“In a time of persistent challenges that still call into question our most sacred aspirations as a country, we cannot afford shallow callous divisiveness in our public debate. We become distracted from productive labors by our perceived opponents; we become focused on them and not on our larger calling to advance our nation; our debate becomes more about scoring points against an adversary and less about advancing our common cause. And we DO have a common cause.
In college, I was a fiercely committed Democrat – a meeting Jack Kemp, then Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, challenged my blind partisanship. I met Secretary Kemp in East Palo Alto, California where I was working with youth. He was a Republican, I was a Democrat yet somehow he cut right through my then natural state of cynicism. I must confess that I almost regretted that I immediately liked this Bush appointed HUD Secretary. My mother has a saying, “who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” It wasn’t his gift for gab that struck me but the power of his ideas and his authentic spirit. Kemp was clearly passionate about urban spaces and the people of cities. He immediately engaged me (a college student) in a direct candid manner; he appealed to my compassion and my logic. And more than that, it was obvious that he was not in East Palo Alto looking for a photo op surrounded by people of color — he was there to listen, to share his ideas and hear concerns.
After that meeting, I sought out more about Jack Kemp. I ordered some of his speeches and read what I could. I found I disagreed with him on some matters of policy, but reading and listening to him, I found that he always challenged me in the most productive of ways. My study of Kemp encouraged me to learn more about subjects from tax policy to international trade and, on occasion, I had to yield to the strength of his ideas and change my views. “