“…I am still very dissatisfied with myself. The more progress you make in self-improvement, the more you see faults in yourself, and Socrates rightly said that the highest state of a man’s perfection is the knowledge that he knows nothing.”
“How are you doing these days?” the candidate asked.
“To be honest, I’m not sure what to think – at least for the moment,” Ben Adams said.
“Once this thing is over, you ought to go home to Texas and come back up here on your own terms,” the candidate said. “It’s better that way; you have what it takes, if politics is really what you want to do.”
“Did you enjoy being in the congress?” Ben asked.
“Best thing I have ever done.”
Ben had picked the candidate up earlier that Monday morning at Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. and after several brief stops, the pair headed to Reagan National airport, where the candidate would catch the next shuttle to New York. Once there, he would attend several meetings at his law office in Rockefeller Center before holding an afternoon press conference at the Hyatt Regency nearby, where he planned to make public the fate of his presidential campaign.
Looking back on the situation now, Ben believed the candidate’s decision hung in the balance even as they made their way to the airport that morning. Why? Because to him, the issue did not boil down to winning or losing a race for political office; he was unafraid and unaffected by either of those outcomes. He did believe in having great aims and fighting to the end for ideas that mattered; ones that reflected a concern for every citizen rather than a select few. To him, charting that particular course and staying on path toward it, determined one’s fate; like the waves of the ocean that followed the moon.
“Not long ago, I boarded a cross-town bus in New York,” the candidate said, the traffic thick and slowing the car’s pace as they approached the airport exit. “I cannot remember exactly where I was going, but it was one of those older buses regular riders call harpies and dread arriving at their stop.
“The buses are noisy, crowded and sort of mutter along, and for some reason used primarily on the cross-town routes. At Forty-Second Street and Fifth Avenue several people boarded and then immediately got out again, obviously irritated. I felt impatient too and almost left the bus to walk the rest of the way. Then I noticed the driver. He was a middle-aged man with a shy expression and it was easy to see the shabby bus did not add any prestige to his life. But as I remained seated and watched the man greet his passengers and collect their fares, I was struck by his humility. At the next stop two schoolgirls climbed aboard; he smiled at them and I was healed by the moment’s simplicity. You have to be on the lookout, but it is exciting to find such unexpected lessons in life,” the candidate said.
Now, from a bench on a green patch of grass in Arlington Cemetery, Ben Adams thought back about those heady days and what might have been. He had not seen Washington, D.C. in almost four years, but had returned to visit the gravesite of a man that had affected his life and the lives of many others.