The Capitol Dome

Spring 2014

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 41 of 51

20th Annual Freedom Award gridlock in our government and what is needed to break through it, sharing a quote from e Recovery of Confidence. Cohen noted, "One of the first books I read in 1970 was by John Gardner, and it was called e Recovery of Confidence, that the first order of business is for us to recover the con- fidence that we have, the capacity to engage in self-gover- nance. We have that obligation, and he said something that's always stayed with me. It's purely poetic, in a way. He said, 'Our institutions have become caught in a savage crossfire between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.' It's a wonder- ful expression, because he said at one end of the extreme, you have unloving critics, people who are so willing to engage in tearing down our institutions and our organizations, with nothing positive to recommend in their place. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the so-called 'uncritical lov- ers,' people who were so enamored with the status quo that they refuse to embrace change, no matter how positive. And so he said basically, if you have a criticism without love, you will have destruction. If you have love without criticism, you will have stagnation. And so what we have to have are loving critics. We need to be loving critics, loving this institution, loving the freedom that is ours to promote and not only in this country, but throughout the world…. "And so becoming loving critics and getting back to that position where you can have people—and Speaker Pe- losi, I know that you are dedicated to this as well and to all who are here today—…think about the Tom Foleys and the Mike Mansfields and the Bob Michels and Bob Doles, [the] George Mitchells and so many others who were willing to stand for very strong principles, but ultimately to work across party lines in order to make ends meet. at is really what we have to do. We cannot have a sign hanging from the Statue of Freedom that says 'Closed for Business. No Longer Open.' That is impermissible. That is unacceptable. That is an embarrassment for our country when that happens." L ast November, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society presented the 20th Annual Freedom Award to the Hon- orable William S. Cohen and the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta in recognition of their distinguished service in the United States Congress and their "across the aisle" leadership in the executive branch. Both men served in the cabinet of a president of the opposite party and in doing so inspired greater public understanding and involvement in our nation's enduring representative democracy. e Freedom Award is presented annually to individuals and organizations that have promoted freedom, democracy, and representative government. Full coverage of the event is in the Fall 2013 edition of this newsletter, which is available on our website,, in the News and Events section. Here, we present excerpts from some of the evening's speeches. (from left) Freedom Award recipient Hon. Norm Mineta, Rep. Mike Honda, Freedom Award recipient Hon. William Cohen, and Sen. Susan Collins all spoke at the event. SOCIET Y NE WS A ND E V ENTS I n accepting the Freedom Award, Sec. William Cohen remarked on the compromises that must be reached in order to cross the aisle to work for a president of the opposite party, saying that "[President Clinton] and I did not know each other before I agreed to serve and he offered me the position as Secretary of Defense. I said, 'On one condition.' We both had one condition. I said, 'You should understand if I agree to serve on your team, if you offer me this position, you will never have to second-guess me as to whether my loy- alty lies to you or not. You will not have to worry that I'll go in the back room and call up my former colleague and say, "Guess what these guys are doing?" And by the same token, you have that pledge from me, but I need a pledge from you, and that is that you never ask me to engage in a political dis- cussion as long as I am trying to run the Department,' and he said, 'You absolutely have it.' And he was true to his word, and I must tell you, out of the 31 years of public service, the 4 years serving with Bill Clinton were the finest of my life." Cohen also reflected on the current status of partisan PORTRAITIONS 40 THE CAPITOL DOME SPRING 2014

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Capitol Dome - Spring 2014