It was late summer of 1989. I was trying to adjust to this new place in my life, of having been forced into retirement by a heart attack. At this same time I was seeing, on a biweekly schedule, a counselor. My diagnosis was post-traumatic stress disorder, from my work as a city firefighter. This counselor, Bob, had saved my life when I first met him.

As I traveled to his office, I was thinking over a new possible line of work for myself to enter into.

I arrived a few minutes early, as usual. I entered his office and sat down. His question was always the same: “What’s going on?”

I said, “I really want to get into some kind of work again where I can help people. I’m thinking about running for a position as a town selectman in the town that I live in. I think that I can help people out that way.”

His answer astounded me, and it became, for me, a major insight into who and what I am.

He said, “You’ll never do any good at that work.”


I sat back in the chair, in shock. “What do you mean?”

He replied, “You have certain personal values that you place a very high value on. Those personal values include integrity, ethics, honesty and honor. Everyone, everyone who goes into politics has to give up those personal values. Everyone. They either give them away. They trade them off. Or they sell them away.

“You would have to give them up if you took on that job. Think about this for a minute, before you make your decision about this.”

I sat back in the chair, and I thought about what he had just told me. I thought for about 60 seconds. Then I said to him, “Bob. You’re right. I do place a very high value on those personal values of mine. And I am not going to give them up, for anything.”

We both smiled at each other and nodded our heads in agreement.

Even today, 31 years later, I am still reminded of this lesson in my life. And I am reminded of those people I have known who went into politics with “the best of intentions” who became changed, very quickly, into someone very different. I still, today, place a very high value on those personal values of mine. I am reminded again, and again, of that comment that Bob made: “Everyone who goes into politics has to give those values away. Everyone.”

And that was the last time that I thought about going into politics.

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