-------- Original Message -------- Subject: sadness and pleasantness rolled into one Date: Mon, 11 May 2009 12:06:54 -0700 From: Edwin Cooney <edwincooney@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> To: <edwincooney@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> Hi All,As sadness is accompanied by pleasantness on occasion, this is one of those occasions as was the case when Paul Harvey passed away in February. This is mostly personal but I hope it contains some information and perhaps even some useful perspective. I wonder if they'd like this one in Buffalo!
I hope you enjoy reading this as I'm grateful to you for the time you take to read these almost weekly efforts.
Warm Regards, E.C. MONDAY, MAY 11^TH , 2009 BEYOND THE RECORD BY EDWIN COONEYIf you?ve lived long enough, debated and evaluated people and events frequently enough, you?ve judged losers who really were winners and winners who should have been losers. It can take an entire lifetime to realize the difference. Jack Kemp, who died on Saturday, May 2,^ 2009, was mostly a winner.
Mr. Kemp was born on Sunday, July 13, 1935 in Los Angeles, California. Despite being a lad of slight stature, he was determined to play football from the age of six and eventually realized his improbable dream. A 1957 graduate of Occidental College, he was drafted, signed and subsequently cut by five different NFL and AFL teams: the Lions, Steelers, Giants, and Chargers. Ultimately, he was acquired by the Buffalo Bills. With the Bills, he?d be a two-time AFL champion. In fact, he was so popular that he won a seat in Congress representing Hamburg and parts of Buffalo, New York less than a year following his 1970 retirement from football.
He was handsome, energetic, and principled and, above all, a man of his word.
I met him in late May 1965 while representing the Batavia, New York State School for the Blind at a Lions Club fundraising weekend in Geneva, New York. He was one of the celebrity guests. ?I?m not much of a football fan,? I told him, ?What interests me about you is your conservatism.?
I spoke of my admiration for Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and Republican conservatism. He told me to write him a letter care of the Bills and he?d put me in touch with Mr. Nixon. I didn?t really believe him. I thanked him, of course, but I was sure time would render his offer unlikely. So, I let it pass.
In mid January 1966, I was sitting in study hall during exam week confident that I could pass my next examination easily enough. One of the typewriters was free, so I sat down and wrote a letter to Jack Kemp care of the Bills reminding him of who I was and where I?d met him. I thought it was unlikely that I?d ever hear from him, but into the mail it went.
About six weeks later, I got a letter from Mr. Kemp. It came in a large envelope containing his photo with a football (of course) and it was autographed to me. In his letter he said he would soon be in California to campaign for Ronald Reagan with men whose names were then magic to me: Barry Goldwater, Everett Dirksen and Richard M. Nixon. ?I?ll tell Mr. Nixon of your admiration for him,? he wrote.
In early June 1966, I learned that Jack Kemp had kept his word. I got a letter from Richard Nixon with a copy of his book ?Six Crises,? which was autographed to me and a picture of Mr. Nixon that was also autographed. Thus my enduring gratitude to Jack Kemp.
Life goes on however. As Jack Kemp became established as a Republican Congressman, I increasingly grew restive about GOP principles. His position on public men such as Ronald Reagan and issues such as supply-side economics became increasingly alien to me. As far as I was concerned, he belatedly declared that he?d vote for the Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Nixon (August 5, 1974). My heart had already been broken by Richard Nixon, so it was hard for me to understand how Jack Kemp, a man of Christian and political principles, wasn?t already sufficiently disillusioned.
Still, I couldn?t entirely consider Congressman Kemp a nonentity. Clearly he was a conservative icon and his 1988 presidential candidacy was of some interest to me. It didn?t seem likely that he?d really be successful though. He was substantial enough, but he often talked too fast and his voice had a ragged tinge to it that I was sure grated on some folk?s nerves. (Actually, I empathized with him on that score as I live with a similar malady.) Still, those 1965/1966 memories were compelling.
Although energetic and passionate, Kemp was an intensely private person, reluctant to talk publicly about his personal experiences and emotional inclinations. Nevertheless, he possessed intellectual and spiritual depth and integrity. He cared intensely about minorities and the disabled. He sought to make it possible for tenants of public housing to purchase their homes while he was George H. W. Bush?s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Although thwarted in that effort, he was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Housing Act which has annually made money available through block grants to low income home and business owners.
If there are some inclined to dismiss Jack Kemp as merely one of those whose name is on a list of ignominious losing vice presidential candidates (such as John Bricker, Bill Miller, Robert Dole, and Sarah Palin), they?d be well advised to recall that others on that list (Henry Cabot Lodge, Earl Warren, Edmund Muskie, and Franklin Roosevelt) were men of substantial achievement.
Sports heroes and politicians are inevitably judged by their records. Even though he was nominated for the second highest office in our land, Jack Kemp is likely to be remembered most for his success on the football field where he was truly one of the best during his career. However, the impact he made on the ideas of the nation and people he cared most about is intangible. Its substance is energy, commitment, belief, and loyalty. Even so, his legacy glimmers like a magnificent beacon shining above and beyond any achievement measurable in any record book. Goodness! That definition might be the description of a star!
RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED, EDWIN COONEY