Seniors for Slotkin give thanks, praise for civility in Washington, DC

In 1952, at the first major political event I attended, I got within 20 yards of the Republican candidate for the presidency.
The candidate was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, I couldn’t believe that a 15-year-old kid from a tiny hamlet in Troy Township could get so close to a major political figure. Soon-to-be President Ike spoke brief words no one could hear, so he smiled and waved his arms a lot from the rear platform of the train pausing in Royal Oak on his whistle-stop tour.
There would be many more political close encounters in coming years, from G. Mennen (Soapy) Williams, Jerome Cavanaugh and Jerry Brown to Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, Ronald Reagan and John McCain. And scores of other hopefuls for national, state and local political offices.
In my 82 years, I thought I had seen and heard just about everything from a politician who had just won an election.
Wrong.
On Jan. 3, 2019, in the nation’s capital of a country so bitterly divided politically, I observed several extraordinary non-political political events. In swearing-in ceremonies for Michigan’s new Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, there was no trace of the rancorous partisan rhetoric which has so polarized the nation.
The collaborative tone was set by a distinguished Republican politician and war hero who administered the solemn oath of office to a Democrat just elected to represent Michigan’s 8th Congressional District.
Former Secretary of Defense and U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, himself a highly decorated Vietnam War hero, lauded Slotkin for her 14 years of non-partisan public service, including her White House briefings on counter-terrorism to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Hagel, who likewise served under Republican and Democratic presidents, stressed the importance of rising above partisan politics to serve the needs of the nation.
“Leadership is about character, courage, and judgment,” Hagel said. “You have to have all three and Elissa Slotkin has them.”
The audience for the ceremonies reflected the healthy cross-section of voters in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District who turned out in record numbers in the November 6 election. It was that non-partisan coalition that carried Slotkin to her stunning upset victory over a well-known incumbent.
Everywhere in D.C. it seemed there was another Clarkston-area Senior for Slotkin, or a representative of the self-styled “One-Cup-at-a-Time Geezers” who gather every Monday morning at Brioni Cafe & Deli.
Attending alongside Democrats were many area Republicans and Independents who were early supporters of Slotkin, including Nancy Strole, co-chair of Seniors for Slotkin, and a prominent life-long Republican office-holder.
Throngs from Clarkston-area groups and throughout the 8th Congressional District attended a mid-day open house at Slotkin’s new office and an evening celebration at the Army-Navy Club.
Representative Slotkin cut short her own comments at both events because she had to rush off to cast votes. “I am here today,” she said, “because I believe whole-heartedly that service to our country in all forms is the highest form of praise for the country we all love. Our service is our love letter to democracy for what it is and what it can be.”
She stressed her mission was to work civilly and in good faith with all her House colleagues to serve the people of her district and the nation.
The new congresswoman looked around the crowded room to pick out familiar faces who had been with her from the start. “I am deeply grateful to the people of the 8th District. There’s a bunch here who made the trek from Michigan and who honored me with the confidence of their votes.”
Representative Slotkin emphasized the importance of the early support she got as a candidate although she was a political unknown. Among her earliest backers were the Monday Morning Coffee Geezers at Brioni’s Cafe & Deli, followed by a coalition of Republicans, Independents and Democrats who formed Seniors for Slotkin.
Then she left a very non-political swearing-in celebration to cast a vote in the nation’s House
Bill Haney