In 1955, Profiles in Courage, written by then Senator John Kennedy was released. It is a collection of 8 biographies of Senators throughout the nation’s history who, according to Kennedy, exhibited the intestinal fortitude to go against what was politically popular at the time. It included the likes of Daniel Webster, Sam Houston and John Quincy Adams.
When looking back at our political history, it does appear that there have been many political figures that have stood their ground while facing intense political opposition. In 1928, New York Governor Al Smith ran for president while supporting the repeal of prohibition and lost heavily. In the mid 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson pushed through civil rights legislation knowing that it would cost his party dearly, which it did. And in more modern times, Senator John McCain has caught the ire of his party for fighting for a compromise on immigration reform.
And while I certainly don’t claim to be in the same league as those mentioned above, I have always tried to live by the example they have set. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that politics is not about doing what is popular. It absolutely is. After all, in a democracy, the majority rules. However, as history has shown, the majority can be often times on the wrong side of history. Issues like slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and transgender rights had a majority of people in opposition. In all of these cases, it took the courage of ones convictions to do what they thought was right and go against the will of the majority and popular opinion.
But in doing so, you take your lumps. And sometimes, you end up getting kicked out of office. But I don’t believe the most successful politician is the one who stays in office longest. The most successful politician is the one who can affect the most positive change.
Over the last year, no, actually over the last several years, the issue of the Albany County Nursing Home has been front and center. It is an issue that may come to define my political career. Today, the political winds are saying to sell the facility. They are saying to abandon our county work force and turn them and our most vulnerable seniors over to a for profit corporation with a less than stellar track record. The political winds say this, but I don’t. The nursing home is not popular, it’s not sexy, it’s not glamorous but it’s something I believe in and have always believed in.
So today, I stand firm in my support for our nursing home, our seniors and our county workforce. I stand behind them because I feel that it is the right thing to do.
Will this decision impact me politically? Perhaps. Will it cause people to come after me and attack me? Most assuredly, as has already been the case. Will it cause journalists to write negative articles and opinion pieces about me? Of course. But I will never stop fighting for what I believe is right. I will never just blindly follow the political winds in order to further myself politically.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36.