Oftentimes a defining characteristic for a public official is not how he wields power and conducts himself when in office, but instead how he concedes defeat and exits the public stage. Some, like former House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill choose to exit the stage without the voters tossing them out and and do so with grace and dignity.
That Democrat set a pattern that all federal legislators should emulate, returning to the jurisdiction which elected him, where he wrote his memoir (a quite good one at that), enjoyed being a grandfather and watching the Red Sox play ball (among other things).
Although his former House colleague did not exit the stage as willingly as he and while she continued to play a role in her party’s politics even after her defeat, Geraldine Ferraro conducted herself with no less dignity on the public stage than did O’Neill. Indeed, in her final years, as a regular guest on FoxNews, she did much to promote her party’s agenda to a more conservative audience — and show that one could defend liberal ideas without insulting or otherwise belittling conservative individuals.
She, like other liberal regulars on FoxNews, including former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, mastered the art of civil discourse in the sound-byte format of discussions on a TV news network. She showed considerable respect for her ideological adversaries — and demonstrated an understanding of their ideas, all the while speaking her mind.
When she died on Saturday, politicos, reporters and pundits cited her many accomplishments, including the one event which earned her a place in the history books, her nomination as the Democratic candidate for the Vice Presidency in 1984, the first woman to serve on a major party’s ticket, it is important also to remember how nobly she conducted herself long after that nomination thrust her into the national limelight, particularly in the twilight of her life.
She provided an example that all public figures should emulate. On both sides of the political aisle. A true stateswoman she.
UPDATE: Michael Barone offers a nice tribute here.