Jack knew freedom wasn’t just for Americans, either. We were walking through Red Square in 1990 when he announced, “We’ve won. This system is dead.” How could he be so sure? He had noticed that the line at the new McDonald’s was much longer than the line at Lenin’s Tomb. It was an observation that eluded some of our nation’s best spy masters at the time. Given a choice, people select freedom over tyranny, capitalism over command-and-control. We had, indeed, won.
Jack believed in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. He was an eternal optimist. He liked to say he’d been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy during his football career, so there wasn’t much else mere politicians could do to him.
That made it easier for him to reach out to members of the other party. It’s why Joe Lieberman, Charlie Rangel and many other prominent Democrats joined George H. W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich at his memorial service.
Politics wasn’t personal for Jack; it was a means to an end, a method of spreading his good ideas of freedom and opportunity. And the only way to grow his party, he knew, was to spread freedom. The two goals went hand-in-hand.
History will celebrate Kemp’s shimmering legacy. His exuberant personality is irreplaceable. But his optimistic agenda lives on, and -- as he knew -- eventually will prevail.
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