Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Thoughts on Gaylord Nelson

I watched the Gaylord Nelson memorial service on TV today, and wanted to share a few thoughts.

The actual ceremony was impressive. The speeches were kind, thoughtful, and moving. It looks like Marc Marotta got a noticeably raw deal in the seating arrangement. I learned a lot about a man who I actually met once (in 1999), and was nothing but kind to me.

Personally, I often live my own life knowing that I'm building towards something, but not really knowing exactly what. I know that I'm trying to achieve something, I just don't have clear cut goals. I figure that at some point my lack of desire, my body, or my wife will tell me when I'm done building, and I can move on into retirement, play golf, and let people who are my age now run the show. I can then look back and judge what I did, and hopefully it all adds up.

Gaylord Nelson lived a different life altogether. He had specific and lofty goals. He built and built and built, and never stopped. When doors closed on him, he opened them. Despite his enormous accomplishments, including his time as Governor and Senator, he kept working and attaining until his death. There was no time to sit back and reflect, as he always saw problems that needed fixing.

When we die, all that is left of us are the memories that we leave with our friends and families, along with our tangible living accomplishments. Your sprit stays alive in the positive experiences you provide others. The endless stream of kind words spoken at the memorial service today showed that Gaylord Nelson will be alive for generations. If I have friends remember me half as fondly as today's remembrances, I will think I did alright (although it is unlikely Walter Mondale will be attending my funeral).

These are lessons, I think, that resonate regardless of your political affiliation. If someone neglects drawing inspiration from someone's spirit and determination based on their political beliefs, then they really are missing out.

Now back to the off-color jokes.