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.
In a letter he sent to Mr. Deming in February 1993, Mr. Gingrich again sought Mr. Deming's feedback on a speech titled "Renewing America's Civilization."
Born in 1900, Mr. Deming was a statistics professor in 1950 when he was invited to Japan to run seminars for business leaders, according to a 1999 profile in the Los Angeles Times, which listed him among the top 50 most influential business leaders of the 20th century.
"Essentially, his idea was to record the number of product defects, analyze why they happened, institute changes, then record how much quality improved, and to keep refining the process until it is done right."
In his last book, "The New Economics," Mr. Deming wrote that the prevailing style of management required transformation.
"A manager of people needs to understand that all people are different," he wrote. "This is not by ranking people. He needs to understand that the performance of anyone is governed largely by the system he works in, the responsibility of management."
Mr. Deming's relationship with Mr. Gingrich grew more personal over time. Mr. Gingrich invited Mr. Deming to be his guest for the State of the Union address, an invitation that Mr. Deming politely declined, citing travel.
"Give me a chance next year," he told the lawmaker.
In February 1992, Mr. Deming wrote to Mr. Gingrich about planned lessons for an upcoming meeting, including the "futility of pay for performance," the "destruction of people from the merit system" and "the evils of ranking divisions and plants."
Mr. Deming drew comparisons between the situation in the U.S. and his experiences nearly a half-century earlier in Japan.
"Our country is in a crisis, an invisible crisis," Mr. Deming told Mr. Gingrich. "Japan was in a crisis. The crisis was obvious, the country blown to bits, destroyed by fire.
"Japanese management asked me in 1950 to come to help. Japan soon became an economic power. The secret: management of a system, cooperation between components, not competition. Management of people."
"Newt," he added later in the letter, "transformation is required: not mere change. Transformation requires Profound Knowledge.
"It is only through you that the required transformation may reach the ears of our President and others in authority that can act. There is no time to lose."
In September 1992, Mr. Gingrich and wife Marianne sent Mr. Deming a birthday note.
Signing the letter as "your students and friends," the couple referred to Mr. Deming as "the man who created an understanding of profound knowledge as a system for all people."
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