There have been a number of hopeful signs recently regarding the public's recognition of the value of reaching beyond partisan disagreement ("Nostalgia for the age of statesmen," Oct. 23). One comes from "the greatest generation," the other from a college student.
The first was a commentary in The Washington Post by former senator and Republican presidential candidate Robert Dole, who wrote movingly of the late Democratic Sen. George McGovern as "the man who never gave up."
Mr. McGovern and Mr. Dole shared the experience of battlefield service during World War II, but they disagreed sharply over the wisdom of the Vietnam War. Yet they both believed in acting to meet human needs as members of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, where they worked together to expand domestic school lunch programs and reduce international poverty and hunger.
On the same day Mr. Dole's commentary appeared, Alex Clearfield, a Johns Hopkins University junior, wrote a commentary in The Sun calling on elected officials to reach beyond partisanship to act in the national interest. In particular, he cited former Republican governor Jon Huntsman's affirmative response to President Obama's call to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China. As an undergraduate, Mr. Clearfield wrote, he found himself "nostalgic for a bygone era of American politics."
Both the senior statesman and the college student sent an important messages to all of us, one similar to that imparted by a former president of the Johns Hopkins University, Milton Eisenhower. "As never before in our history," Mr. Eisenhower wrote, "we now need citizens who will devote time to being wise, democratic citizens."
As one who knew and worked with Mr. Eisenhower, I hope that his message — and those of Senator Dole and Mr. Clearfield — may reach more of us as signals of hope in this time of election-year partisanship that threatens to divide rather than unite us.
George S. Wills, Baltimore
The writer is a former board chairman of the Maryland Public Television Foundation.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times