Sunday, May 27, 2012

A matter of character

The Times and now the Globe recently ran obits for Wesley Brown who just died at age 85. Mr. Brown was the first black man to graduate from the U. S. Naval Academy (1949). While there, as you can imagine, he was not treated well by many of his officers and classmates. However, a fellow member of the cross-country track team "would stop by to talk to him and encouraged him to 'hang in there'." In a later letter, this unusually supportive man wrote: "I ran with you (you were better)." The letter, signed "Jimmy Carter," was one of Mr. Brown's prized possessions.

Brown noted that prejudices against Blacks, Jews, Catholics -- even Irish -- were all around him. It was a rare person, like Jimmy Carter, who had the courage and sensitivity to support Brown.

Less than a generation later, the future presidential candidate Mitt Romney demonstrated his character by feloniously assaulting a fellow prep-school student whose long hair Romney didn't like. Unlike all other participants and onlookers to the assault who could be contacted, Mitt won't admit to any memory of an attack that, had it not happened within an exclusive rich-man's school, would have provoked criminal charges.

Romney grew up to be a vulture-capitalist, heading a firm specializing in financial bullying. No surprise there. Jimmy Carter had a modest presidency, but later grew up to be one of the greatest ex-presidents in our history -- a role-model for unselfish public service.

(Thanks to Mike E for first calling my attention to the Times obit.)

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