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What it means to be a politician

[digg-reddit-me]Excerpts from my Journals
[Late December 2001; lines jotted down from a Richard Nixon speech.]

Everett Dirksen was a politician in the finest sense of that much abused word. If he were here, I think he might put it this way:

A politician knows that more important than the bill that is proposed is the law that is passed.

A politician knows that his friends are not always his allies, and that his adversaries are not his enemies.

A politician knows how to make the process of democracy work, and loves the intricate workings of the democratic system.

A politician knows not only how to count votes, but how to make his vote count.

A politician knows that his words are his weapons, but that his word is his bond.

A politician knows that only if he leaves room for discussion and room for concession can he gain room for maneuver.

A politician knows that the best way to be a winner is to make the other side feel it does not have to be a loser.

And a politician – in the Dirksen tradition-knows both the name of the game and the rules of the game, and he seeks his ends through the time-honored democratic means…

As he could persuade, he could be persuaded. His respect for other points of view lent weight to his own point of view. He was not afraid to change his position if he were persuaded that he had been wrong. That tolerance and sympathy were elements of his character and that character gained him the affection and esteem of millions of his fellow Americans…

As a man of politics, he knew both victory and defeat.

As a student of philosophy, he knew the triumph of and the tragedy and the misery of life.

And as a student of history, he knew that some men achieve greatness, others are not recognized for their greatness until after their death.

From Lend Me Your Ears, a compilation of the great speeches throughout history by William Safire. Pages 220 – 221. The speech was given by Richard Nixon on September 9, 1969 as a eulogy at the Capitol Rotunda for Senator Dirksen of Illinois. (The eloquence of the speech – and it’s odd placement between the great eulogies by Cicero and Lincoln makes me suspect this may have been a Safire production. I have a feeling this speech may have been a Safire production.)

This Senate seat is now held by Senator Barack Obama.

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