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Arlen Specter just died.
As I opened my browser window the home page had his picture and the announcement of his death. And I involuntarily exhaled on a heartfelt groan.
Most people will recall him as the long time moderate Senator who represented the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for over thirty years. Some will remember him as the man who was legal counsel for the Warren Commission.
He rose to prominence in the 1960s as an assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, developing the single-bullet theory in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Some will remember working with him. Some will remember working against him. All will recall him as a consummate professional.
I was privileged to have met with him a few times … and each time was memorable for its own reasons. And always I was struck by his sincerity …
I recall the first time I met Senator Specter.
It was back during the time of the impeachment efforts toward President Clinton. Senator Specter was in town along with our local Representative to present a rather large check for funding on the project I was programming for the local Center for Advanced Technology. As one of the first uses of the Internet in the Classroom, our curriculum allowing middle school students to pretend they were futuristic space travelers gained a lot of attention and awards.
Since I had the opportunity to speak privately with Senator Specter, I said to him “I would encourage you to vote against the impeachment of the President. As close as I can tell unless my name is Hillary, what he does in his private life is none of my business. We just don’t care. What we do care about is that he is doing a good job as President.”
Somehow I suspect I was not the only person with this suggestion.
In the Senate, … he was long regarded as its sharpest legal mind.
For those of you who recall the vote, Senator Specter was a brave voice among many. Citing Scottish law, Mr. Specter voted “not proven,” then added “therefore not guilty.”
At that point he earned my total respect, and constant vote … although I cannot recall any time that I did not vote for him.
His strength of character and compassion for those in need made him someone who was deserving of the popular support he enjoyed, and we were fortunate to have him representing us.
Our last conversation was quoted in the Altoona Mirror, where I was referred to as “Baby Boomer Holly Holdren” … which I am.
The discussion revolved around the upcoming bills regarding health care … which would come to be known as Obamacare. For those of us who have no insurance, this is an issue which voters rely upon.
Senator Specter said “Holly, I think we’re going to cover you.” … and I had no doubt that he would do everything in his power to try to make that happen.
As a moderate and as a professional, he was someone who did not play political games with important issues as is done all too often in the Congress now. Bipartisan efforts were part of what made him as successful as he was.
Politics needs more people like him … not fewer. I was honored to have met him.
He will be missed.