He was a man of principle, but not to the extent of forgetting that others have principles too. He was a politician, but always showed he understood life outside Washington and among those who still have to struggle to get by. And when he grabbed the ball in politics, just as he did when he was the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, he did it with style, grace and civility.
Former congressman and one-time Republican vice presidential candidate, Jack Kemp, died today at 73 from cancer. He was the same age my grandfather was when he was taken by the disease. Jack Kemp had a distinctive voice and way of making a point. Few ever claimed to have been offended. But he could still make his point. And he was, in later life outside politics, a fierce advocate for the power and potential of the individual. Societies are great. But so much in life is advanced, whether by innovation, invention or standing up for some cause, by one individual at a time.
His death comes at a time that nearly marks the first-year anniversary of the passing of another tireless booster of the common man, and of all things Buffalo: Tim Russert. What made these fellows so memorable is that they were unique. They had a distinct personality. They always seemed to have a sparkle in their eyes. And they understood that there is something precious about every individual. They connected with us in a personal way, not just as part of a huge, faceless society.
These are the kind of people we miss so much, and why we still look desperately for their successors to lead, inspire and illuminate us again.
Well done, Jack.