Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp RIP

I was saddened to learn yesterday of the death of Jack Kemp, a dedicated public servant and American patriot. His was a life of great accomplishment in both the fields of professional sports and national politics.

As the star quarterback of the Buffalo Bills in the 1960s, he was a seven - time AFL All - Star and led the Bills to two AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. These were the last two AFL Championships before the merger with the NFL, and the advent of the Super Bowl following the 1966 season. He was the MVP of the AFL in 1965 and co- founder of the AFL Player's Association in 1964. While playing, he also served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Following his successful pro football career, Jack decided to tackle the profession of politics. There he achieved even more success than he did on the gridiron. He was elected and reelected eight times running as a conservative Republican in a heavily Democratic district in Western New York.

Mr. Kemp was truly a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution. It was largely he and economist Dr. Arthur Laffer who spear headed President Reagan's philosophy of supply side economics, which led to the greatest peacetime expansion of the economy ever up to that time, in the decade of the 1980s. Beginning in the late 1970s he tirelessly campaigned for President Reagan. He soldiered on speaking to anyone who would listen and drawing them Laffer Curves, a schematic diagram developed by Dr. Laffer to demonstrate the powerful effect of supply side economics.

He later served admirably in the administrations of President Reagan and President Bush 41. He was a man of principle who believed in conservative ideas as well as a big tent Republican Party. However, like President Reagan he understood that big tent did not mean the giving up of conservative values to pander for votes, rather it meant bringing that conservative philosophy to non - traditional Republican constituencies, such as minorities and union workers.

He was a true statesman who argued ideas without attacking his opponents personally. Quite a departure from the current political climate for sure. I had the pleasure of meeting he and Mrs. Kemp, a most gracious woman, at a campaign event in 1988. It took place in suburban Philadelphia at the home of a wealthy contributor, and in attendance were several former professional athletes many of whom had played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Even with all this star power, he and his wife took time to greet me and the other young lawyers from the Federalist Society who were in attendance.

Later, that same year the Federalist Society organized another campaign event which was held at my parents' home. It was a small event, involving only about 100 people. Nevertheless, Jack sent one of his campaign aides to Pennsylvania along with his daughter Jennifer, to attend the fundraiser. I was disappointed that he did not get the nomination in 1988 and that he decided not to run in 1996, when I really believed he could have won. His presence on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate that year did energize the Republican base, but unfortunately it was too little, too late.

Up until recently when he became ill, he continued to be a strong voice for conservative principles which he always articulated in an inclusive manner. He stood up for the individual and treated all people as Americans, not as members of hyphenated groups. He constantly championed the entrepreneur and the small business person and recognized that it was they and not the federal government, that was the backbone of the economy. His voice, especially in these deeplytroubled economic times, will be sorely missed.

In sum, a true American success story. Loving husband, father, grandfather, professional athlete, entrepreneur, Congressman, Cabinet member, Conservative spokesman, and American patriot. A life well lived. A life to be admired and emulated.

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