The eternal search throughout history seems to be the search for an honest person; someone who will stand by what they believe regardless of the consequences; someone who will speak truth to power, maintaining their integrity. Mitt Romney was such a man this past week. The news said there were four listeners in the Senate chamber when he spoke, but his words were recorded and now the whole world knows what he said:
As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.
Romney’s humility extended beyond his vote when he concluded
I will only be one name among many, no more, no less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong. We are all footnotes at best in the annals of history, but in the most powerful nation on Earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that distinction is enough for any citizen.
Unfortunately history does not abound in people of great virtue or honesty, so when they do appear, it is important their words be remembered. It is in literature we see evidence of this search for the greatness of truth. Percy Bysshe Shelley in his poem “Ozymandias” describes a desert scene of desolation wrought by a man who refused to listen to his conscience and instead turned to greed, power and corruption:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
There is nothing left of his kingdom, only emptiness.
And Rudyard Kipling spoke clearly of the vanities of human power. Romney can remain true to what he believes as a Republican, but he felt he answered to a higher truth.
If you can keep your head when all about you others
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
There is nothing that can destroy an honest man or woman. We wish our leaders at every level of power, and the promise of our children could take on this value and keeping it alive and burning ever brightly.