Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

Location: Wichita, Kansas

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Leaders, Writers, and Quarterbacks

George Will once told a story in a column about President Ronald Reagan, who after listening to detailed scientific and budgetary presentations on an ambitious $4.4 billion atom smasher project, recited Jack London's personal credo:

I would rather be ashes than dust,
I would rather my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze,
Than it should be stifled in dry rot,
I would rather be a superb meteor,
With every atom of me in a magnificent glow,
Than a sleepy and permanent planet.

Then Reagan said that London's credo was read to Ken Stabler, the NFL quarterback, who was asked what it meant. Stabler said: “Throw Deep.” Reagan supported the project.

Today we seem to be woefully lacking leaders with a “throw deep” mentality and vision. Some spout speech writer rhetoric that tries to sound like it, but genuine article can't be faked. I heard it in person once. In my college days, as the student responsible for bringing in guest lectures and speakers, Former Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey, then a Minnesota Senator, agreed to make a speech.

Senator Humphrey was a populist Democrat born of the old Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, who earned his political stripes as a reformer cleaning up corruption in Minneapolis. He was also one of the last barn burner speakers, in the Chautauqua tradition. The man was a believer with a vision that could make even his opponents smile and cheer before he was through. He had the deserved nickname of the “Happy Warrior”.

The “Great Communicator” and the “Happy Warrior” were political opposites, but strikingly similar as men. Both had an innate optimism, fighting their battles without malice or mean spiritedness. Both placed being an American before partisanship. Both had the ability to cut through detail and short term thinking to see the goal posts, and the courage to go for it. They had the ability to inspire and uplift.

We need such men in both parties today, as real leaders are needed in difficult times. If we are fortunate, perhaps one or two will surface before the next presidential election. We could use some inspiring and uplifting from a positive voice. We need someone with the vision to throw deep.

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