To stay conversant with the other 97% of the nation I scan the sports pages of the newspaper every morning. Most days I stifle a yawn. Today however I was impressed with a story about an action taken by an athlete, an action that if applied elsewhere, could make a real difference.
Reggie Bush said that he will forfeit his Heisman Trophy. He will give the Heisman back as he did not want “the dignity of this award” to be tarnished by the actions he took while playing football at Southern California.
While it is possible that Bush might have been forced to relinquish the honor in the days ahead anyway, that should not get in the way of the news that Bush made. It was a correct upstanding thing to do in light of the charges that have been made about his receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts while he played college football.
His statement about the pride he felt over the award was clearly from the heart, and I suspect that he was most sincere about his desire to own up to his actions and make amends.
But as I read how Reggie Bush righted a wrong it made me think about the news of Congressman Charlie Rangel winning his primary last night in New York. While I like Rangel as a politician, and respect his stands on the issues, I also know he needs to make a graceful exit from the stage. The ethical lapses he made while in office were inexcusable for a member of Congress.
Rangel needs to leave Congress and consider “the dignity” that Bush spoke of when returning the Heisman. Rangel needs to consider what he owes to Congress and the people who he let down.
It is never easy to admit human failings and take a step back from the place one has long resided. History is littered with politicians who did not act as their better angels advised. In our own lives we all know how it is to be wrong, and yet fight on for some principle that in reality we have no right to try to stand on.
That is where Congressman Rangel now finds himself.
Reggie Bush seems to care about college football players and the struggles they often encounter. I know Charlie Rangel has a deep affection for public service and the institutions of government. He has proved that for decades as he fought for the average American. But just as high-flying plays on the football field does not exonerate Bush’s actions, the policy concerns of Rangel does not excuse his lapses in judgment.
It is now time for Charlie Rangel to step up to a microphone and make a statement. By doing so Rangel can make a mark for the history books that will serve him well.
And the voters he represents.