Friday, April 17, 2009

HHH: Hope, Humor, Humility

I went to the school of Hubert Humphrey. I learned much of what I admire and most of what shapes my OPTIMISM from Hubert H. Humphrey...listening to his speeches and interviews, reading his articles, books, statements, and correspondence (each week HHH privately circulated to his aides and advisers copies of his letters and dictation, e.g., to a speech writer, roughly, I want my Bi-Centennial--1976--speeches to key off the extraordinary youth of America's founders...recalling that our nation was founded in large part by people under the age of 30!), and visiting with him as he raced to Senate floor votes and meetings with constituents (e.g., the pluses and minuses of snowmobile trails in the Boundary Waters in light of our being "temporary" stewards of the lands/creations we are charged with protecting).

One of the Senator's favorite topics was attitude--informed perhaps by his less than five-votes-per-precinct loss of the 1968 race for president to Richard Nixon; specifically, a rejection of defeatism. Being a foremost student, teacher and maker of history, Humphrey could recite in detail the many years of Revolutionary War battles ("defeats") that led to America's independence. the Civil War battles ("defeats") that led to the Union's victory, the unlikely career paths (filled with "defeats") that resulted in Presidents Lincoln and Truman, and the tortured, centuries-long fights for human rights (HHH, 1948: ...get out of the shadow of state's rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights).

Humphrey would point out (roughly): Unfortunately and too often, our nation's largest club is the "would've," "could've," "should've" club filled with a membership resigned to living on the regrets of lost hopes and failed dreams. Always second-guessing. Always looking-back. Always finding the worst (error) in themselves and everyone else.

His transition: I will have none of that and neither should you!

You see, Humphrey would continue, the question is not what we would have done or what we could have done or what we should have done. It's one thing to study the past and learn from our mistakes. It's another thing to live in the past where the contests are over and the results known. The real questions for us--for the doers, for the builders and for the inventors of today--is what are we doing now (here and now, right now) and what are we going to do next (training for, investing in) to make things better today and for generations to come? (often followed by a variation on Sam Rayburn's: ...Any jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a good carpenter to build one--a sentiment winning great applause from Humphrey's many labor ((e.g., Building Trades)) audiences).

Acknowledging that bad (unfair) things happen in our lives, Humphrey told in his 1976 book, "The Education of a Public Man," how he "celebrated" the end of 1968, a horrific year of war, assassinations and riots. At midnight on New Year's Eve, this former 2-term mayor of Minneapolis, 3-term U.S. Senator, Vice President and presidential nominee went into his bathroom and flushed the toilet thinking to himself: good riddance, it's time we start over.

In 1969, Humphrey returned to teaching and went on to win his 4th-term in the Senate in 1970. He chaired the joint budget committee and the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment act later became law. Humphrey won his 5th Senate term in 1976, when he was also able to rejoice in the election of his friend Walter Mondale as Vice President. A happy, forward-looking Hubert Humphrey. One of the best inspirations I know of to keep from throwing shoes at CNBC & FOX every time they predict President Obama's economic recovery measures are not going to work (I will have none of that and neither should you).

What I was told was Mike Berman's 1980 debate advice: Mr. President, just remember "HHH: Hope, Humor, Humility."

Happy days are (will be) here again!

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