Profiles In Courage; Profiles In Cowardice

In 1955, a young Senator from Massachusetts, John F Kennedy, wrote a book while recovering from surgery on his back about Senators who exemplified courage to either speak out against injustice or bad policy. The book was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 and became a best seller. A few years later the author was elected the 35th President of the United States. 

One of the Senators profiled in the book was Edmund G, Ross from Kansas who bucked his Republican party to vote against convicting President Andrew Johnson in the impeachment trial in May 1868. As it turned out his vote was the seventh Republican vote to acquit the President of violating the Tenure of Office Act that forbade the President from dismissing any cabinet official without approval from Congress. Ross believed that the act was an unconstitutional restriction of the presidential authority and gave Congress too much power.

As a result of Ross’ vote, the President escaped removal from office which infuriated Republicans. Ross was a first term Senator and he lost his bid for re-election two years later in 1870. But he is profiled in this book because he put his political career on the line because he believed in the constitutional system of checks and balances. The Tenure of Office Act was repealed in 1887 and a similar act was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1926.

Another Senator profiled in JFK’s book was Senator Sam Houston from Texas. He spoke out against the Kansas – Nebraska Bill in 1854 calling for those two territories to decide by popular vote whether to be admitted as free or slave states. He believed that it violated the Missouri Compromise. As a result, he lost his seat in the Senate. But he gained enough support to become the governor of Texas.

Later he refused to be inaugurated as governor after Texas voted for secession and joined the confederacy, as he was opposed to secession. He spent his last years ostracized by the state he helped form. But the city bearing his name is now the nation’s fourth largest city.

Throughout our nation’s history Americans have had to make a choice to stand up for their principles against popular opinion and belief at great risk to their careers or lives. That is what inspired John F Kennedy to write that book in 1955.

However, in the present day it seems that courage in politics is a quality that is lacking in our elected officials. This is especially true in the congress where it seems that bucking the party line is political suicide. Ohio’s junior Senator Rob Portman comes to mind. He is no doubt a very competent person and nice guy who actually cares about the nation and the people of Ohio. Yet when he has to choose whether to follow the party line or his conscience; he almost always follows the party line.

Recently Senator Portman decided not to run for a third term in the Senate in 2022. Perhaps the conflict between his conscience and the realities of going against the party line in the Senate was too much. It was obvious that during Donald Trump’s presidency that Senator Portman was uncomfortable with the direction his Republican party was going. But rather than speaking out as a voice of moderation, he chose to give up his seat in the Senate.

We admire those who exhibit courage on the battlefield or in the cause of democracy and justice and build monuments to those people. They live in our history from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr; people who put their life on the line for what they believed was right.

Very often the easy way out is the coward’s way out. But cowards are seldom remembered and often reviled in history. But it was the courage of those men on July 4 1776 who put their lives, liberty and sacred honor on the line when they signed that document knowing full well that if the fight for independence failed that they would certainly be hanged as traitors. It is because of the courage of those men as well as countless other men and women throughout our history who showed courage when it was needed despite the risk to their lives and career that the rest of us can celebrate the 245th anniversary of our independence next month.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

Read More on Opinion
Volume 13, Issue 6, Posted 11:21 AM, 06.01.2021