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So, I’m viewing the U-T sketch of the not yet begun $90 million (maybe a bit more?) new proposed downtown library, which is apparently in jeopardy of imploding for want of construction money, community support, operating funds etc.
Cool design, no doubt.
Lots of local electeds have signed on to this (and other worthy projects) as demonstrations of their political abilities and evidence of their political “legacies”. Newspapers write stories about a politicians’ “political legacies,” its importance, etc. Seems to have little mini-engine element that makes it worth discussing.
But, in a city with our compelling financial problems, and our inability to even yet acknowledge the depth of these difficulties much less their sources, these wonderful projects are just so many fantasies. Many more in the future will be equally worthy but unavailable as result of our character problems. Oh, well.
I want to make a point here to all our elected and senior appointed soldiers out there about what your job entails as you plan for your future, or approach the end of your current offices. I’ll try to put this in delicate terms.
We (all of us) are not here forever; only for a little while.
Earlier in life it seemed (to me) like it would be forever. But, some stuff starts happening in the 40+ year’s time frame that make you more aware of life’s sneaky secret.
Movie stars you liked, and lived with in your earlier life, pass away. Some, sooner than expected. I always notice when it’s a comedian. They should live forever because we need them so much. But, they don’t.
And, some folks we personally know in the throes of life, with families and such, sometimes experience unusual and unexpected difficulties. Sometimes, they pass on; or they are redirected on matters of huge importance to family members. Sometimes they take just themselves out of the “game” and move physically or intellectually to a place of a different moment. But, they go. And when they do, they are gone. They were there just a bit ago. And now, they are not there any more.
Which brings me back to my local office holder friends and the “political legacy” thing.
I swear, nobody cares. None of focus long enough to care.
Your job is only about managing what needs to be managed today, fixing what needs to be fixed today, and being straight up about it all.
I have had the benefit of being involved in political and civic stuff going back as far and college, which was just a while ago. Met some interesting “giants” of their day. Watched, pretty close up, a lot of “legacy building” going on.
So, what strikes me starting a long while ago, is how quickly, almost instantaneously, these giants evaporate upon leaving political or business or social prominence, regardless of the cause. It would be a bit disturbing were it not so fascinating.
Certainly, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Raegan and Nixon were, among others, giants of sorts.
But the most powerful, in a political sense, of the political dogs of my lifetime was probably Lyndon Johnson. This guy pretty much ran the whole table.
He was preoccupied with his “legacy” and certainly did many remarkable things; whether appropriate in retrospect or not – certainly remarkable. The “new deal” etc.
But what was so impactful to me about this guy, is how quickly after leaving office his impact vaporized and his life ended. I mean, it seemed like about 20 minutes.
Nixon and Regan the same. Changed the world order in their times, to a certain extent. But they left office and that was pretty much it.
Which brings me to Jimmy Carter, whom I have had the privileged to meet on several occasions. Certainly had his challenges in office. I must say, I was not a big President Jimmy Carter fan in his day.
But, has there been a better ex-President than Carter in recent history? I don’t think so. To me, he is a way better ex-President than he was a President.
Which brings me back to this “legacy” thing – I know I digress a bit sometimes but I do try to bring things back around.
You go down to City Hall and there are photos all around the place of prior mayors of the City. Whole bunch of them.
And, even if you find such things fascinating, almost nobody can name any of the names, like, four mayors back.
All that “legacy” stuff that would preserve them forever. Bupkis!
The point is, you can do great things now, or not. Lots of the great things are hard things to do. Unpleasant. Hard love stuff. Get it done now stuff. No fakey-fakey stuff.
Do it. Nobody will ever remember, much less appreciate, your “Louis Vituon-ton” or your “legacy”.
But, you can do today’s job today, as unpleasant as it is, and tell it straight as you know it to be, and a lot of us will appreciate you today as one of the best ever.
That’s all you get.
[I’ll have a little something for my friends in labor tomorrow.]
– PAT SHEA