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Jack Kemp, RIP

The Wall Street Journal runs a few quotes from the late Jack Kemp. It gives you a pretty good flavor of the way the guy's mind worked. His mind was much better than the average politician. While not perfect, the main thing about Kemp is that he was almost always trying to think about things. He read and studied and asked questions. Because he was student of the art of politics doesn't mean that he did everything perfectly, it just means that he was much better than the average guy who gets into politics because he thinks he knows everything, and then stops studying. Kemp was never one of those. And, the GOP should have had the courage to think through--as Kemp wanted from his early years on--the party's relationship with blacks and other minorities and go after their support. Kemp always had more courage than his party. RIP.
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I will always remember Kemp with a particular fondness and for exactly the reasons you say. But, more personally, I will also remember him with a special fondness because of the kindness he once showed to me when I was a mere undergraduate over lunch at some Ashbrook function in D.C. He sat next to me and engaged me in serious conversation for more than 45 minutes about Abraham Lincoln and the thesis I was then working on. He asked me to send him a copy when I finished and, when I did he not only remembered the conversation, he actually read it, commented upon it and wrote me back. I think he even sent me something else about Lincoln to read. I had the opportunity, thanks to the Ashbrook Center, to meet all sorts of politicians and scholars as an undergraduate. Many of them were very patient and kind in speaking with us and all of them taught us something. But few of them were as sympathetically engaged or as genuinely curious as Mr. Kemp seemed to be. I often think back to that memory and recall it as one of the first genuinely grown-up conversations I had with someone outside of the circle of people whose duty it was to provide such to me. I was very sad, indeed, to hear of his passing. RIP, Jack Kemp.

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