TERRE HAUTE —
It can happen to one of the nation’s most revered, principled, effective, hard-working U.S. senators.
And, if it hasn’t already, it can happen to you.
In fact, there’s a lesson for all of us in the final chapter of Richard Lugar’s Senate career — our jobs are not permanent.
Just as voters did with Lugar in his Indiana primary loss to Republican challenger Richard Mourdock on Tuesday, someone someday could deliver the message, “Your services are no longer required.” The circumstances vary. The company could go out of business. Your dismissal could come in the form of a layoff, as a corporation (choose the appropriate euphemism) downsizes, streamlines, gets leaner, or maximizes its efficiencies. You might get fired for an egregious mistake, or simply forced to step aside in favor of a younger, less-expensive replacement. The bad news might come out of the blue, with nothing more than a “thanks for being a team player, but the firm has decided to go in a different direction.”
In every case, the bottom line is, they’re done with you.
All of those long hours. Showing up on time, day after day, even when sick. Sacrificing personal time to get the job done.
When left to ponder those lost ticks of the second-hand while staring at a new gold watch, many folks will be reminded of that classic George Carlin bit about a parent coping with an ungrateful youngster. After grumbling and rattling off a string of taken-for-granted tasks a mother had silently performed, the woman asks her kid in exasperation, “That’s the thanks I get?”
In a matter-of-fact voice, Carlin delivers her answer …
“That’s the thanks,” he says, pausing for dramatic effect, “you get.”
Lugar, likewise, would be justified in wondering what the heck happened to his support among those he serves. In 2006, Hoosiers elected him to a sixth term with 87 percent of the vote. Republicans, Democrats, independents, almost anyone short of the staunchest left-wingers appreciated the fact that Lugar’s reputation for wisdom allowed an often-overlooked state to have its voice heard regularly in Washington. Six years ago, when Lugar was chosen as one of America’s 10 best senators by Time magazine, former colleague Bob Kerrey praised the example Lugar set through independent thinking and conviction.
“He is a quiet, intelligent, steady force,” Kerrey said in that 2006 story. But, Kerrey added, “He’s unmovable when he reaches a conclusion about what ought to be done.”
The phrase “reaches a conclusion” implies the weighing of various options in a situation. That means Lugar considered different viewpoints, then made a firm decision and stuck by it. Unmovable. Ironically, he lost Tuesday’s primary for being too movable. Compromise is the problem, his opponent declared. Should we assume then that if Mourdock wins the fall election, Hoosiers with viewpoints outside his rigid ideology will not be considered when he casts Senate votes?
Lugar listened, then decided. That style earned him respect in Indiana, the nation and around the globe.
In 2012 politics, the process is reversed — decide, then pretend to listen and yet remain unmovable. Lugar’s approach is so 2006, like a cellphone without a Facebook app.
Yes, attributes that once made us valuable could become our liabilities someday.
To be sure, Lugar hastened his own ouster by campaigning at first rather cavalierly, as if it were 2006, and then in a desperate, uncharacteristically low-road fashion. It wasn’t until final few weeks that he recognized the likelihood that he could lose the job he’s fulfilled with a 98-percent attendance record over 36 years.
Occasionally, you’ll hear someone boast, “Yeah, I haven’t missed a day’s work in 22 years. Even showed up the Monday after my appendectomy.” A couple years later, the same person might be told, “The company’s restructuring. This location is closing. It’s no reflection on you. Your work has been great. Best wishes.”
The co-author of the book “Work Won’t Love You Back” suggested in an interview with the medical-advice website WebMD.com that Americans should guard their personal and family time. “Stop checking email and cellphones so often,” said Stevan Hobfoll, a Kent State University psychology professor and co-writer of the book. “Few people are so important that they need their cellphones on at all times.” He also advised people to make their work hours productive but not more numerous.
Why? Jobs, businesses, even entire industries can end faster than we expect. As vital as it is, we’d better have more in our lives — faith, family, friends, volunteerism — than employment when that inevitable day comes.
For the 80-year-old Lugar, the blow arrives with an incredibly soft cushion, thanks to a solid Senate pension and all the prestige and perks that go with it. Unlike most octogenarians, Lugar’s vitality gives him other career options, such as a cabinet position (perhaps even on the cabinet of, gasp, President Obama should he win in November). As a lifelong runner, it would be heartening to see Lugar carve out extra time to participate in 5Ks in places he’d like to visit — turn off that cellphone, and guard that personal time he’s sacrificed.
