The Corner

Speaker Speaking Above the Noise & Fury

Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner took a moment to reflect on vocation and service. Speaking to the Thomas More Society of America, he had some good inspiration to roll with.

“People are often asking how I’m doing these days with all that’s going on. And I just tell them I woke up this morning and said my prayers like I do every morning,” Boehner said alluding, of course, to the cliff Washington’s abuzz about.

“It’s the same thing before any White House meeting or big decision,” he said. “I take a moment and ask God for the courage to do His will and not mine. Often with a likeness of St. Thomas More nearby on my desk.”

“Thomas More provides lessons for all of us — especially those who serve or aspire to public service. Among More’s many lessons, one has really stuck with me. No matter how busy he was, More took time to reflect and to pray, so he could be confident he was doing the right thing. Faith isn’t just a set of beliefs — it’s how you live.”

I just remembered to post this because while Bob Bork has been working on his memoirs with Mitch Boersma, Mary Ellen Bork has been researching St. John Fisher, a martyred contemporary of Thomas More. Also, because penance is in the air, and Boehner, who began his term as speaker talking about Ash Wednesday, clearly still has it on his mind . . . whatever you think of Plan B.

(I talked to Mrs. Bork about Fisher here.)

In his remarks on More, Boehner went on to say:

When you grow up in a big family – I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters – you learn how to get along and look out for another, work out your differences.   When your dad owns a bar, you have to do a little bit of everything – scrub floors, wash dishes, wait tables, tend bar – and you learn how to deal with all kinds of people. 

And when you’re a member of the House of Representatives, you quickly come to realize that it’s not about you – it’s about the people you serve, and that service is a privilege, not an opportunity for personal gain.  And so I tell all our new members, if you’re here for yourself, you shouldn’t be here.  Especially in the House, which is designed to be the body closest to the people, the purest reflection of their will. 

I have often called this “servant leadership.”  Leading by serving, leading with humility.  Finding that balance between action and contemplation.  That can be a hard concept to practice in this town, where there’s an awful lot of noise and fury.  But it’s what the times demand.  It’s what St. Thomas More taught us. I thank all of you for honoring those teachings, and urge you to keep sharing them. 

A few more servants, a little more humility. A lot more contemplation before action. Sounds like a good Christmas list.


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