Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Politics are easy to argue, easy to complain about, easy to turn a blind eye to in ignorance or disgust. I know. I have done all of those things. I have done them in silence, I have done them aloud to the consternation of those around me, and I have done them in print as I rail my way through blogs. But the other night Jean-Marie and I did something different, we participated. How? Why? What on God’s good Earth for?!? We did it for a friend, and at the end of the evening it turned out we did it for ourselves as well.
Jean-Marie and I made a more active political effort for a candidate for El Paso County Commissioner in District 3, Alex Johnson. District 3 is not our district. Alex Johnson does not belong to a party that I often vote for, he is Republican. Alex Johnson is not seasoned, he is only 22 years old and has held no prior political office. But we have known Alex since he was a little boy through the grandmother who raised him; Nora Johnson. Through our friendship with Nora, we have watched Alex grow straight and true as most arrows shot out into the world by a truly loving and giving woman do. So when Alex told us he was running for office and asked us to host a small fund raiser for him, we agreed without hesitation.
We sat down with Alex and discussed the basics, and Jean-Marie jumped into gear. No one throws a party like my wife. We planned the evening with Nora, made lists, bought wine, made appetizers and invited friends and family. We invited a number of people, several of whom could not make it. They all had good reasons, one was in the hospital, some had children to care for, some had other commitments, and one claimed simple apathy. One dear friend, Christian could not make it because she took the time and made the effort to go to Alex’s website and didn’t agree with his politics. How could you not respect that? She did her homework, and made her apologies honestly.
Come the night of the meet and greet, we did not know what to expect. We did not know who would show up, or how would it go. We were nervous, we wanted a good night for Alex but could not guarantee it. Our eldest daughter and her family came, some friends of Nora’s showed, some friends of ours attended, and even my neighbor who was not “political” came because we needed bodies and his wife had made him. We were a mixed bag.
As the evening moved on, Jean-Marie, Nora, and I mingled. We fetched drinks. We encouraged people to eat, and we watched Alex talk one-on-one to people much older than he, and he held their attention, he engaged them. Then the most amazing thing happened. It was time for Alex to speak, and I introduced him. Alex talked, and we all listened. Jean-Marie and I who began this to help a friend, to help a young man we liked very much and were proud of, saw him in a new light. We saw him not simply as a politician, but as an honest man wanting to bring about change and do what he believed was right.
We learned that Alex had spent time as an intern to the Mayor of Colorado Springs, and following the disastrous Waldo Canyon Fire that so affected this town, the Mayor put him in a position of responsibility as the sole point of contact for homeowners and helped connect them with resources from charity, city, and county. We learned that he was editor and chief of the self-funded newspaper at Denver University The Clarion, and took it from being a financially failing business to a very profitable undertaking. We learned he had experience working for the outgoing District 3 Commissioner, that he had a strong history of experience with parks and environmental issues in the area, and much more. Most of all we learned that this bright, intelligent, and genial young man before us had a passion to help, and a passion to make a difference.
He spoke well, and we listened, but Alex truly shined when he took our questions and challenges. Respecting each question asked of him, and offering truthful and direct answers. People who had attended primarily because Jean-Marie and I and his grandmother had asked, left feeling energized and a bit awed. All of us in attendance believe the future is in the hands of the children, but to actually see a young man take up that challenge and responsibility blew us away. Even our neighbor who claimed not to be political ended the evening by saying that he wanted to look into doing a future fund raiser for Alex.
After the guests were gone, and Alex was on his way home, Jean-Marie and I talked about the evening. We talked about how impressed we were with Alex’s poise. We talked about how great the exchange between our guests and Alex was. We talked about what a success the night turned out to be. And holding hands, Jean-Marie and I quietly felt changed. I don’t agree with all his politics, but I can’t deny his integrity, I can’t deny his passion. Politics can be discussed, ideas can be exchanged and considered, but true character is rare in life and even more rare in politicians. When you see it, you know it, and cannot help but be affected by it.