“Dash of greyhound, slipping thongs…”
On Eleuthera, where we spent many winters, there was fascination with U.S. Presidential elections. A virtue of island is that racism, in the sense we all know it, doesn’t really exist. Our easy-going tropical strand features smiles of welcoming locals and friends who have known each other for years. It just doesn’t seem to matter whether the face in front of you is black or white.
So it was perfectly natural for the wife of our local grocer to ask me in 2008: “Is it possible for a non-white to be elected President?”…
…And for me to reply without even a thought: “Sure. In fact it was possible twelve years ago, if the ticket had been Colin Powell and Jack Kemp.”
I am firmly convinced it was possible—not only because Colin Powell is a man vast numbers of people like or admire; but because Jack Kemp, was equally so: a politician who, like Churchill, never wrote off any voter, who believed that his libertarian philosophy could appeal to all, that it was the height of patronization to single out minority groups and declare that they must have more government because they cannot get by with less of it.
Kemp at speed
Jack was a man who lived life at maximum velocity, whether as championship quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, as a U.S. congressman who promoted enterprise zones in inner cities, as an empowerment-advocating Housing Secretary, or as a candidate for Vice President who described himself as a “bleeding-heart conservative.” But you can read all about those achievements by searching the web. I would rather write about what he meant to Churchillians.
The Tenth International Churchill Conference in 1993 was a stellar occasion. We welcomed Lady Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Ambassador Kirkpatrick, Celia Sandys and General Powell. We held a service at the Washington Navy Yard Chapel which duplicated that of Roosevelt and Churchill at Argentia in August 1941, with veterans of USS Augusta and HMS Prince of Wales to read the Lessons. We hosted Ambassador Alan Keyes, who not only sang five national anthems including God Defend New Zealand, but all six verses of The Battle Hymn of the Republic—without music in freezing cold on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As Churchill wrote of Argentia: “Every verse seemed to stir the heart. It was a great hour to live.”
Jack Kemp was our keynote speaker at that conference. He spoke words of wisdom and inspiration, delivered with vigor and humor. When his introducer made so bold as to compare him to a former congressman named Abraham Lincoln, Jack rose in haste to disclaim even the slightest similarity. After her appreciation following his speech Jeane Kirkpatrick and Jack embraced: old colleagues, veterans of political wars, together again, even though (as Jeane told me at dinner), they had differed fervently over the 1982 Falklands War, with Jack firmly on the side of Margaret Thatcher and Great Britain.
Jack and his gracious wife Joanne were with us again at the commissioning of USS Winston S. Churchill in Norfolk in 2001, and we dined together in the wardroom. His last run for office was six years past. He was still passionate about what The New York Times called his “most important idea.” That was the theory that tax cuts woiuld lead an economic boom. Lost revenue lost is more than offset by taxes on greater earnings.
“What was it that Churchill said about Supply-Side economics?” Jack asked between bites.
“He didn’t say anything about Supply-Side economics,” I replied. “He was a Liberal!”
“Yes he did!,” Jack retorted. “You know, about keeping money in people’s pockets.”
Later I looked it up and sent it to him, because of course he was right. Churchill’s words ring as true now as when Churchill spoke them, ion 16 August 1945, Perhaps they have temporarily fallen out of favor:
What noble opportunities have the new Government inherited! Let them be worthy of their fortune, which also is the fortune of us all. To release and liberate the vital springs of British energy and inventiveness, to let the honest earnings of the nation fructify in the pockets of the people….
In January 2009 Jack Kemp announced that he was diagnosed with cancer. He said he was undergoing tests but gave no other detail. Scarcely four months later he was gone. Immediately I thought of the words Churchill offered, as only he could, quoting from Adam Lindsay Gordon’s grand poem “The Last Leap,” upon the death of his dearest friend, Lord Birkenhead:
The summons which reached him, and for which he was equally prepared, was of a different order. It came as he would have wished it, swift and sudden on the wings of speed. He had reached the last leap in his gallant course through life. All is over! Fleet career, Dash of greyhound slipping thongs, Flight of falcon, bound of deer, Mad hoof-thunder in our rear, Cold air rushing up our lungs, Din of many tongues.