A Profile in Courage

These words are from the last paragraph of my column last week.  “I am tired of waiting for the election to be over, so I will just hope that today is the final finish line, no matter what the results.   Only when there are no more races left to run can we begin to rebuild what we have lost.”

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, resulting in more comments than all but a few of the 500+ columns I have written.  Who could have foreseen what was to happen just two days later? 

My wife and I were watching the events at the Capitol as they began to unfold.  At first, we were confused, then alarmed, and finally horrified at the attack on our nation’s Capitol and the destruction and desecration of this center of American democracy.

The challenges of our nation and the different political beliefs that are tearing our country apart are more complicated than can be addressed in a column of a weekly paper.  Yet, as a writer you cannot ignore one of the biggest stories of our lifetime.

There are some true heroes during this awful time in our history – individual police officers who valiantly tried to protect our leadership, and members of both parties of Congress who spoke out forcefully about the insurrection and attack on democracy.

However, I wish to focus on one American hero that I believe displayed incredible courage in the face of intense pressure.  He happens to be from the state of Georgia, where I spent 45 years of my adult life.

I have known all of the Secretaries of State of the State of Georgia since I became involved in politics in the 1990s.  I have known Lewis Massey, Cathy Cox, and Brian Kemp well enough to call them friends.  I have never met Brad Raffensperger, but I hope one day to shake his hand.

Raffensperger is a Republican, a Trump Republican, in fact. He campaigned for Trump and contributed to his campaign.   He is probably to the right of my own moderate political beliefs, but he and I share a common belief.  The rule of law applies, even if you do not like the results.

I received the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award 18 years ago for a speech on Hate Crimes.  While I am proud of the award, I have occasionally written to politicians to tell them that they deserved the award more than I did.  None of those elected officials ever received the recognition.

Brad Raffensperger deserves the Profiles in Courage more than I do.  He stood up to immense political pressure to change the results of an election that was verified three different times.  He withstood pressure from elected officials from his own state, two Senators he had supported that were running for re-election, and most importantly, from the President of the United States.

He never wavered, not because of his own political beliefs, but because, as he said, the numbers do not lie.  The Georgia election was fair, honest, and decisive.  His candidate did not win, but he withstood more push back than any person should ever have to endure.  In the end, he did not yield.  He stood for the rule of law.  

This week, for the first time since I received my own award, I will nominate a person for the Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.  If he should be so recognized, I will attend his award ceremony.  If he is not, then I shall endeavor to simply shake his hand and tell him what I believe.  He is a Profile in Courage.

We must find a way to have a discourse that is not Trump versus Biden, Republican verses Democrat, Left versus Right, Black versus White, and on and on.  

There are many ways to divide us.  We must find ways to unite us.  We can start by recognizing men of courage who stood up and did the right thing in the face of intense pressure, regardless of whether they are on our side or not.  In the end, there is only one side.  The American side. 

Brad Raffensperger is such a man.  He is, indeed, a Profile in Courage.

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Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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