Here’s to the Experienced Ones…
Sometimes, the smartest people are those who’ve lived it.
As a 22 year old aspiring to my first elected position, I had the good fortune of meeting Bob Crable, who at one point over his 50-year involvement in local and state politics was the youngest Democratic Committee Chairman and who, in 2007, became the oldest.
There is something to be said for institutional knowledge. Through his guidance and that of his good friend, Jeanne Goldstein, I learned tips and tricks that helped immensely during the campaign, especially which people inside and outside the party to connect with as an upstart public servant.
Crable’s contemporary, Rockland County Legislator John Murphy, is another person whose knowledge earned over many years is deserving of respect.
Choosing to navigate dicey waters in New York State, just as the recession hit hardest in 2008 and into 2009, John Murphy saw opportunity in the army surplus land on Washington Avenue in Tappan. Part of Camp Shanks, where 1.2 million soldiers stayed and trained before leaving for WWII’s European front, Legislator Murphy, a former Marine himself, wanted to help those returning from today’s unofficial but equally dangerous wars. Last year, in 2011, Senator Chuck Schumer and Legislator Murphy broke ground on the project.
There was controversy in Orangetown as well, with residents who lived in the area grossly misinformed by few who speculated on the “quality” of people who’d be living in the veteran’s home. Anyone who has put his or her life on the line for my country is welcome in my backyard, and Legislator Murphy navigated that controversy too.
For his work in Rockland, Sparkill’s historic Christ Church is holding an award dinner in his name at the historic Old ’76 House. Would he have been able to accomplish the same feats thirty years earlier, at the beginning of his political career? It’s hard to speculate but certainly I can speculate that the knowledge earned over many years of political survival and accomplishment helped make this historic project come to relatively rapid fruition, especially in contrast to Orangetown’s Rockland Psychiatric Center property, which still sits vacant after nearly a decade.
But one is not necessarily deserving of respect just because he has knowledge gained over many years in the arena. Some would say that this was Newt Gingrich’s downfall. For all of his eloquence and smart political acumen, his years of decisions one way or another made it difficult for his party to fully support him.
There is an important message for those who are new to the arena, whose face is not yet marred by dust and sweat and blood, to paraphrase the great Teddy Roosevelt. Newcomers, independent of age or professional accomplishment, would do well to listen to and learn from those who’ve come before, not to mimic and imitate but to absorb, discuss, and then decide what to do with that wisdom earned over so many years before.
Humility in one’s knowledge goes a long way and is critical to the survival and influence of any organization, political or not.