A leader’s “legacy” is often referred to but rarely fully defined or completely grasped. For a statesman such as Senator Frank Church, who represented Idaho in the senior chamber of the U.S. Congress for nearly a quarter century, the task of fully articulating the importance of his life’s work borders on impossible. Church made an extraordinary impact on many issue areas of the greatest importance during a term of national service that stretched from the Eisenhower era to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan.

The following video clip helps provide a hint of Senator Church’s lasting legacy. The clip contains a message sent from Vice President Joe Biden to Senator Church’s beloved wife, Bethine, on the occasion of her 90th birthday and Biden’s selection as a recipient of the second annual Frank & Bethine Church Award for Public Service (along with Boise Mayor David Bieter). In the video, Vice President Biden testifies to the influence Senator Church had on both his career and personal life. It has long been clear that Church’s four decades of leadership on matters related to the Vietnam War, American foreign policy, environmental protection and particularly national security and intelligence was as exceptional as it has proved monumental.

Vice President Biden’s statement, however, shows a less often viewed side of Senator Church’s legacy: that of a man dedicated to human relations who exhibited the virtues of friendship, loyalty and love even well away from the cameras and newspapers where most politicians showcase their best for the public. In an era of partisan polarization, political bickering and growing opaqueness of government operations and the ever-expanding national security realm, we would do well to remember Senator Church’s example and to rededicate ourselves to living it again.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.

  • I wonder what the late great frank church would say about the current debate over gun rights.