Mike Turpen may be one of the most optimistic men alive; after all, he’s been a leading Democrat in Oklahoma’s staunchly Republican political landscape for decades.
He’s also a funny guy, overflowing with aphorisms, folk wisdom and quips that get people thinking beyond their immediate laughter. I had the fortune of sharing a meal recently with Turpen, a former Oklahoma attorney general, who talked about books, travel, family and his political and legal careers.
These days, much of his time is spent on fundraising and co-hosting the local television program “Flash Point.”
We also spoke, albeit briefly, about his new book, “Turpen Time: The Wit and Wisdom of Mike Turpen: 50 Shades of Life.” The book, published by an Oklahoma press, is a series of short chapters recounting episodes from his life; all are preceded by a pithy saying representative of the topic.
His life has been memorable. As he notes in the preface, Turpen has served a variety of roles over time.
“I’ve been a Tulsa World paperboy, a Colgate-Palmolive soap salesman, a Sears Santa Claus, a Steak & Ale waiter, and a McKissick Products forklift operator,” he wrote. “I’ve also been a Muskogee Police Department legal adviser, a Muskogee County district attorney, attorney general of Oklahoma, and a Democratic candidate for governor of Oklahoma.”
Throughout it all, he’s operated by “ES, EM, ED,” a simple mantra encouraging himself and others to make the most of life by consciously experiencing “Every Second, Every Minute, Every Day.”
Some chapters in the book are amusing; others are poignant. Most successfully straddle the partisan line, while acknowledging that Turpen was a player in Democratic politics, particularly during the Clinton era.
President Bill Clinton himself penned a paean to Turpen that appears on the first page of the book: “I don’t know if I’ve met anybody who is more persistently, continuously upbeat and enthusiastic than Mike Turpen, especially when it comes to helping others. He’s a very good man and his life story is a very good read.”
Given that predilection for helping others, it’s scant wonder that Turpen is using his book as the heart of a new fundraising campaign aimed at collecting $150,000 for Oklahoma City University’s Clara Luper Scholars endowed fund.
Turpen will tell stories from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zudhi Drive.
The event will be co-hosted by OCU President Robert Henry and Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn. Tickets are $50 per person and include dinner — plus roasting, toasting and tale-spinning.
Seating will be limited. Reservations may be made at www.okcu.edu/TurpenTime or by calling Catherine Williamson at 208-5402. Business casual attire is required.
Can’t make it to the event? Copies of Turpen’s book are available at http://MikeTurpen.tateauthor.com.
Whatever your politics, you’ll find something to make you smile, laugh or think. It’s worth reading.