Tag Archives: Politics

Number 1

As a young student at Central College in Pella, Iowa, I worked for the campus radio station. Iowa’s governor, the honorable Harold Hughes, had announced that he was not seeking re-election so that he could run for the United States Senate. When word came that he was making a campaign stop at a restaurant in downtown Pella I was asked to go and get an interview. I was both excited and nervous – a big assignment for a rookie radio guy. On the big day at the appointed hour I entered the restaurant and surveyed the crowd. There was no problem spotting the governor – not only did I recognize him but he was an imposing figure; I couldn’t miss him. I eventually identified myself and asked if I could do an interview. He said he’d be with me shortly. So I sat off to the side and waited.

A few minutes passed as people of much greater stature than me kept going up to him and asking for his time. But all of a sudden I heard him say to those gathered around him, “I promised this young man an interview so I need to give him some time now.” Wow – impressive; a politician and a man of his word. (I guess it’s not always an oxymoron!) At that moment I felt I was #1 and on top of the world – and even more nervous! Then he sat down next to me and immediately made me feel at ease. I turned on my little recorder and began the interview. One of the questions I posed to him had to do with whether nor not he had mixed feelings since he was leaving office after a doing good job and could easily be re-elected. He had made many friends and earned deep respect. Yet he was also venturing into new territory and was already being mentioned as a future Democratic candidate for President. I must confess I can’t remember what he said but I do recall that I was impressed with his thoughtful response. I finished my relatively short interview still #1 and on top of the world.

Immediately after completing the interview he began his public remarks so I turned the recorder back on again. I’ll never forget the gist of his opening remarks – he said something to the effect of “I was just being interviewed by this young man here from Central College, and he asked me a very good and thought-provoking question.” He then opened his brief speech by sharing his reflections on my question! Wow! Now I knew I liked this man! And that’s saying a lot for one who born and bred a Republican! If it was possible to feel higher than #1 and on top of the world, I was feeling it. All I could think of was that when we played highlights of his remarks over the air people would hear his opening references to me (true- since he hadn’t mentioned my name very few would know to whom he was referring; but I would know! And, yes, I confess to a little – make that a lot – of pride!) Needless to say I followed his career with great interest. In many ways, he was #1 in my book.

And while I could share much more about the faith and humility of Harold Hughes, my point right now is he became #1 in my eyes because he made me feel like I was #1. He understood that “If you want to be #1, make someone else #1.” I don’t mean to say that we ought to strive to be #1 so we can lord it over others; that is pride and self-centeredness. It has more to do with earning respect and love from others. We gain respect and love when we show respect and love. We gain the right to be heard when we give the right to be heard. We gain the opportunity to speak about Jesus when we live like Jesus. In the context of what I’m saying, Jesus becomes #1 to people because He makes them feel like they’re #1. Just think about the man by the pool, the woman at the well, Zaccheus, the lepers, the lame, the blind…the list of those Jesus made to feel #1 endless.

So this week, wherever you are and whoever you are with: “If you want to be #1, make someone else #1.” I have a hunch that if you do, Jesus will be the real #1.

It May Be 50 Years But…

Truth Not Lies Board Showing Honesty

During the June 1966 during the national spelling bee in Washington DC, 11 year old Rosalie Elliot was given the word ‘avowal.’ In her soft southern accent she spelled it. But the judges were unsure if she used an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ as the next to last letter. For several minutes they listened to tape recordings but still could not make a determination. Because of the whispers of the other young spellers still on stage, Rosalie soon knew she had misspelled it.  Chief Judge John Lloyd finally asked Rosalie “Was the letter and ‘a’ or an ‘e’?” Without hesitating she replied that she had misspelled it. With that she walked from the stage – to a standing ovation. Rosalie may have lost the spelling bee but she had won the admiration of the audience because of her integrity.

Integrity – honesty, honor, ethics, morals, truthfulness, trustworthiness – often appears to be a forgotten or little valued principle. That’s why I think of this incident often, especially during this long political campaign season. After candidate debates, speeches and ads the media run ‘fact checks.’ Most every time we discover that candidates from both sides of the aisle have misstated their ‘facts.’ Yet this reality seldom seems to impact the next debate, speech or ad. It makes me wonder, “Is integrity no longer valued? Should it be?”

The Scriptures are very clear. God spoke to the wise King Solomon, “If you will serve me in honesty and integrity, as your father David did, and if you obey my laws and everything I have commanded you, I will keep the promise I made to your father David when I told him that Israel would always be ruled by his descendants” (1 Kings 9:4-5)[i]. Solomon valued the call for integrity and therefore wrote in his proverbs “Honest people are safe and secure, but the dishonest will be caught” (Proverbs 10:9) and “If you are good, you are guided by honesty. People who can’t be trusted are destroyed by their own dishonesty” (Proverbs 11:3). Jesus also stated it clearly. “Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – anything else you say comes from the Evil One” (Matthew 5:37). It must be that integrity is vital to a healthy society.

I wonder: politicians – are you listening?

Even more importantly I wonder: am I listening? What would a fact check of my words show? On a scale of 1-10 where do I rank in honesty, honor, ethics, morals, truthfulness and trustworthiness?

I wonder: are you listening? What would a fact check of your words reveal?

Rosalie Elliot opted for integrity. And 50 years later we remember and still applaud. I wonder: 50 years from now will people remember me? If so, how will they respond?


(This first appeared in the South Haven Tribune 11-6-16)

[i] All Scripture quotations are from the Good News Translation of the Bible