Devotion to Doing What’s Right

Published: February 17, 2021

By Jim Lichtman
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Lost in the turmoil and headlines reporting the impeachment trial of former President Trump, one story was all but buried. However, when an announcement was made on the floor of the Senate that Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman would receive a Congressional Gold Medal for his courage and quick thinking in diverting insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber, Senators on both sides of the aisle gave him a standing ovation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke of Goodman’s “foresight in the midst of chaos, and his willingness to make himself a target of the mob’s rage so that others might reach safety.”

“In the face of lawlessness, the officers of the U.S. Capitol lived out the fullest sense of their oaths,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “If not for the quick thinking and bravery of Officer Eugene Goodman, in particular, people in this chamber may not have escaped that day unharmed.”

An Iraq veteran, Goodman not only acted to divert the mob away from the Senate floor, as video cameras recorded, but he also shepherded Senator Mitt Romney to safety from the angry mob of Trump supporters who had stormed the Capitol and were quickly moving to find Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other legislators.

“I don’t think my family or my wife understood that I was as close as I might have been to real danger,” Romney said. “It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes. That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional,” Romney told reporters after watching the video.

“By redirecting violent rioters away from the Senate chamber on January 6th, Officer Goodman defended our democracy and saved the lives of senators and staff,” Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a statement.

“He is wholly deserving of the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress, and I’m glad the Senate acted quickly on our legislation to recognize the quick thinking and bravery of this great Marylander with a Congressional Gold Medal. I urge my colleagues in the House to quickly follow suit.”

In my book, What Do You Stand For? Marine Captain Dale Dye talks about the attributes of a hero.

“I would say a hero has two basic qualities:  a selfless devotion to what’s right, whether that’s his duty or not, and the courage of his convictions. That’s simplistic but the classic example, of course, is the firemen and policemen who went into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Look, that was a dangerous situation. Everybody knew it was a dangerous situation.  But those folks had a higher devotion to doing something larger than themselves. It wasn’t just about a job at that point. Nobody is going to die for a job. They were outside themselves.

“We have a long history as human beings, regardless of nationality, of basing our ethos on specific heroes; people, who demonstrated a larger view of things; who think, feel and respond outside themselves.  And thinking is sometimes a confusing term. I don’t think genuine heroes spend a lot of time contemplating that issue. I think they instinctively feel it as – this is right.  And if you were to press them, in many cases they probably couldn’t tell you why other than some vague notion. And that’s okay. It’s not necessary that our heroes be massive intellectuals.  It’s only important that they do what needs doing in critical situations.”

Last Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced legislation to include all Capitol police, and other law enforcement personnel who responded on January 6, with the Gold Medal.

We need more heroes, those who face physical harm and those who stand on principle despite the consequences particularly in times of crisis.

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