Vail Valley Voices: Jack Kemp was a sincere mentor | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Voices: Jack Kemp was a sincere mentor

Ali Hasan
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

Many biographers will tell Jack Kemp’s story, but I would like to submit mine. After all, no one had more in common with Kemp. We’re both graduates of Occidental College, we’re both progressive Republicans, and we both called Eagle County home.

But most importantly, Jack Kemp was my mentor.

While history will remember Kemp as a loyal Republican, it will more so note his dedication to civil rights for all. Such achievements would include his constant campaigning with minority groups, most actively done during times when some prominent Republicans remained silent.

And there’s Jack Kemp the man, the soul. Whether you saw him in person or on television, you always noticed his glowing speech, ebulliently sharing his most honest thoughts.

His big eyes and long smile immediately told you that he loved what he did and cared for every person he spoke to.

It was a quality that made you fall in love with him, leaving some to question whether he was pandering or if his sincerity, his best gift, was truly genuine.

It was.

Kemp always promised that he would help me should I ever run for office. After all, he wanted more minorities in the party. When I ran for Colorado’s House District 56 in 2008, my campaign started off with many mistakes, mostly due to my inexperience in never running before.

While some Republican figures in the state avoided my calls, Kemp kept his word. He was one of the first to publicly endorse my campaign and provide a contribution. But the most treasured gift was his advice.

While many consultants advised me to campaign with Republicans and Independents only, it was Kemp who quickly reminded me to campaign just as actively with Democrats.

“Don’t listen to consultants,” he would chide in my paraphrased memories of him. “Everyone has a vote, and it’s your duty to listen to every concern.”

As a candidate, I can’t stand consultants. Their polls and focus groups can take the best politicians and turn them into robotic figures that reel off insincere talking points, ruining any chance of victory.

“What do consultants know?” was the kinds of thing that Kemp would tell me. “You just go and knock on every voter’s door and tell them your honest thoughts. Don’t worry about winning; just listen to your people.”

Granted, the above quotes are not fully accurate, as they are based on personal recollection, but they are my memories.

Taking Kemp’s advice, I knocked on 20,000 doors and honestly talked to the voters. I lost the race and received 47 percent of the vote, but I did outperform every Republican who faced a Democratic challenger in my district.

And I don’t regret how I campaigned. Someday, I will run again, and Kemp’s lessons will hold just as true in the future as they did in 2008.

What I do regret, though, is not spending even more time with Kemp.

I know he taught me his best lessons, but I just miss that contagious smile that grew bigger whenever Kemp spotted a new person, a new person he could connect with and listen to. It was Kemp’s favorite thing in life.

I’ll miss my mentor.

Ali Hasan is a Beaver Creek resident.