Joe Cannon is defined by optimism, enthusiasm

by | Sep. 27, 2010

Mormons We Know

When Joseph A. Cannon was 15 years old, his dad told him they were going to the World's Fair in New York. Joe's mind flashed forward to Technicolor images of bright lights and a bustling midway.

There was only one problem: Adrian Cannon was a bookstore owner of very modest means, and the Cannons couldn't afford train fare to get from their Los Angeles home to San Francisco, to say nothing of New York City. So Joe's dad hatched a plan: He and his three boys would ride their bikes across the country.

Pauline, Joe's mother and voice of practicality in the Cannon home, was flabbergasted. Three boys on a cross-country bike ride — how would they survive? And who would tend the bookstore in Adrian's absence?

Adrian was undaunted.

With no fixed itinerary, they slept on roadsides, on highway medians, and in barns and front rooms of people they had just met. They drank water given to them by highway construction workers and spent as little of their own money as possible on food. They sang hymns and memorized scriptures while they rode.

During downtime, Joe entertained himself at local libraries reading "Atlas Shrugged," always resuming Ayn Rand's landmark novel where he had left off at the previous town's library.

Today, Joe Cannon fondly looks back on that bike ride as one of the seminal moments of his life. The trip sowed seeds in his mind and his heart for the buoyant optimism and audacity to dream he'd need to rise from a poor upbringing to prominent positions such as presidential appointee at the Environmental Protection Agency, chief executive officer of Geneva Steel and editor of the Deseret News.

Read the rest of this story at
Comments and feedback can be sent to