolution.” The second was a policy speech he had given to the American Hospital Association about ways to bring down costs.
In a letter along with the speeches, Mr. Gingrich privately confided that he was certain that both speeches “contained significant errors and lack some key principles.”
“If you could read these speeches and identify both the mistakes that are in them and the principles that I have missed that need to be included,” Mr. Gingrich added.
The recipient of the letter was a 91-year-old management guru named W. Edwards Deming, a statistician and consultant credited with helping Japan become a world power after World War II through manufacturing. Mr. Gingrich made no secret of his admiration for Mr. Deming’s teachings while in Congress.
During the last three years of his life - from 1991 to 1993 - Mr. Deming corresponded regularly with Mr. Gingrich. Today, the correspondence shows the presidential candidate, who talks often about his days as a history professor, in the clear role of student.
“I am hereby applying to be an apprentice to you,” Mr. Gingrich said in a handwritten note to Mr. Deming in July 1991 after Mr. Deming visited Congress. “Monday was an historic day in the Capitol,” Mr. Gingrich wrote. “You won a number of converts to ‘profound knowledge.’
“Now we must study and learn,” he wrote, adding that “with your help, training and leadership, I believe we can transform America.”
Mr. Gingrich included a copy of the Congressional Record, which contained Mr. Gingrich’s speech on the floor of the House about Mr. Deming’s visit to the Capitol. On the front page of the document, Mr. Gingrich jotted another note.
“My brief remarks … fail to do justice to the tremendous impact you made on Monday,” Mr. Gingrich wrote. “A number of members, staff and White House people have told me how impressed they are.”
In his House speech, Mr. Gingrich referred to Mr. Deming as “the founder of the quality movement” and added that he was known as “the man who initially in the late 1940s and early 1950s educated the Japanese into the process of quality.”
Aside from advice on the speeches, Mr. Gingrich sought a reading list.
“Every time we meet, I learn more about your philosophy and how deeply it would transform our society,” Mr. Gingrich wrote. “If there are books or articles that profoundly influenced you, I would be glad to read them to get a better understanding of the context of your philosophical development,” he told Mr. Deming.
A spokesman for the Gingrich campaign did not respond to a request for an interview about the correspondence, which is contained in a collection of Mr. Deming’s papers on file at the Library of Congress.