With the current furor over the Elizabeth Warren‘s attempt at reading of a letter by wife of Civil Rights leader (and leader in her own right), Coretta Scott King, on Capitol Hill yesterday, we may have forgotten the reason why such a letter was so vitally important in ascertaining the character of a Cabinet nominee.
In 1975, as part of the ongoing series National Town Meeting, from National Public Radio, Coretta Scott King took part in a panel discussion and question-answer session where the subject was Character in Politics. The meeting was broadcast on November 5, 1975 and the importance of the subject then, as it is now, is how important a persons character is in seeking public office.
With the Watergate Scandal and subsequently President Nixon’s resignation, the question of character became a real issue. How do you entrust someone with the Ship of State (or indeed the codes to the nuclear arsenal) who isn’t upstanding and a person of integrity? How can you believe someone who lies and distracts when the future of a nation, if not the world, rests on that persons ability to govern and think in a meaningful and appropriate way when so much is at stake?
Clearly, the mention of Politics doesn’t recall angels with wings and faultless, pristine character; there are many who have more than enough flaws to bring their motives and character into question and entertain serious doubts. But the essence; the ideal, the sought-after representative of our laws and futures it is hoped, would be someone who subscribes to at least part of that ideal – an approximation of at least the image. We have gone too far in our history to hope for perfection – we have to make do with what we’ve got and hope for the best. But we try.
But when someone, who clearly isn’t suited for a position, who has numerous flaws and whose character is questionable at best – when that person’s deeds are called into question in a public forum, and when those in a position of power censor the disclosure of those flaws; flaws which could inhibit carrying out ones duties, then Democracy is abandoned and we have lost everything.
So as a reminder of just who Coretta Scott King was, and what her position was on Character In Politics, here is that broadcast of NPR’s National Town Meeting from November 5, 1975. I ran this in 2012, but it seems more appropriate today than it did even then.