My God, what a photo.
Isn’t that spectacular?
It’s two Democrats – Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia – helping Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois up the steps. Kirk was returning to Congress for the first time in a year since suffering a stroke. Biden is reported as saying that he understood all too well what this was like, because he too made “the same walk” after he returned to the Senate following an aneurysm.
I must have stared at this for about five full minutes this morning, as I drank my coffee and read the newspaper. (I’m kind of old-fashioned that way.)
I’m often (how shall we say?) a bit critical of our elected leaders. Most recently as of yesterday’s post, as a matter of fact.
So, when I see a photo like this, it kind of makes one’s cynical heart (mine) soften a little bit – and remember what Peggy Noonan wrote in Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now. (For you young’uns, Noonan was a primary speechwriter and Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. Yeah, sometimes I actually read political stuff by Republicans.)
As I wrote in my review, Noonan writes about being at Ronald Reagan’s funeral in Washington, D.C. She describes being with “a portion of the Old America, of people who’d been raised in the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s and who knew, had been formed by, that vanished place” that June 2004 day in the Capitol. Suddenly, someone burst into the room shouting that the Capitol was being evacuated because of an incoming low-flying aircraft.
As they ran out of the Capitol, Noonan happened to turn around to see 84-year old wheelchair-bound Oatsie Charles at the top of the Capitol steps. Oatsie was “a fabled Washington social figure, pillar of the old Georgetown, friend to Presidents from J.F.K. on …. [s]he symbolizes for me the old bipartisan Washington, an old social ideal. ”
Two uniformed officers eventually carried Oatsie, in her wheelchair, down the steps. For Noonan, this gesture symbolized something greater. “Before this is over we’ll all be helping each other down the stairs.”
Again … two Democrats helping a Republican up the steps.
A photo op? Yeah, absolutely.
But, oh …would that we could always come together like this.
Would that this House could take the spirit of this moment, capture it, and remember it. Something tells me they – and we – are going to need it.
For at the end of the day, we all need a helping hand making it up (or down) the stairs, don’t we?
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