Editor's note: A version of this piece first appeared at USAToday.com.
I have awakened on November 7 to learn that your bid for the presidency was unsuccessful. In the midst of the disappointment that I share with you, I want to thank you for devoting years of your life to the wearisome task of running for president. Millions of Americans are grateful to you.
You have been one of my heroes for the past 48 years. I still recall vividly the valiant cross country race you ran at our Cranbrook Homecoming in October of 1964—a race when you willed yourself to run faster than you ever had until, near the end, oxygen starvation set in, causing you first to stagger, then to collapse just 30 yards from the finish line. I can still see your face, ashen and contorted in pain, as you ignored the torture of the cinders on the track scraping against soft skin and began to crawl. Even though every other runner passed you, and you had nothing to gain—other than surcease of agony—from dragging yourself to the finish line, you refused to quit until you reached your goal. Your brave effort touched me deeply. That’s when I learned that you were special—a man of character, commitment, heart and guts, someone who embodied the indomitable American spirit.
I also admired your exuberant joie de vivre. You loved life, and I can see that your great capacity for love found abundantly happy fulfillment in your life with your wife and sons. I also remember your friendship with Chester, our night watchman at Cranbrook. At prep school, there can be a tendency to disregard the support staff, to take them for granted like the furniture, but you reached out to that good, simple, kind, salt-of-the-earth security guard. (Just for the record, I befriended Chester, too, during my senior year, so I feel we share that bond.)
Nobody can doubt your love for our country. Whereas your opponent concentrated on lining up support from key special interest groups, your focus was more akin to the patriotic statesman than the opportunistic politician—it was so clear that you wanted to get our country back on track. As we can now see, that wasn’t to be.