Lugar also can ease the sting of his defeat with the realization that his quiet, methodical efforts made a difference — the deactivation of 6,828 “loose nukes” scattered around the former Soviet republics a decade before terrorists used jetliners to attack New York and Washington on 9/11, shepherding elements of unsexy-but-important farm legislation, and toiling relentlessly to expand the use of alternative fuels instead of war-saddled oil.
That said, the reality is that times change. That was then, and this is now. Thanks, Sen. Lugar, but the party has decided to move in a different direction. Nothing personal. Best wishes.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
It can happen to one of the nation’s most revered, principled, effective, hard-working U.S. senators.
- News Columns
MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana
Oh, it’s on.
If there was any doubt that the coming fight over the same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana was going to be elevated to the national level, it’s gone.
Chamber: Repeal ‘smoker’s bill of rights’
When Indiana lawmakers return for the 2014 session in early January, they’ll step into the highly charged issue of marriage equality as they debate the proposed amendment that would lock into the state constitution a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?
I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
Citizens fight for school funds
Never underestimate the power of high school band parents.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Pence eyes reducing infant mortality as key legislative goal for administration
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence opened the state’s Infant Mortality Summit last week by sharing a personal story: He and his wife had struggled with infertility issues early in their marriage, so the eventual arrival of their three children was met with deep gratitude and appreciation.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife
My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.
MAX JONES: Fight for public access among Dave Cox’s legacies
A group of Indiana newspaper editors who advise the Hoosier State Press Association on issues related to access to public records and meetings had the opportunity to meet new Public Access Counselor Luke Britt last week.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Déjà vu, courtesy of violinist prodigy
It’s been said that the longer married couples stay together, the more they begin to think alike. I can’t refute that, although, for my wife’s sake, I hope a similar theory — that they begin to look alike, too — is far from true.
America, falling behind global peers
As Congress was descending further into dysfunction last week, this discouraging piece of news emerged: Despite how we Americans insist that we’re the best and brightest people on the globe, we’re not.
MAX JONES: Ernie Pyle’s IU legacy should be preserved
As an alum of Indiana University-Bloomington, where I received a bachelor’s degree in journalism many moons ago, I’ve been watching with keen interest the ongoing discussion about merging the School of Journalism with other areas of communications, such as PR and filmmaking, inside the College of Arts & Sciences.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The beauty, spirit of a ‘lonely’ bridge
It was the best kind of day a few Saturdays ago: not quite 70 degrees, a slight breeze from the northwest barely pushed flat-bottomed white clouds around in an otherwise blue sky.
B.J. RILEY: Special Progress sections spotlight growth in Wabash Valley
Inserted in your Tribune-Star today is our annual Progress edition, “Community Update 2013.” This is the fifth year we have put together this type of publication, an effort months in the making.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
Debate: Investing in early-childhood education
Should Indiana children wait until they are 7 years old before they step into a classroom?
Health care costs Hoosiers either way
In the war over the Affordable Care Act, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence won a policy victory when the Obama administration gave him a temporary pass to continue with the Healthy Indiana Plan, a high-deductible health insurance program that covers only 37,000 low-income Hoosiers.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
Same-sex marriage ban tests ‘Hoosier hospitality’
In a recent column I wrote when I visited Washington, D.C., as the city was preparing to host the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, I asked the questions: “Will we see diversity as a threat to our seemingly secure world? Or will we embrace it as a strength?”
MIKE LUNSFORD: It isn’t the end but it is the beginning of the end …
I had every intention of writing about Labor Day today; it has become a tradition of sorts for me because it seems as though my column and the holiday have an annual convergence. But as I thumbed through a number of other stories I’d written on the subject, I felt I had nothing new to say.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
Anniversary of March cause for introspection
Many years ago, when I was a high school senior visiting college campuses, I met with an adviser at Indiana University whose job included recruiting new students to campus.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MIKE LUNSFORD: A long day’s journey into night
We arrived at the sprawling hulk of a motel well after dark, the parking lot pitch black except for a few spots illuminated by flickering blue lights that hummed a monotonous tune.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MIKE LUNSFORD: Searching for Beulah Jane
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s Mike Lunsford column is the second in a two-part story on his search to solve a family mystery. Part 1 was published in Monday’s Tribune-Star. Both are available at www.tribstar.com.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The girl who wasn’t my grandmother
EDITOR’S NOTE: We travel this week with Mike Lunsford on a journey across miles and memories, as he seeks answers to a long-ago family mystery. Today’s column is the first of a two-part story. Part II will run Tuesday.
- More News Columns Headlines
- MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana