A couple of weeks ago Nancy and I traveled back to our alma mater, Indiana State University, to listen to Washington Post associate editor and international affairs columnist David Ignatius speak during a special event.
The event was in honor of Jamal Khoshoggi, who’s name became famous last year when he was murdered by agents of the Saudi Arabian government in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Khashoggi had entered the consulate to obtain documents he needed in order to marry his fiancée, who was waiting for him outside.
Khashoggi, a 1983 graduate of Indiana State, was a columnist for the Washington Post and a thorn in the side of the oppressive Saudi royal family, which he wrote about often, and not in glowing terms.
Put simply, his work as a journalist got him killed. The Saudi royal family has denied ordering the hit, but Turkish officials have said they have intelligence confirming otherwise.
Ignatius knew Khashoggi and characterized him not as a perfect man, but as someone who never stopped pushing in his search for truth and justice.
After talking about the man Khashoggi was, Ignatius honored him with a lecture that he titled, jokingly, “How to Save the Country.” Even though he poked fun at himself for the indulgent title, he did provide a lot of thoughtful ideas about the role the United States could and should play globally and the combination of factors that lead to change. It was all interesting stuff, but it was another part of his presentation that lifted my spirits.
In a presentation about the state of journalism in today’s world and the murder of a journalist, I did not expect too much uplifting information. But, pleasantly, I was surprised.
As he went through his list of ways to save the country, Ignatius pointed out that national politics have become a terrible mess. He was plain-spoken about how many politicians at the national level have put their own self-interest above the need to honestly address problems that are truly important to Americans, such as the cost of health care. He also lamented that many in Washington don’t show respect to the legitimacy of facts, which makes progress on important issues almost impossible. But, he said there are a few glimmers of light peeking through the cloak of darkness.
One of those glimmers is an organization that is appropriately named With Honor. The organization’s mission is to raise campaign funds that it donates to veterans running for federal office, but not just any veteran. To be eligible, a candidate must sign a pledge to be honest, to work on behalf of their constituents and, in general, put the country’s needs above loyalty to their political party. The organization strives to donate to an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, and it has a history of doing just that.
Here is an excerpt from With Honor’s website that makes clear the problem: “Our country has been ripped apart by hyper-partisanship. We are a country where political leaders can’t even talk to each other, compromise, or get anything done. Debilitating partisanship in Washington is near a record high, while veteran representation in Congress is near a historic low.”
I had never heard of With Honor until Ignatius used it as an example of how our citizenry might be able to shift our fractured country toward a healthier future. When the presentation was over, I left the auditorium (where I’d gone through part of my freshman orientation years before), proud that my alma mater had done something to honor a graduate who had lost his life because of his pursuit of justice. And for the first time in a while, I thought there might be a chance for a political future better than the disaster we have right now.
For anyone interested in learning more about With Honor, the organization’s website is withhonor.org.