I was sometimes very happy with Senator Arlen Specter (D and R and D-Pennsylvania), but, much more often, quite displeased. And, while I’ve admired his serious involvement with the fight against world hunger over the past couple of decades, I opposed Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota) when he ran for the presidency and strongly disagreed with him on many issues.
But the news that Senator Specter died the other day of cancer, and that Senator McGovern is now in hospice care, and presumably dying, transcends political disagreement. And it reminds us of what we all know, but sometimes almost forget: Great power and fame and influence are, in the long term, no more effective than great wealth in saving us from age, disease, and death.
As Samuel Johnson once said, the prospect of the hangman’s noose concentrates the mind wonderfully.
Years ago, I happened upon an old cemetery in Princeton, New Jersey. So I decided to wander through it. There, if I recall correctly, I found the grave of the famous preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who had once presided over what later became Princeton University. And there, too, I found, by sheer chance, the otherwise unremarkable grave of a former president of the United States. Just there among all the others. Not particularly elaborate. I don’t even remember which one it was. Late nineteenth-century, as I recall.
Food for thought.