Recent Character Commentaries

I Wish I Could Think More Like David Brooks
Why do I like New York Times columnist David Brooks? Simple. Much of the time, I write about the tree. Brooks writes about the landscape. I tend to look at the brush fire that’s threatening the tree. He focuses on how America’s inherent strength can overcome the fires of our discord. One thing about commentaries in The Times is that...
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May 14, 2024
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Principle Before Party
“Duty is ours. Results are God’s.”—John Quincy Adams In 1806, after a series of attacks by Britain on American ships carrying goods, Massachusetts Senator John Quincy Adams and his colleagues were outraged. American sailors were being captured and “impressed” into the King’s navy. When the American frigate Chesapeake was fired upon by a British ship, Adams was so incensed he...
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April 23, 2024
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We Need the Strength of Heroes
The Date: September 28, 1955 The Place: Yankee Stadium The Event: Dodgers/Yankees, Game 1 of the 1955 World Series Every baseball fan has seen the video. Every baseball fan knows the outcome . . . or do they? I’ll come back to this. For my book, What Do You Stand For?, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns spoke to me about the...
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April 19, 2024
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Conscience of the Senate
Continued from Tuesday’s commentary, I offer two Senate leaders from the past. Tuesday, I spoke of the integrity of Republican John Williams. Today, I offer the character of Senator Philip Hart as excerpted with permission from The Buying of the Congress (1998) by Charles Lewis, whose response appeared in my book, “What Do You Stand For?” John Williams and Philip...
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April 12, 2024
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A Long Time Ago in a Washington Far, Far Away. . .
. . . two U.S. Senators, one Republican, one Democrat, showed us the meaning of duty and character. Republican John Williams, a chicken farmer and feed dealer from southern Delaware, had never gone to college.  He spoke so quietly on the Senate floor that the news media dubbed him “Whispering Willie.” But when he spoke, people listened as he exposed...
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April 9, 2024
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This is The America I Know
We Americans have many grave problems to solve, many threatening evils to fight, and many deeds to do, if, as we hope and believe, we have the wisdom, the strength, the courage, and the virtue to do them. But we must face facts as they are. We must neither surrender ourselves to foolish optimism, nor succumb to timid and ignoble...
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April 5, 2024
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We’ve Become Morally Complacent
My 90-year-old father was a Reagan Republican. When I told him that I was going to call to say hello to my uncle Don (his closest friend since grade school, so he was always referred to as our uncle), “Whatever you talk about,” he warned, “don’t mention politics. He’s a big Trump supporter.” Five years later, I would walk into...
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March 26, 2024
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My Declaration of Conscience
If I were a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, this would be my address to members. Mr. Speaker, Members of the House: We are failing. We’re failing the American people because we’re failing to govern. I know it, you know it, and the American people know it. We have a duty to solve the country’s problems. Instead, we’ve...
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March 21, 2024
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A Clarion Warning
At a time when trust in Washington leadership is at its lowest point, it’s more vital than ever to revisit the lessons from our past. As a freshman Senator from Maine, a deeply republican state, Margaret Chase Smith had been concerned about Communism’s threat to the United States. However, she had become increasingly troubled about the extremist actions of Senator...
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March 18, 2024
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Navalny
Integrity frequently requires sacrifice. Some maintain the courage of their convictions; some don’t. The death of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny didn’t come as a surprise. One man is to blame and everyone knows it—a poisonous dictator who feared Navalny’s growing influence. When Navalny’s family asked to have his body returned to them the request was denied. However, Britain’s Telegraph...
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February 20, 2024