Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Michael Schwartz - Warrior Hero

Over the weekend a good man died. Michael Schwartz passed into his eternal rest on Sunday February 3, 2013.  For those of us who have known this "happy warrior" as our friend Bob Morrison called him, it is a bittersweet time. Mike was suffering form ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrrig's disease, It is a painful disease and Mike suffered silently these last years as his body slowly shut down. Yet Mike was always the fighter and never did he complain to us. He was always thinking up new ideas and strategies to advance the culture of life.  So in his passing, he has completed the race; he has kept the faith; he has won the prize. I believe that he is with the Lord of life whom he loved so much and for whom he truly lived his life. His boss, Senator Tom Coburn offered a moving tribute on the Senate floor last fall that can be viewed at this link.

I do not quite remember the first time I met Mike. It seems that I have known him my entire adult life.  I do remember one of those early times. He was working over at Free Congress and we decided to go to mass at St. Joseph's Church over on the U.S. Senate side of Capitol Hill. He was so very good at integrating the Catholic understanding and approach to life with his work and in his conversations. I learned so much from him. As the years went by I made it a point to introduce new members of the pro-life community to Mike. I instructed aides who worked for other congressmen to contact Mike and learn as much as they could from him. Mike was always generous with his time and his advice. He always had time to explain to some new young lawyer the intricacies of the process of government. Later as he worked in Senator Coburn's office as his chief of staff, it was a regular event whenever in DC for me to bring some young pro-life aide or law student or intern to meet this warrior hero and become acquainted. Mike never tired of meeting the next generation of pro-life leaders and always had a word of wisdom especially appropriate for these young persons.

Because Mike was an avid reader, he was always full of ideas. He refused to be conventional in his thinking on how to end the scourge of abortion. He had no patience for the equivocators and the compromisers in the movement. Yet as a strategist, he was disciplined enough not to waste efforts on losing battles. He knew it would be a long fight and he looked for innovative ways to defeat the enemies of life 

As a man, a father and a husband, he was a fierce defender of the family. One could not repeat his distaste for those who would throw traditional values regarding marriage and family life under the bus for political gain.  As much as he always was a gentleman, Mike was no wimp and his visible frustration for those who undercut the movement over the years was seen and heard in his strong statements at many a private meeting.

Yet as tenacious a warrior for the pro-life cause, Mike was as caring and loving of those who were victims of the attack on life as any man I know. He supported the pregnancy centers calling them the proof of our real concern for the mother and her child. He supported efforts to raise awareness of the need to help women who were post abortive, so that they would find God's tender mercy through the outreach of pro-life centers. He encouraged priests, bishops, rabbis and ministers to extend the hand of compassion for those touched by the tragic shadow of abortion.

We often spoke of the need for pro-life leaders to work together and support one another, to put aside petty disagreements and selfish interests.  Perhaps that was an impossible wish in Washington, DC, where the selfish interests of many rule the day, where political power is more important than integrity.  But Mike never stopped hoping that things could be better. Every day he made the effort to do something that would advance the cause of life.

As we grew older we both took a special pride in our children and later grandchildren.  There is now a tradition in my family that when a child becomes a senior, I will take that child to DC in January for the March for Life. Mike was especially impressed with my daughter Jamie, who I brought to DC not only for the March but also an NRLC  Proudly Pro-Life dinner. Mike peppered her with questions and the two of them had a lively discussion. As the years went by after Jamie got married, I would show him pictures of her children and he would show me pictures of his grandchildren. He was happy when I told him my other daughter got married and later when she was pregnant.  He truly enjoyed hearing about the good things that were happening in one's life. We shared some very happy moments.

As the pro-life movement continues to grow and mature, L pray we take a lesson from the life of Michael Schwartz.  Just as we have seen some other heroes such as Nellie Gray and Mildred Jefferson pass on after leaving their mark, let us remember that one characteristic embodied them all - a genuine love for their fellow brothers and sisters. They truly cared about mankind. Mankind was their business to paraphrase Dickens. . and Michael Schwartz throughout his life cared about those defenseless little ones in a way that we should all emulate.  Let us then re-commit ourselves to the cause for which he gave the last full measure of his devotion.  Let us make him proud. Let us win this battle. Let us restore protection for all persons. Let us end the killing and build a culture of life.