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The Galveston Daily News Mast Head

Head shot of Bill SargentBill Sargent is one of three former Congressional District 14 primary candidates who writes a weekly
column for the Daily News. 
See their column every Monday
on the Opinion page.

We Need Men and Women of Character in Leadership

I’d like to talk about what it means to be people of principle and character. Having served on Capitol Hill I had the opportunity to see and work with a lot of Members of Congress and their staffs.  Unfortunately many were politicians and not people of principle.  There were, however, some who stood out by their character.  But before I talk about that, let me define some terms.

Principles are something a person is willing to die for.  They are not taken lightly and are the foundation for a person’s belief system.  When faced with ridicule and even negative public opinion a principled person will not retreat from doing what is right.

Jack Kemp exemplified this.  He was a man of character and Former Football Quarterback, Congressman and Vice Presidential Candidate Jack Kemp principle who did things that were right, not based on political considerations.   Back in the 1970s I was attending a church in Virginia.  Because I worked on the Hill they asked me to arrange for twenty 12-year-olds to visit with Christian Members of Congress so the congressmen could talk about how their faith helped them do their jobs. 

The first person I talked with was Frank Wolf (R-VA), a person I had known before he became a Congressman.  Getting Frank to participate was easy because the parents of the boys and girls were his constituents. 

Then I dropped by Jack’s office who was also a friend and fellow believer.  Jack’s staff said he had three other things scheduled at the time we were to meet and would not be able to make it but they took down the information anyway.  The day of the event came and Frank was talking with the kids.  Part way through the meeting Jack came in.  Now to these children Jack was the former quarterback of the Buffalo Bills not a Congressman!  But Jack spent 30 minutes with them.  I walked out of the room with him and told him how much we appreciated him taking the time to do this.  I will never forget Jack’s response:  “Bill, this was the most important thing I had to do today.  They won’t remember who I am, but hopefully they will remember the importance of the faith that guides the two of us.”  Jack had absolutely nothing to gain in making the choice to come.  These kids were from Virginia and he represented a district in upstate New York.  But from an eternal perspective Jack made the right choice.

What we need in Congress right now, more than ever, are people who will make these kinds of decisions -- men and women of character who will do the right thing and not base their decisions on political advancement.