It’s About Service

Armstrong Williams

9/25/2012 9:58:00 AM - Armstrong Williams
Friday night, I threw a party at one of my favorite places in Washington, the Monocle, celebrating the career of my friend, Congressman Edolphus Towns of New York and his wife of 50 years Gwen. The evening went perfectly, with hundreds of guests coming to honor this Member of Congress, many of them from New York and across the nation.

Now, a lot of people are surprised when I tell them that I, a conservative, am friends with a Democrat. It only surprises them further when I tell them that Representatives Rangel, Clyburn, and Meeks (between them, the better part of a century of service in Congress) were also in attendance, and that they are individuals I have tremendous respect for as well.

Each Member of Congress took his turn paying tribute to Representative Towns, recounting particularly telling anecdotes, and each emphasizing different aspects of the man that they appreciate.

It is a sad commentary on our republic when people are surprised that Republicans and Democrats can get along. What should be shocking is the opposite: the bitter spirit of competitiveness.

Congressman Towns is a great friend, and a great man. He has served his country. Did I agree with every vote he ever made? No. But is there any Member of Congress whose views perfectly match your own? It’s not about that; I’m perfectly capable of having friends who disagree with me, even on fundamental issues; people don’t need to have the exact same thoughts as I have.

It’s about service. Congressman Towns has served his constituency for decades, and there’s a reason why he stayed in office: because he did his job, because he represented them, because he served them as their voice in the halls of power.

He loves this country just as much as I do (and that’s a lot). We might not agree on a particular policy issue, but in the grand scheme of things, we want America to thrive, the standard of living to rise, and peace and harmony to spread in our day.

A friend of mine and I the other day were discussing the different seasons of life, and how times of difficulty can be, in the long run, beneficial. He told me that, despite being stuck in a job that he didn’t like, and struggling to make ends meet, he felt as though God wanted him to be there to meet certain people at the right times.

I was struck by what he said and I remembered a line of C.S. Lewis: “there are no ordinary people.” Everyone is unique, everyone is irreplaceable, and everyone is immortal. All of this other stuff—the votes, the money, the material realm—will be rolled up like a scroll on the Last Day, but people—whether it’s your mother or the man on the bus next to you—will still exist.

Representative Towns the man is infinitely more important and more valuable than his voting record, than his political party, than his income, than anything else. He is important to me not as a Member of Congress but as a man, as a beloved child of God.

That’s something that we all need to remember in this election season. I know that I have to remind myself of it sometimes. People have forgotten that the other side—whether that’s the Democrats or the Republicans—ultimately want America to be the best she can be. We now just assume that the other side doesn’t mean what they say or has some hidden agenda, and this attitude is corrosive to the civic spirit necessary to maintaining our republic.

I remember when, on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, massive protests broke out at Chick-Fil-A locations across the country. It was a hot August day, and, at one location at least, Chick-Fil-A employees brought free water out to the very people who were protesting their company. That impressed me very much; it’s a model that we all need to follow of loving the person first, and treating ideas as ideas—falsifiable propositions about reality. A man’s ideas don’t need to become his label; we don’t have to reduce people to an opinion or two of theirs.

I pray that God will continue to bless my good friends across the aisle, and that He will bless America more than ever.