Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How We Got Here

Author: Gary Hart

If current leadership is intent on dismantling a series of institutional arrangements that have provided relative political, economic, and security stability among democratic nations, we should first understand the forces that have led us into this current cul-de-sac.

The most obvious economic tsunamis in recent decades have been globalization and the rise of the information economy.  Historically, we have to go back to the late 19th century to find precedents.  The industrialization of America, that shifted our economic base from agriculture to manufacturing, began in the first half of that century but was most powerfully felt in the 1880s and 90s.  The dislocations caused by Americans leaving farms and small towns and migrating into cities to work in factories most closely parallels the late 20th century decline of steel, auto, textile, and other manufacturing activities and the shift of the economic center of gravity from the industrial East to the high technology West.

Reading The Age of Reform by Richard Hofstadter (1955) provides eerily similar patterns of social upheaval and political unrest that came to be known as the Populist era that then gave way in the early 20th century to the Progressive era focused on political and economic reforms.  “A great deal of the strain and the sense of anxiety in Populism results from this rapid decline of rural America”, he wrote.

He continued: “Such tendencies in American life as isolationism and the extreme nationalism that goes with it, hatred of Europe and Europeans [Mexico and Mexicans today], racial, religious, and nativist phobias, resentment of big business, trade-unionism, intellectuals, the Eastern seaboard and its culture—all these have been found not only in opposition to reform but also at times oddly combined with it.  One of the most interesting and least studied aspects of American life has been the frequent recurrence of the demand for reforms, many of them aimed at the remedy of genuine ills, combined with strong moral convictions and with the choice of hatred as a kind of creed.”

Added to globalization and information were other powerful social forces: the rise of immigration from the Central America, the culture wars that began in the 1960s over civil rights, abortion, and more recently gay marriage, and the replacement of traditional mainstream media (newspapers and television networks) by partisan media and social media.  A potent symbol of the latter transformation was President Reagan’s abolishment of the “fairness doctrine” as applied to federally licensed radio and television programming.  “Equal time” for opposing points of view became quaint overnight and propaganda poured forth.

Politically, the Roosevelt coalition of the Democratic Party disintegrated, especially with the decline of unionism, and the influence of “Dark Money” (Jane Mayer, 2016) created a right of center Republican orthodoxy that drove out moderates and established the red State system through gerrymandering.

A substantial contributor to the new Age of Anxiety was the transformation of war, the 9/11 attacks on America almost exactly a decade after the Soviet Union, and the Cold War with it, collapsed.  “We will be attacked by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction, and Americans will die on American soil, possibly in large numbers,” the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century warned the new Bush Administration in January 2011.  Nothing was done to prevent it.

The Age of Reform dated from 1890 to 1917 when it was overtaken by World War I and then the Great Depression.  Out of necessity the latter event produced Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.  Following World War II, the Atlantic Alliance, with its security and economic stabilization rules and institutions was established by Roosevelt, Truman, Marshall and Acheson.  Largely as a result, there has been no World War III.

If we are to abandon these alliances, and presidential utterances seem to vary day by day, we are entitled to know what, other than isolationism, nationalism, and nativism, is to replace them.  So far, there is little evidence of serious, thoughtful, and statesmanlike thinking going into this.

America is greater than any single individual and its people have survived many curious detours.  When this one is all over, we may recall Mr. Dooley’s observation about that earlier period of excess: “Th’ noise ya hear is not th’ first gun of a rivolution.  It’s on’y the people iv the United States batin’ a carpet.”

America: Headlines from 2020

Author: Gary Hart

The Russian Ambassador to the United States has renewed his lease on a top floor suite at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

The author of The Art of the Deal has just announced an agreement with the Peoples’ Republic of China that he will withdraw the U.S. Seventh Fleet from the South China Sea in exchange for exclusive rights to place hotels and casinos on its newly created man-made islands.

The United States has just signed an agreement to join the recently formed League of Populist-Nationalist Euro-Atlantic states pledged to defend its members against any resurgence of “decadent liberal democracy”.

Since the abrogation of the Joint US-Iranian nuclear control agreement by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Jordan have announced that they will follow Iran in developing their own nuclear defense forces.

The Director of the Environmental Protection Agency has announced that, according to a recent report by two unnamed scientists, the increase of almost one percent Celsius in global temperatures is not due to man-made carbon releases.

