Paul Weyrich passed on to a better life early this morning. He was a pillar of the modern conservative movement. More importantly, he was a profoundly decent man. I grew to know him over the years in a strictly professional sense through my work at The Heritage Foundation, but I came to appreciate his many fine personal qualities. But one of those qualities stands out in particular.
Paul Weyrich possessed the unrivaled ability to take public stands on behalf of his (and our) core principles, even when doing so created a breach with the conventional wisdom that reigned inside Washington at any given moment. Personal relationships with Washington’s power brokers (And he knew them all, because they all quietly and respectfully sought his counsel.) were irrelevant if the broker in question was contemplating a policy that violated one of his core tenets. He would patiently explain his point of view, counsel adherence to a timeless principle over a strategic feint that might (but usually didn’t) yield some transitory political advantage, and then go public with his principled view if the quiet conversation proved fruitless. This was true whether the issue in question involved a national security matter like a chemical weapons treaty or the many moral issues regarding life, marriage, and family for which he will best be remembered.
There are many ways to honor the dead. In the case of Paul Weyrich, I respectfully suggest that we forget about the flowers, as important as they may be. Rather, the most appropriate way to pay tribute to this remarkable man is for us to speak the profound, eternal truths in the public policy arena, especially when doing so may cause some personal or professional discomfort. It would only deepen and extend his most enduring legacy.–Michael G. Franc is Vice President of Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation.