Eagle: Author talks about ‘Principled Politician’
Eagle County, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Coloardo ” Unless you’re a Colorado history buff, chances are you’re not familiar with Ralph Carr, Colorado’s governor from 1938-1942.
A Republican known for strong fiscal management, Carr was also a man of principle. He defended the constitutional rights of Japanese-Americans when most Americans, driven by war fears, supported the placement of these law-abiding citizens in internment camps. Carr paid the price with an abrupt halt to his promising political career.
Adam Schrager, a Colorado broadcast journalist, has authored the book “The Principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story.” Schrager will be the keynote speaker at the Nimon-Walker award presentation on Saturday.
He recently shared some insights into the book with the Eagle Valley Enterprise.
EVE: What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?
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Schrager: Knowing when I had enough material to actually start writing. Dr. Tom Noel (aka Dr. Colorado) was a great help. He advised me that no historian ever knows the answer to every question. It’s simply impossible.
As a journalist, my skepticism was always hovering. Could this guy (Carr) really have been as selfless as it seemed? Could he have been willing, unlike so many other politicians, to set aside self-interest for the public’s interest … at a time when the public didn’t even realize it?
On the night of my first book signing, I met a woman named Mitchie Terasaki, who lives in Denver. She had passed the civil service exam in Colorado in 1941 and couldn’t get hired. She was an American citizen of Japanese descent. Anyhow, she literally bumped into Gov. Carr on the street and shared her story with him. He took down her name and her number. The next week, he called her with a job offer at a state agency.
EVE: What quality was it that made Ralph Carr a “principled” politician, in comparison to a typical politician?
Schrager: He was willing to set aside his own ambitions, his own goals, to defend the Constitution. He stood up for what defined America at a time when all of his political peers sat down.
Ralph Carr defied the politician stereotype. This is the type of politician we all say we want ” the one who does not stick a finger in the wind to determine which current he/she should follow. The one who tells Colorado voters before he’s ever elected that if he’s successful, he “will likely become the most hated man in Colorado because I will follow my principles.”
EVE: Would a Ralph Carr-style politician survive in today’s politics?
Schrager: Yes. Politicians these days sell the public and themselves short. Carr believed in the old Abraham Lincoln adage, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.” So, when it came to convincing Colorado about his position as it related to interning Japanese Americans, he traveled the state to speak to anyone who would listen. “I’m not standing up for the rights of Japanese Americans,” he’d say, “I’m standing up for the rights of all Americans.” If the majority could deprive a minority of their rights as citizens under the Constitution, then the principles of the document, in his view, would have been violated and lost.
EVE: What lessons can we learn today from Ralph Carr’s political career?
That depends on who is receiving them. For adults, I think it’s about creating a political environment where the Ralph Carrs of the world are the norm rather than the exception and to encourage us to stand for principle instead of being so afraid to cause waves. For students, the story and its lesson are really about bullying. At its core, this is about the most popular kid in school risking his popularity by standing up for the kid who is the least popular simply because of what he looks like.