A leaked secret memorandum from the Department of the Treasury calculates that TrumpCare is now expected to cost twice that of ObamaCare with ten million fewer enrollments.

Australia has now joined Mexico and four other nations in recalling its Ambassador from Washington for “consultations” for an indefinite period.

Relocation of hundreds of thousands of students from public schools to tax-supported charter and parochial schools has caused a serious drop in test scores and rise in teacher retirements in core urban public schools.

Since the Trump Administration has unilaterally abrogated adherence to Article Five of the North American Treaty Organization, Russian forces have moved into Eastern areas of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to “protect Russian-speaking citizens being persecuted” by those governments.

More than a third of the career Foreign Service Officers at the Department of State have resigned or been fired for “insubordination” or “lack of commitment to the program.”

The Trump Organization has announced plans for Trump hotel and casino complexes in ten major Russian cities, as well as projects in a number of foreign capitals whose political leaders have developed especially strong ties with the U.S. Administration.

Despite the US-China negotiations over the South China Sea, the PRC has been systematically reducing its investments in US treasury bills causing long term markets to downgrade confidence in the US economy.

Since virtually all of the Dodd-Frank Act has been repealed, most major banks and investment houses have resumed experimentation with packaging and marketing high risk unsecured lending instruments and financial markets have begun to downgrade their bonds and sell their stocks.  An increasing number of financial analyists predict a recession deeper and longer than in 2008.

The metal from the melted Statue of Liberty now represents almost a mile of the Trump Folly Mexican fence.  But it remains the favorite crossing point for refugees from the South.



“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 – Emma Lazarus

Matters of Principle

Author: Gary Hart

The most important things are often the most obvious.  Wouldn’t you think it appropriate if someone set up a conversation site called “mattersofprinciple” that this individual should state his or her own principles?  Joel has just asked whether the host was inclined to do that.  So, with several caveats, an attempt will be made.  Caveats: the following list is not exhaustive.  So, in response, please do not adopt the “I notice you didn’t mention…” fallacy.  The parameters of this site are not boundless.  Also, one man’s principles that follow are focused on government, ethics, and public policy, not spiritual, religious, or moral matters directly.

Matters of principle:

One: All men, that is to say all humans, are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;

Two: The United States Constitution remains our best blueprint for governing in days to come;

Three: The First Amendment to the Constitution requires special attention and protection;

Four: Laws and policies should be based on the national interest, not one or more special interests;

Five: Likewise, the interests of the nation supersede the interests of parties and ideologies;

Six: We the citizens of a Republic must protect our rights by performance of our duties;

Seven: The commonwealth, all those things we hold together for ourselves and future generations, must be protected and preserved, and corruption of those interests must be steadfastly resisted;

Eight: The size of our government should be determined by the kind of society we want, not the reverse;

Nine: Citizenship in a republic requires that attention be paid to realities, and individuals have a duty to determine facts underlying all public matters under consideration:

Ten: America’s role in the world should be based on friendly relations with all nations of good will;

Eleven: Diplomacy is paramount in political and economic matters, and force is employed only when our safety is demonstrably in danger;

Twelve: In our dealings with others, we must focus on our common interests and not our differences.

These principles are illustrative and not exhaustive.  But they do represent an important exercise that thoughtful citizens should make.  Each of our loyal band of correspondents might try it for themselves.  What is the rock-solid foundation upon which you base your public life?  What is elemental, abiding, and enduring in your system of beliefs?

In a better world, candidates for public office, and especially those seeking national leadership, should be required to state the personal principles upon which they rely in their public lives.

Imagine replacing a candidate debate with bluebooks distributed and a half hour given to writing a statement of principles to be made available to and discussed with the public.  The field of candidates would narrow dramatically overnight.

Credit card companies may ask, “what is in your wallet?”  Citizen voters should ask, “what is in your mind and your heart?  What are your fundamental beliefs?”

These and other personal principles are derived from the writings of those who created this nation’s founding era, a lifelong study of political ideas and ideals, observation of the lives of those who have earned respect, and a lifetime of public service.




The public discontent, now being commented on so extensively in political circles, did not suddenly emerge in the last year or so.  It dates at least to the mid-1970s when the first waves of globalization and automation began to wash up on our shores.  Everyday citizens, especially in traditional manufacturing jobs, began to make their concerns known to office holders and office seekers.

The recurrent theme, often unstated, was: I’m losing control of my life.

There was, and still is, a sense that our national government either did not know how or did not care to deal with the seismic shifts being felt not just in Detroit and Buffalo but in the heartland and the West as well.

With apologies for the personal references (and the “I” references that dominate the opinion section of the New York Times), my reaction to this building disquiet was to re-examine our Constitutional structures for evidence of what our Founders suggested we should do with our political system to adapt to change, to a future none  of them could possibly imagine.

Jefferson thought about this a lot.  After leaving the presidency, he concluded that the system of representative democracy was the best, if not the only, system that would accommodate a nation of, at that time, three million citizens and one that was bound to grow across the continent.  In short, not everyone could attend every meeting.

But, to let citizens participate in self-governance, his only solution was to institute a system of ward or elementary republics at the local level, permitting local citizens to attend periodic public meetings to decide the best practical solutions to issues of public education, public assistance, local security, courts and other public institutions, and a host of other community concerns often peculiar to that community.

Contrary to the ideological struggles that would soon emerge over the evils of “big government”, he did not urge adoption of local republics to weaken national government.  He did so to give every day Americans a share in shaping their own local destinies as much as possible.  His concern over power in Washington, underwritten by an increasing federal budget, was the opportunity this offered to powerful special interests to benefit at the expense of local taxpayers.  And recent events have proved this concern to be prophetic.

This reiteration of a little-known detour in American history is to demonstrate that there are approaches to re-engage citizen participation in ways that refuse to ignite, yet again, a stale “debate” over the size of government (which does not change even when conservatives are in power).  But an experiment in Jeffersonian local republicanism would surely reveal how discontented Americans are or are not.  Public participation in city and county town meetings and school board meetings is notoriously low.  So how discontented are people genuinely?

Remember, once again, Oscar Wilde’s critique of socialism: “Too many evenings.”

Participation in government requires time, thoughtful study of issues, search for accurate information (as opposed to political propaganda), consideration of alternative points of view, patience, tolerance, and most of all civility.

For too many Americans it is too easy to sit in the comfortable chair, watching partisan television tell you what you want to hear, and socializing only with those who share your political views.

Local republicanism will not solve problems of foreign competition, competitiveness, productivity, trade friction, security against terrorism, climate change, currency imbalances, and a host of international matters.

But it could improve the quality of public education, provide targeted solutions to local unemployment, protect community air and water resources, reduce drug addiction, overcome ethnic or racial tensions, and a wide variety of local concerns.

And especially now, when at least half or more of the country is discontented with a president ostensibly elected to respond to public discontent, citizen duties have become paramount.  In some circles there is talk of a Resistance.  That resistance should refuse to quietly accept destruction of decades of consensus on public education, climate, health care, collective security, and a foreign policy based on alliance.  The forming Resistance must be based a new republican ideal of citizen duty.

The price to be paid for regaining control of our lives is assuming responsibility for participation in solving the problems closest to home and in resisting a new elite’s efforts to govern the country for itself.

Technology and Its Discontents

Author: Gary Hart

A word to all concerned, especially the faithful commentators:  In its wisdom, the host of this website,, has chosen to “upgrade” the server for this site.  When this happened a week or so ago, I was unable to access the site myself.  So, predictably, I contacted’s Support office to ask for help.  It turns out I have to coordinate my php with their php, then stand on my head, then wander off into a bizarre tech world I don’t begin to understand, then I can access my own “upgraded”  website.   When I explained to Support that I was of the pre-technology generation that came along just after the invention of the electric light bulb and thus could not implement the crazy procedure required by the “upgrade”, Support recommended that I hire a webpage designer.  Being a man of modest means, to say the least, I’m not sure I can afford a webpage designer to jump through the hoops necessary to let me access my own website.

I believe I have now been granted a temporary reprieve, after weeping copious tears on the phone with Support, but only for a week or two.  All this to say, to anyone who cares, that I will either try to find a charitable soul who will help this cranky old politician  enter the brave new world, relocate mattersofprinciple to another service provider, or ride off into the pre-technology sunset…which would make my many critics very happy.  Other options are welcome.  Apologies for all this unnecessary confusion.


