At a fundraiser in Peekskill the other day, one of the guests used the opportunity of a Q&A session to praise the featured speaker … for not being a political extremist. What a quaint notion that.
“I want to thank you for being here,” said the guest to the guest of honor, ”because your obviously humanistic worldview is a breath of fresh air in today’s toxic political climate.”
I was the one making the statement. It was directed at one George Pataki, three-time Governor of New York (1995-2007) and an all-time favorite son of Peekskill, where he served as Mayor (1981-1984), and where he grew up on his family farm. “Wherever I am at any time,” said he, “I’ve always been and always will be a Peekskill guy.”
Mr. Pataki was the star attraction at a benefit for Peekskill Museum, held at the Factoria on Charles Point, to commemorate its 75th anniversary.
Remarks made by the Governor clearly reflected his well-known affinity for speaking his mind freely, and collegially, without the crude rancor or partisan parlor tricks that rule the binary politics of today, where winning alone isn’t good enough without the other side being demeaned in the process.
Mr. Pataki, who at 6’5” stands tall in more ways than one, embodies the kind of sensible and even-handed statesman who has become an endangered species in today’s mind-numbing politics of mutual destruction.
As Peekskill Museum President George Oros put it, George Pataki governed “with integrity, inclusion, intelligence.” Our current binary brand of “politricks” is begging to be replaced by something closer to his brand of bipartisan politics.
Mr. Pataki remarked on being a Republican Governor in a heavily Democratic state. “I was always surrounded by people I disagreed with, but I was always able to talk civilly to find common ground.” What a quaint notion that.
Do we dare find it encouraging that more people in the U.S. identify politically as independent rather than as obedient to either major party? The independent-minded person is inclined to think freely, outside strict party doctrine, which is, as George Pataki might say, thinking for oneself rather than being told what to think.
And if you really think about it, the biggest, most powerful party of all is each of us as autonomous individuals who exercise unencumbered freedom of thought.
We all are a Party of One. So let’s start acting like it.