Congressman Zack Space doesn’t know me. There was a day when he might have, but didn’t – long ago, in 1982 and 1983. We, then freshmen at Kenyon, knew him, though.
Zack Space was the All-American football player, a good student and a member of the football fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.
For those that don’t know, Kenyon College is a small, private liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio. Those that graduate from Kenyon come from many political persuasions – from screaming liberal to raging conservative. During my time there, conservatives largely held sway – the era of Reagan et al. And, as many of you might recall, the 2004 election results in Ohio were delayed because of the “thousands of Kenyon students in Knox County waiting in line past midnight to vote,” presumably for John Kerry – a curious “fact” largely because there are only 1600 Kenyon undergrads in total.
And, upon graduation, our careers are as varied as our political beliefs. Some are attorneys and doctors, politicians and even a president – others are actors and movie producers, some community organizers fighting AIDS – oh, no – and others yet are teachers and professors.
But, two characteristics, which by design, all Kenyon graduates should share – the ability and the responsibility to “think.” That’s right, think. In the broadest sense, to think about the nation and world in which we live and to act responsibly in forging solutions to the many problems of the human condition. More narrowly, this means having the ability to critically evaluate issues and the responsibility not to check our brains at the door when making important decisions.
Are these characteristics of Kenyon graduates different from graduates of many other fine universities and colleges? Of course, not – nor, would I suggest such. But, unless you have attended Kenyon or know someone who did, you can not contemplate how much this quality is emphasized in every aspect of college life from the moment you arrive until the day you leave – and, as importantly, how the gift of a Kenyon education (thanks, Mom and Dad) translates into an embued civic responsibility in every student who has matriculated down Middle Path.
Leadership, whether in law or medicine, in the classroom or in board rooms, in shelters or in churches, is not the exception, but the expectation.
. . .
Congressman Space, you are what they call a “blue dog Democrat” – others might say this title means nothing. I disagree. It means that you don’t naturally align yourself with the liberal arm of the Democratic Party, because of your proclaimed beliefs in liberty and individual freedom, of beliefs in fiscal responsibility and individual accountability. Frankly, your ability and inclination to “think” is what theoretically should separate you from the ideologues which dominate your party.
Your responsibilities, Congressman Space, go beyond Ohio’s 18th Congressional District – your responsibilities lie to your country – to the auto worker in Michigan and to the peach farmer in Georgia; to the teacher in New York and to the pastor in Los Angeles. You have the responsibility to think, Congressman Space – to think about what your vote will do to advance the cause of liberty in America.
As a fellow Kenyon graduate, Congressman, you have disappointed me greatly in recent weeks and months. You, Congressman, have abandoned your thoughtful reasoned approach to politics in favor of being one “in the fold” – the fold, mind you, of the far left wing of the Democratic Party. Whether it’s Speaker Pelosi or Congressman Waxman, you have repeatedly buckled under pressure and toed the company line – a company line of exploding deficits and the systematic dismantling of American liberty and freedom in favor of a larger, more instrusive federal government.
Have others followed your path – the path of least resistance? Certainly.
One who has is Michigan Democrat, Congressman Mark Schauer. Ironically, I know Congressman Schauer well – and while I like him personally, I expect little of him. And while I do not personally know you at all, I know from where you came and, like it or not, that’s why I expect more from you.
I can only hope that the common sense people of Ohio’s 18th will give you “cause to pause” as you head home for the August recess. Hopefully, you will rediscover the conservative roots which run deep in your mid-Ohio congressional district and realize that America’s best interests are aligned with their midwestern values, not the values of the far left fringe of American politics.
Bottom line, you were educated to be a “thinker” in the Kenyon mold and tradition. But, you have become a follower, Congressman Space. This is antithetical to everything you were taught at Kenyon – you know it and so do I.
Once a leader on the Hill we shared – it’s time for you to be a leader among Democrats on the Hill all Americans share.
Kenyon Class 1986