In Praise of Modesty

Author: Gary Hart

One of my most admired friends, Billy Shore (founder of Share Our Strength), has a kind habit of sending me books.  Most recently it was American Ulysses, a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant.  Upon his death, movingly described at the book’s conclusion, his funeral procession in New York City stretched nine miles.  As the Union’s general-in-chief and later President, he was proclaimed by the press as inhabiting the pantheon with Washington and Lincoln.  His memoir, concluded as he was dying, is considered a classic.  Yet today, he is seldom spared a thought.

Grant possessed that rare combination of inner self confidence and modesty seldom witnessed in today’s era of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement.  In recent times Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman also come to mind in this respect.  Like Grant, they had inner strength but enough self-awareness, including about their own faults, not to lapse into self-promotion.

Perhaps the entertainment industry, including professional sports, has permeated public life to the degree that politicians need to publicly pound their chests like football players in the end zone, seeking credit for victory even in a team sport.

Another word for modesty is humility.  Not humility as humiliated, but humility as humble.  Few if any of us can truly claim credit for accomplishments that so many along the way have helped bring about.  In his engagement reports, Grant gave effusive credit to fellow generals, especially Sherman and Sheridan, as well as to his troops.

Great leaders seldom seek acclaim for success, knowing that if it is deserved it will be recognized.  Pomposity, credit-seeking, self-aggrandizement are all characteristics of the weak and insecure.  My mentor, Mike Mansfield, was the epitome of modesty yet a truly great leader and legislator.  It was a mark of his great stature that he quietly promoted younger leaders.

It seems profoundly confusing that great figures, those who excel at what they do, are also often very shy.  The professional is one who excels and makes it look easy and natural, then avoids the limelight.  “Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?,” indeed.

Following the Civil War, Grant sought occasions to deliver kindnesses to his former foes.  He was magnanimous in victory towards General Lee and his officers..  He saw no need to crush the defeated under his heal.  They never forgot.

His Administrations were, with rare exceptions, focused on reconciliation and national restoration.  Confederate generals, Joe Johnston, who came all the way from California, and Simon Bolivar Buckner, rode in his funeral cortege, as did Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Robert E. Lee, together riding with Grant’s favorites, William T. Sherman and Philip Sheridan, side by side.

One of Grant’s initial foes and then longtime personal friends, Confederate general James Longstreet, said of Grant: “He was a great general, but the best thing about him was his heart.”

Thus another mark of greatness of spirit, modesty combined with magnanimity.  Unlike many others, but like Lincoln, he insisted that North and South were still all Americans and insisted that former Confederate separationists be treated honorably and respectfully.

Respect for Ulysses Grant was international.  At his memorial service in Westminster Abbey, demand for seats far exceeded available space.

Thus, a man who’s venture into business, like Harry Truman thereafter, was unsuccessful, whose early Army career was as a quartermaster, who, during early battles, was derided by much of the Northern press, rose, through force of character and generosity of spirit, to become what many at the time and some even today believe to be one of America’s greatest leaders.

If Providence is kind, we may yet see his likes again.

The Center Must Hold

Author: Gary Hart

In The Second Coming, W. B. Yeats wrote: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold: mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

He did not have in mind the kind of centrism so popular in recent political history, the avoidance of hard choices and strong leadership.  He had a more important center in mind, the kind of center that is hewn out of the marble of human experience, the garment woven of sacrifice and honorable compromise, the foundation upon which a viable and noble society might be built.

And he did not dismiss the chaos of anarchy; he diminished it as the alternative to the hard business of governing a complex community.  Anarchy is easy if you do not care about its results.

The center for early 21st century America, as Yeats would have it, is composed of years of struggle to control the spread of nuclear weapons, two decades of debate over an agreed platform for environmental protection; an agreement that the least of these—the elderly, children, the disabled, and the poor—would have a semblance of a safety net; a never-ending and never quite successful search for a just system of taxation; an approach to relations with other nations based upon wise and skillful diplomacy rather than bellicosity; a role for government much like the cattle driver of old who prevented the stragglers from getting left behind.

The formation of this center has not come easily.  Almost all of it required compromise between liberals and conservatives, left and right, protectors of tradition and pioneers in innovation.  In no democracy ever formed, including particularly our own, has compromise on fundamental issues such as the role of government been simple.

