Saturday, January 7, 2012

Even Criminals Recognize Honor

History provides us ironic examples of scoundrels who acknowledge the greatness which they not only lack, but even oppose. Nixon campaigning for Eisenhower, the corrupt Cicero praising the virtues of Roman Republican gravitas and humility, or President Bill Clinton appreciating both Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II. Noble character can be recognized even by those without it.

Such was the case when Rahm Emanuel rose to speak in the House of Representatives in January 2007. Emanuel is widely-known for questionable and unethical behavior. But 'questionable' and 'unethical' are not words with great precision and clarity, and are subject interpretation. More clearly, Rahm Emanuel is a criminal: someone who violates laws. Beyond the actual text of legislation and statute, Emanuel also violated the written ethical guidelines of the various positions he has held in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

But even a miscreant like Rahm Emanuel can recognize both goodness and greatness, perhaps all the more, given the contrast of these qualities to his own nature. He spoke to honor President Ford:

I am honored to rise with my colleagues today in support of House Resolution 15, honoring the late Honorable Gerald Rudolph Ford, the 38th President of the United States.

Here in this Chamber, President Ford served dutifully for 24 years, representing the people of the Fifth District of Michigan from 1949 until his ascension to the Oval Office. As a Congressman, Gerald Ford's warmth, approachability, and affability made him one of the most highly regarded Members of his day.

It was these qualities which would shape Gerald Ford into an excellent House floor leader for his party, a position he held for 8 years until his appointment as the 40th Vice President. During his tenure as minority leader, Gerald Ford set a standard of fairness, diplomacy, and cooperation to which all of us can aspire.

As both Vice President and President, Gerald Ford was called to serve in positions of great responsibility during a troubled time in our Nation's history. Ford accepted his powers and responsibilities with the same steadfast composure and patience for which he had became known as a Congressman.

As a man known for his ability to create consensus, compromise, and conciliation, he was well suited to take the helm of America and navigate the turbulent storm it faced. President Ford's gentle nature helped soothe the deep scars America faced after an arduous period of strife at home and abroad.

Emanuel's speech about President Ford was accurate and fitting. It is a lesson that even a villain like Rahm Emanuel can rise to the occasion to honor nobility. He concluded his speech:
Gerald Ford served our country with a patient hand, an understanding mind, and a reassuring voice. His time in Congress and in the White House leave behind a legacy of commitment, passion, and comity that we will all remember.
History may yet smile more kindly upon Rahm Emanuel. A rogue who humbles himself to honor greatness cannot be dismissed as pure evil.