Part I – That Was Then: “The Good Old Days”
Oh the memories of better days. Reminiscing on how things were so much better than now. Well, not always. In 1972, as I was full blown into State-wide politics, I paid $70.00 for a haircut from “Don of the Regency” (the “pols”, including my guy Dan Walker, went there). Today I pay $10 to Great Clips and get a better haircut (I tip $10 because I feel so guilty).
Not too many years ago, I spent $500 for an Oppo Blue Ray DVD player. You can get as good today for under $100. I have old, used JBL speaker systems that cost four to five thousand dollars 50 years ago, picked up used recently for hundreds. Still the best, they just require very large rooms (like cathedrals) but – wow!
Technological innovations to (almost) everything, including your car, travel, communication, and many other things, are a better value (financially) today than yesteryear.
Were people really kinder, wiser, and more civil before? I’m not so sure; we tend to remember only the good stuff. On the other hand, business ethics are as bad as ever with big oil, Wall Street, and the largely uncontrolled pharmaceutical industry leading the way with all kinds of chemicals to address every ill. Pharma makes a fortune on such things as laxatives when, in those good old days there existed a cheap, reusable, home remedy hanging on the back of the bathroom door, good for almost anything. Think about it. But I digress.
Part II – This Is Now : “Gatherings”
The now, for many of us increasingly, is the loss of a loved one or a dear friend or a celebration of an event for a person—living or deceased– each of which often results in a gathering to share the grief or joy. Each gathering is also an opportunity, even though there may have been a personal loss, for joy, reflection, lessons, and growth that provides the fuel to carry on our lives with renewed dedication.
On Saturday, April 13th, 2013, I was part of such a gathering at Northwestern University Law School, to commemorate the values of a life well lived. The event was not publicized in any way, yet every seat in the auditorium was filled with some of the most important people I know. While true that many were household names (at least to a politically astute household), most going back to the 1970 Constitutional Convention, many were responsible for bringing hope and some change to the otherwise mediocre, and too often corrupt, world of Illinois politics. Yes, there were a multitude of elected officials, state and federal, the judiciary, Congress, a letter from the White House, etc., but everyone else in the room were the people who got them there. The speakers needed no introduction, in fact received none (if you didn’t know who they were then you didn’t belong in the room in the first place). All were there in celebration of the life and legacy of Dawn Clark Netsch, State Senator, first woman to hold a state-wide office as Comptroller, Constitutional Law Professor, and candidate for governor. Had more listened (and cared) when she ran for governor, as “the straight shooting candidate,” we would not have the fiscal crisis that we face today. Dawn Clark Netsch was respected by all, supported by too few, and represented a politics of integrity and reform we too rarely see.
As I made my way though the reception (waiting of course for someone to come up and recognize me), everyone I met was someone interesting to know. Yet I found myself feeling somewhat melancholy, thinking this was all there is, or was. That this is all that is left of people who stood for something good. Yes, the good old days. Hopefully that is not true. Hopefully there are others who will continue to take principled stances about our politics, society, and our profession.
For us, so far survivors, we must maintain our efforts to keep dreams alive, preserve our love for others, and to make the world a better place than we found it. Dawn’s memorial, like so many others we see, is the sharing of a common interest, in this case political, but also like the others, a sharing of the values of joy and, yes, loss.
Let us never, while we are here, give up those values, and their importance in the profession we now enjoy. The good old days are now. God bless you all, and I’ll see ya around the vineyard. ■