Even President Reagan's critics acknowledged that he was a true leader, but it has taken time and the publication of his handwritten diaries and speeches for some people to recognize the intellectual skills that those of us who worked with him saw first-hand.
But there were also Democrats I admired -- even when I didn't always agree with them. Former Vice President and Senator Hubert Humphrey was a gentleman to the end of his long political life in 1978. I first met him when I was a young lobbyist walking the halls of Congress. And even as he fought cancer, he never failed to be the "happy warrior," as he was known, with a smile and a kind word for everyone he met.
Unfortunately, I've also encountered some downright mean-spirited and arrogant politicians. I won't name names, but suffice it to say that they can be found on both sides of the political aisle. I won't miss having to deal with the outsized egos Washington breeds, but I will miss the many good friends and colleagues I've worked with over the years.
I leave Washington to return to my childhood roots in Colorado. I've lived almost two-thirds of my life in the East, but the West is in my blood. I'll still be commenting on what goes on inside the Beltway, but with a new perspective. I'll call on the insights I've earned working in Washington, but now I'll be looking in from the outside, like most Americans.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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