Saturday, May 2, 2009

We lose another giant

Word comes tonight that Jack Kemp has passed away at the age 0f 73, following a battle with cancer.

We met only a couple of times, but I was a great admirer, in part because he had great success in two fields - sports and politics - that I've been fortunate enough to be involved in. He was an outstanding quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, winning two AFL Championships and an MVP award, and after his football career he went on to become a congressman from the Buffalo area. A strong believer in free-market principles, he co-authored the Kemp-Roth tax cuts that were at the heart of the Reagan economic recovery.

He believed there was almost no problem that couldn't be solved by greater free enterprise. He worked tirelessly to promote "enterprise zones" as a way to revitalize inner cities, recognizing the failure of the "Great Society" programs of the 1960s. Later he became secretary of HUD under the first President Bush, and was Bob Dole's running mate in 1996. He loved to call himself a "bleeding heart Republican."

What I'll remember most is the handshake. Early in his football career, he had a severly broken hand, and he insisted that the doctors set the middle finger of his right hand in a curve, so that he could continue to properly grip a football. It was odd to shake his hand and see the finger bowed out. (You can get a sense of it in this photo.)

It was memorable in the same was it was always a little odd to do the left-handed hand shake with Bob Dole.

A warrior on the field, and in the political arena, he loved his country and brought tireless energy towards making it better.

Rest in peace.

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