Changing times require new coalitions to be formed and often old coalitions to remain steadfast.  Life is a river that constantly ebbs and flows.  Policies and programs are required to adjust to new realities.  Principles must remain constant.

Wars and depressions bring us closer together.  Absent one or the other, most Americans choose to go their own way and not be bothered by the gritty business of governance.  Easier to mock those who do that business, and try to do it well, than to get one’s hand dirty in the sausage- making of compromise and coalition.

Thus, when things threaten to fall apart and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, those who have spent much of a lifetime at the gritty business of governance in the interest of forming a center that will hold find it difficult to observe the admonish to “give them a chance” when their announced purpose is to shatter that governing center.

No one has been more intense in condemning the combination of prerogative, privilege, and power that has descended on our Government in recent years than the aging idealist who writes these words.  But that bath water can be thrown out without endangering the baby in the center whose life we hold dear.

Corruption must be condemned and eradicated, but the years of progressive compromise on basic governing programs and the principles upon which they are based does not have to be destroyed in the process.  Giving new leadership a chance becomes problematic when senior officials are nominated to lead agencies and departments whose core functions they oppose.

There is every indication even before it enters office that the new Administration intends to use public anger at corruption as an excuse to dismantle decades of hard-won progress toward a more just and fair society.

In virtually every arena of human progress since Franklin Roosevelt a government is being formed composed of those whose announced intentions are to dismantle and reverse that progress.  To sit quietly by while such a process is going on is, for many of us, a betrayal of our beliefs, our ethics, and our very patriotism.

As we well know, Yeats proceeded in the poem to describe what happens when the center does not hold: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Shame on all those of both Parties and a range of ideologies who have corrupted our Government through access purchased with campaign contributions and the greed of special interests.  They have contributed mightily to the destruction of trust in government that has brought us to today.

But that corruption and that distrust cannot be the excuse for dismantling an array of policies and programs at home and abroad that have made us a better nation, that have justified our world leadership, that have made us at our best an example to aspiring people around the world, that have brought us on occasion near the shining city on a hill.

Resistance to those who destroy the governing center and our noblest ideals is our only option.  It is our duty and, for some of us, a right we have earned.

The new year and those thereafter offer many unfamiliar tests.  First and foremost is the test of the resilience of the United States.  Based on recent evidence, the new President will take dramatically different courses at home and abroad.  The Rooseveltian consensus on a social safety net and more recent progress on a variety of other public programs will be tested.  The post-World War II world order based largely upon the Atlantic Alliance is also being seriously challenged..

Nominations for cabinet offices in Departments having to do with public housing, environmental protection and climate change, health care, education, and energy, among others, have gone to those with outspoken antagonism to current law and policy and more enduring traditions such as public education.  These nominees are committed to reverse course and destroy the respective consensuses that brought us to today.

Our commitment to broad based public education traces to Jefferson who made it the cornerstone of democracy itself.  A well-informed citizenry was the backbone of citizen participation in the affairs of governance.  Competition in education is one thing.  A parallel system of private education primarily available to financial elites is quite another.

If the next one or two presidential terms takes the nation in a radically different course in each of these public policy areas, how long thereafter will it take to return us to the status quo ante?  In a nation of the size and diversity of ours, considerable time is required for consensus to form in all of these domestic policy fields.  Restoring that consensus will not be as easy as electing a more traditional and mainstream executive.

Likewise, in terms of America’s role in the world.  If the incoming President is serious about restructuring NATO and related seventy-year-old institutions which have formed the basis of global stability, those institutions or reformed versions of them will not be restored overnight.  As with our domestic institutions and structures, creating a new Western democratic alliance, and negotiating positive relations with emerging powers such as China, will require hard work, patience, and especially statesmanship over time.  Most of all, if confidence in the United States is seriously eroded, as it may well be, years will be required before that confidence is restored.

Perhaps most importantly, confidence by American citizens in their own government will have to be restored.  Those on the right particularly who have made distrust of our own Government the centerpiece of their ideology will continue their undermining efforts even as they occupy power and will never appreciate the irony of their position.

As some of us have said repeatedly, you cannot claim to love your country and hate its government.

There is every evidence that political parties of the neo-right (as distinct from traditional conservative parties) are networking and sharing goals and methods.  Their methods are strikingly similar regardless of country: demonization of the opposition; the use of social media to target individuals for attack; purging those who disagree from positions of responsibility and even from public platforms; disregard for facts, including proven scientific ones; reliance on fear and repression; intolerance; and alienation of racial and religious minorities.

