On the day before an election, particularly one this long, it is hard to lift my head, look out over the horizon and take the long view. My perspective is shot. One observation has survived and is crystal clear – we should celebrate our candidates.
It started in November 2013. I hosted a dinner for my friend Terry Beech to help him assess his future prospects as a candidate for public office. At that point his desire to run was a wispy, ill defined wish; he simply had no idea what the future would bring.
He invited close friends, colleagues and advisors to my apartment. I cooked dinner. We talked as objectively as we could about the pros and cons of his possible candidacy; the costs in money, time, energy, career options and challenged relationships over the grueling campaign period. We talked about what it would be like to win, what it would be like to lose and whether the prize was worth the risks and the cost. We acknowledged that the task was so life altering that it was difficult to assess objectively. We all knew it would be an uphill struggle.
Implicit in our chat that night with Terry and his wife Ravi was our own calculus, our own assessment of how far we were willing to go to support him if he chose to run.
A few weeks later, Terry made his decision to seek the Liberal nomination. He charged through a nomination process, and then the many tasks aimed at winning; energy sapping, detailed, repetitive but vital to his candidacy. He has shown energy, unbounded enthusiasm, grit, and a natural affinity for people. Aspiring to be elected a Member of Parliament is easy; getting the job is like running a gauntlet. His wife Ravi has been with him all the way, showing a resolve and a discipline that is truly laudatory.
Tomorrow, almost two years later, he is to be judged by the electorate.
Politics is terribly public – he wins or loses and he does so in a most public way. Here’s my point. He put his name forward. With 1791 other candidates across Canada, he has sought public office and asked for the support of the public.
Theodore Roosevelt summed it up best in a speech way back in 1910 in Paris.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
There is no way to say it better. We should remember this tomorrow when we go to vote. Seeking public office is the greatest challenge and the greatest risk one can undertake.
Working alongside these candidates is a unique opportunity to celebrate this whole glorious, messy, tumultuous – vital – process. It has been an honour and a privilege for Blair and I to have been on this wild ride with Terry and Ravi.
Tomorrow night there will be 338 successful candidates and 1454 candidates who lose.
We should celebrate them all.
We should thank them all.
They have all dared greatly.
Thank you Bob for this wise and timely reflection. One forget how hard unforgiving politics is and the courage needed to step into the arena especially given the cynicism that has prevailed our public life in the last few decades.
And Terry, if you win, remember Bob’s words once you are in Parliament. You will be facing the same challenges every day, and keep every day the same courage, tenacity and optimism you have shown during the campaign.
Thanks to you and people like you, we are on the cusp of recovering our country as we knew it.
Well said, Bob. As one of those who merely stood on the sidelines and watched, I admire you greatly. I have some idea of how much you have “invested” in Terry’s campaign, with no grand prize when he wins – only the knowledge that, although he worked hard, without the strong and unwavering support of those like you he probably could not have done it – might not even have tried. Win or lose, I will not forget you. Best regards, Bill T.
Well said. And kudos to the likes of you, for whom there is not much of a prize regardless of the outcome, given your abhorrence of self-satisfaction, and your Senate-appointment allergies.
I totally agree with Teddy R, but he does short-change the critics; we too have an important role. Timid souls maybe, but always available to enhance the performance of those who do the heavy lifting and get the nose bleeds.
Well said, indeed, but not perfect- the honour and privilege is shared by “Blair and me”, not “Blair and I”. As well you know.
Best of luck to Terry and his team.
We’ll need a post-election lunch to celebrate or commiserate.
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