2000.07.30: July 30, 2000: Headlines: Figures: Directors - Coverdelll: Directors: Laredo Morning times: David Broder writes: Sen. Coverdell: A peacemaker admired, cherished

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell (1989 - 1991): Paul Coverdell: 2000.07.30: July 30, 2000: Headlines: Figures: Directors - Coverdelll: Directors: Laredo Morning times: David Broder writes: Sen. Coverdell: A peacemaker admired, cherished

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David Broder writes: Sen. Coverdell: A peacemaker admired, cherished

David Broder writes: Sen. Coverdell: A peacemaker admired, cherished

“What a lesson his life can teach an often cynical world,” Snowe said. “We ask ourselves, what can one person do? What kind of positive impact can government truly have on the lives of others? What happened to the idea of public service as a noble calling? “To all those questions,” she said, “there is one simple answer: People like Paul Coverdell exist in the world— good, honorable, trustworthy people who call us to our better nature.” Paul Coverdell was the 11th Director of the Peace Corps.

David Broder writes: Sen. Coverdell: A peacemaker admired, cherished

Sen. Coverdell: A peacemaker admired, cherished

The cynics who think Washington is a cesspool of corruption or the high temple of hypocrisy would have a hard time understanding what happened in the United States Senate the other day.

The members of that body came together as family, mourning the loss of one of their own, Sen. Paul Coverdell of Georgia, who was as precious to their lives as he was unknown to the country. Coverdell, a Republican, died at age 61 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

He won his seat only in 1992 but quickly gained the trust of colleagues in both parties, and he used that trust—not to advance his own renown—but to make the Senate work. In a time of rising partisan rancor, Coverdell chose the role of mediator or facilitator. It was striking that men of such opposite temperaments and gov- ernmental philosophies as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat, and James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican, applied the same term to their fallen colleague: Peacemaker.

Legislative bodiesrequire consensus- builders if they are to function at all. We in the press are not much interested in them; we prefer the flamboyant charac- ters at the edges of the debate, who can reliably furnish an incandescent quote or sound bite.

During the years that Coverdell was quietly building his reputation and his influence among his colleagues, it was another Georgia legislator, Newt Gingrich, who captured the headlines by his incendiary tactics on the other side of the Capitol. Gingrich became Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1995—and three years later resigned in near-disgrace, unmourned by most members of his own party and despised by the opposition. Coverdell’s name rarely appeared in the headlines, and his face was not seen on magazine cov- ers or the Sunday TV shows—which tells you a lot about the value system of contemporary journalism. But he was admired and cherished.

I met him, by chance, while traveling with George Bush on an exploratory trip to Atlanta in advance of the 1980 elec- tion. Coverdell, an insurance executive, was one of the few Georgia Republicans supporting Bush against Ronald Reagan for the presidential nomination, and he took time during the sparsely attended fund-raiser to tell me what it was like to be the minority leader of the Georgia state Senate—and regu- larly be outvoted by a huge margin. His tone conveyed a remarkable lack of bitterness, along with a steely deter- mination to keep up the fight. He served in that miserable role for 15 years—and he brought those qualities of patience and persistence with him to Washington.

President Bush named him director of the Peace Corps, and our conversa- tions while he was in that job showed me how clearly he identified with the idealism and sacrifice of the volunteers he met in their village huts in some of the poorest places in the world. We talked about his decision to go home in 1992 and challenge the incum- bent Democratic senator, Wyche Fowler Jr., a man of great charm. As Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, then chair- man of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, confessed to his colleagues during the tributes last week, the first time he saw Coverdell campaign, he was appalled. “Paul got up and spoke in that squeaky voice and he sort of had a way of jumping up and down when he was speaking and wav- ing his hands,” Gramm said. “But little did I know ... that this man had the heart of a lion.”

He needed it, because he had to sur- vive a primary and a runoff and then both a general election and runoff against Fowler—four elections in one year—before he could claim the seat. But he was, after all that, remarkably gentle in his ways. Two women sena- tors spoke particularly of those quiet virtues. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, said, “(He) was not only a good senator, he was a good and decent man ... a very nice man.” Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, also noted the remarkable decency Coverdell displayed.

“What a lesson his life can teach an often cynical world,” Snowe said. “We ask ourselves, what can one person do? What kind of positive impact can government truly have on the lives of others? What happened to the idea of public service as a noble calling? “To all those questions,” she said, “there is one simple answer: People like Paul Coverdell exist in the world— good, honorable, trustworthy people who call us to our better nature.” There are more of them than the pub- lic knows—and more than we in the press choose to acknowledge.


(David Broder is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Peace Corps Annual Report: 2000; Paul Coverdell; Figures; Paul Coverdell (Director 1989 - 1991); Peace Corps Directors; Georgia

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Story Source: Laredo Morning times

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