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Comebacks and Courage

Our society is very harsh and we tend to caste judgment all too easily.  This is especially true when our leaders fail or fall, and the temptation to “bring them down to earth” proves too tasty.  We’ve all witnessed that piling on effect and have seen lives and careers destroyed under the weight of it.  In fact, we have all been a part of it more often than we’d probably care to admit.  It is one of our most unfortunate human tendencies to be fueled by envy and to be moved to reduce others to our levels of perceived futility.  Our most recent victim was Lance Armstrong, but he is just one in a very long list.  Clearly these individuals are not victims, no one is.  They have contributed to their own downfall to be sure, but the unsavory delight that we the public experience at these moments of others’ pain is troubling to be sure, and generally relegates the “offender” to a life of purgatory.
 It is thus especially noteworthy when someone perseveres against all odds and remakes himself after a significant public fall from grace as Mark Sanford has done last week when he was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives as the Congressman from South Carolina’s first district.  I had the privilege to witness Congressman Sanford’s powerful swearing in ceremony on the floor of the House of Representatives, where after a stirring speech thanking the “God of Second Chances,” and acknowledging his family in attendance, including his mom, sister, his two eldest sons, two nephews, and the love of his life, his new fiancĂ©, he received that rarest thing in D.C. – a bipartisan standing ovation. 

In point of fact, I’ve had the good fortune to know the Congressman well for the past few years, and have borne close witness to the personal journey that he has been on.  In these years he has attempted to balance the responsibilities of being a good parent to his four sons, finding a way to make the long distance relationship (South Carolina-Buenos Aires) with the love of his life work, and searching for how he will return to a life of productivity and personal meaning in the face of the vitriolic hostility the world heaped upon him.  In those years in his personal desert, when many left his side and he stood mostly alone to reconcile himself, the Congressman never lost his smile.  He never once complained.  He never once blamed another.  He had doubts about his future for sure, but he never lost hope and never abandoned his dream of returning to the one activity that was his only true calling – public service.

Life is a difficult journey and we are all tested, and there comes a time in all of our lives when we inevitably fail to live up to our own ideal.  It is at these moments that we find out who it is we really are and how much strength we have to persevere.  I am proud to call Mark Sanford my friend and grateful that he has returned to his rightful place as a leader for our nation.  He has never been more qualified.  He used to be a fine standard-bearer for the conservative movement.  Now, after these years of anguish, self-discovery, and personal growth Mark has shown that he is a true leader and his return to prominence is a triumph to be celebrated by us all. He has walked a very impressive walk and the bipartisan show of appreciation that he received on the House floor was a message that courage and perseverance are still qualities worthy of admiration by all Americans.

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