The Class and Dignity of Politicians

I came down with some sort of stomach virus on Thursday evening. I won’t give you the gory details, but suffice it to say that I was down for the count. As I write this, I’m just beginning to feel like a human being once again.

Since I was all but immobilized on Friday, I lay on the living room couch all day and watched the inaugural proceedings. Usually I find these things more than boring, but in my state of semi paralysis, I was quite content to lie there in a somewhat comatose state and take it all in.

Pomp and Circumstance isn’t my thing.

For the most part, it was the usual pomp and circumstance with high-sounding words and formal traditions. But when I watch such proceedings, I try to look for the little human elements behind the story of the day. There were lots of them to be sure. But there was one thing that really spoke to me.

I was struck to see Hillary Clinton among the dignitaries sitting behind the president and he gave his inaugural address. I was particularly taken back for a couple of reasons. One: She didn’t have to be there. She wasn’t the outgoing president or vice president. She had no obligation to sit and listen to the guy against whom she had just run such a difficult campaign.

Secondly, the campaign had been such a ferocious (maybe even vicious) one, any wounds opened by the battle couldn’t have possibly been healed already. I can’t say that I would have shown up had I been in her place. It was almost like saying, “Here I am. You can pull a few scabs off if you’d like.”

Another old politician showed up as well. Former president George W. Bush was there with the other former presidents. If you followed the campaigns from the beginning (especially the Republican one) you know there was at least a little bad blood between the Bush family and Mr. Trump. I suppose former presidents normally show up for these things, but like Mrs. Clinton, he had no obligation to do so.

The word that comes to mind is “class.”

Finally (and probably more surprising to me than the other two examples I’ve mentioned) came from the pen of Dick Durbin, Senator from the state of Illinois. Mr. Durbin wrote a letter to his fellow Democrats who made their absence felt from the whole inauguration ceremony. In his words, “it is critical to a democracy that those who lose the election acknowledge the choice of the American electorate.” While no friend to Donald Trump, Durbin chose the high road and put his country ahead of his ego.

The word I have to describe each of these actions is “class.” Clinton, Bush, and Durbin each went out of their way to do what could only be seen as unifying actions. We don’t always like the people who lead our country or the people with whom we have to work. I have to give kudos to anyone who shows a little class.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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