Left unchallenged, these forces will continue to use false media and the security of the mob to propagate hatred of minorities and immigrants and to align with authoritarian leaders in Russia and elsewhere.

None of these promised radical departures is a foregone conclusion, and, even with a complacent Congress, Americans who disagree must be heard from.  Authoritarianism invites a Resistance and, I for one, am joining that Resistance.  Voices of conviction, rooted in our Constitution and obedient to our principles, will not be silent.  Fortified by our ancient ideals and convinced of the rightness of our cause to uphold and protect America’s noblest ideals, we will be heard and we will be as defiant as circumstances require.

It requires no courage to be a summer soldier, a patriot when the sun is shining.  What our nation needs now are winter soldiers.

The spirit of our Founders awaits our response.  We must be faithful to that spirit and the generations of sacrifice and duty it represents.  At stake once again is the future of our Republic.  It is in our hands.  Loyal Americans must summon the courage to stand up and be counted, to defy voices of bigotry, ignorance, fear, and hate.

For if we do not stand up and do so now, who else is there.

The Last American Hero

Author: Gary Hart

In the 21st century is it possible for anyone to achieve the heroic status of John Glenn?  There are many reasons to think not.  Some years ago the so-called mainstream media, traditional newspapers and networks, abandoned any respect for privacy of public figures in an effort to compete with entertainment journalism, emerging social media, and advocacy networks for sensationalism.  Very soon, political leaders, and then even astronauts, were treated more or less as movie stars had been for years.

There is an old saying: No man is a hero to his valet.  Today we would say the same for a woman and her maid.  This isn’t simple an observation about the human body without clothes.  It is an observation about familiarity on the margin of intimacy.  Nothing like seeing a famous person performing mundane human duties to destroy any hope of extraordinary character.

Very difficult to locate a hero using a microscope.  Heroes are best viewed through long-range lenses.  Heroism requires a degree of distance, and distance is necessary for mystery.  How does she hold public office, raise children, and write poetry?  How does he defy death in space and crawl out of the capsule grinning?  The hero is someone who does extraordinary things while seeming to be like the rest of us.

Entertainment has played a role in destroying true heroism.  Special effects make Tom Cruise seem like Jack Reacher.  Arnold Schwartzenegger started out human, then became an android, and then was replaced by action comic figures.  Difficult to have a truly human hero up against Spiderman or Batman.

I was in high school before I ever met a Member of Congress.  I was impressed.  That would not happen today with the ritual hazing and thrashing every politician routinely receives.  And, sad to say, too many deservedly so.

When we went to Washington in December 1974 so that I could take up my duties representing the State of Colorado in the U.S. Senate, I asked my daughter and son, 10 and 8, who they would like to meet, and I meant from the President on down, they both said, without a thought, John Glenn.  He was by then in all their history books.  He was famous.  He was legendary.  He was an authentic hero.

We were sworn into office together.  I admit to being in awe.

Someday, after some of us have long gone onto the next life, a small group of astronauts will try to get to Mars.  Aside from single-handedly rescuing a plane load of children from highjackers, that is one of the few ways to become a hero these days.  (Even then, some reporter will find a DUI years ago.)  The devils of expose’ must be served.

Were Simon and Garfunkle lamenting the passage of heroes when they sang “Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?

Adding to the economic frustrations of global competition is the sense that there are no more heroes.  Some commentators—including those who have contributed to the process–have observed that public figure have become gradually smaller.  Some of the reasons have already been mentioned.  But the process of dismantling privacy, distance, and mystery drives figures of stature away.  After earning respect and demonstrating self-respect, who among us wants to submit to the adult equivalent of fraternity initiation simply to serve our country.

When we permit a demeaning system of humiliation to become a gateway for public service, we also deny ourselves any chance of heroism in the public arena.  John Kennedy would find it difficult if not impossible to write Profiles in Courage today.

I liked John Glenn a lot.  Even more, I admired him, not only for his physical courage and flying skills but also for his basic humanity and decency and his fundamental insistence that he wasn’t any different from the rest of us.  In his mind, he was just a lucky guy who happened to be at the right place at the right time.

He had that backwards, though.  We who knew him were lucky to share that place and that time with him.