The first column of the 21st century should be special. What does one write about -- famous people, great achievements? Nah, everybody else has done that. The future? I don't pretend to know it. The past? Well maybe -- maybe something a bit more personal than usual.
The Denver Post named Governor Ralph Carr as the "Colorado Person of the Century." Many readers in 2000 will be saying, "Who in the world was Ralph Carr?" My mother knew who he was. He was her political hero. Maybe he had some influence in starting me on the road to becoming a political junkie. Who knows what influences come together to form us?
Ralph Carr was Governor of Colorado when, in 1942, he denounced the herding of Japanese Americans into 10 prison camps, including one near Lamar. His action destroyed his political career, but it made him a hero. David Halaas, state's chief historian said, "The man who stands for more than a tunnel or an airport is the man who stands for the dignity of a human being."
I suspect that no daughter ever really understands her mother. One of my regrets is that I do not really know mine. Like most of us, she was two people. The one I knew best was a superb cook, a meticulous housekeeper, a very social woman with lots of friends and lots of organizations, which she invariably led -- a very proper and conventional woman of her generation. The other half was a woman of deep political principles and - I now realize -- social principles.
At the time I did not pay all that much attention to her social principles, but I do know what her deepest political convictions were. She was 37 before she could vote, but she knew how vital it was. She was a rock ribbed Republican and thought Ralph Carr was the greatest governor who ever lived. She advised me - no she instructed me - to vote a straight ticket always, because that was the way to preserve the two party system. And of course she told me never to vote for a Democrat.
Along with 40 or 50 other Coloradans she and Ralph Carr were delegates to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 1940. I don't remember her reactions to Carr's political suicide, two years later, but I do hope with all my heart that she supported him.
So there I was with a political gene or two from the generation before me, and a couple of activists in the generation following. Son John at the age of 10 or so asked me exactly what Congress does. I suggested that he ask the expert, and he did. Representative Wayne Aspinall spent an hour or so in his office discussing government with this curious little kid, and John was so impressed he emerged a lifelong Democrat. The dinner table conversations sometimes got pretty heated.
A few years later son Dave was working in Manhattan, and rode the elevator each morning with a woman who was starting a new magazine. He called me and suggested that I might be interested in it. I was. The woman was Gloria Steinem and the magazine was Ms. I have a complete file of Ms. Magazines taking up space in my house, and probably Gloria Steinem is to me what Ralph Carr was to my mother.
So with Dave keeping me informed about feminist activities in New York, and John doing legal work for the A.C.L.U in Arizona, and my mother's voice telling me to be a good Republican, I didn't have a chance. Of course I showed my independence during the Nixon years when I became a Democrat, but I'm not sure I would ever have dared to tell her. I'll never know how she would have reacted to the second wave of the Feminist movement.
I will never forget my mother on her death bed in November, 1960, a political person to the end. Peter Dominick was running for the United States Senate and she had been active in his campaign. On the morning after the election she roused a little and said, "Did he win?"
I answered, "Yes."
She whispered, "Hooray." That was the last word I ever heard my mother say.