It is not often that a Senator of the United States takes time on the floor of the assembly to pay tribute to someone as did Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma so graciously. With evident emotion and choking on his words as he spoke, Senator Coburn proclaimed the attributes of Michael Swartz - his chief of staff for fifteen years - while announcing that the veteran Washington insider would be stepping down from one of the key positions in the Senate.
Schwartz started working for Senator Coburn while the latter was still serving in the House of Representatives, having come to the job after working for years as an advocate for justice and the unborn. The senator emotionally described Schwart'z decision to step down as chief of staff even though he will continue in another capacity. Speaking of his friend, Sen. Coburn said that Schwartz could no longer fulfill his previous duties because of the toll that his battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Speaking of Schwartz, the conservative Republican senator said his former chief aide "modeled and mentored” him over these many years.
Senator Coburn described Schwartz on November 29 in terms that are exceptional in a city where one of the operative axioms of business is "If you want a true friend, buy a dog." “He’s still the guy that cares more about other people than himself," said Coburn. "The kindness he has shown to everyone he’s encountered, whether to a homeless person on the street or a leading senator in the halls, he has reminded our team and me that we are all equal, regardless of position, in the eyes of God. Mike, we love you. God bless.”
The Washington Post once did a run-down of "Mike's" career as an advocate for the innocent. Before joining Senator Coburn's staff, Mike was vice-president of government relations for Concerned Women for America - one of the most powerful advocacy groups in the country - as well as executive director of the House Family Caucus. He also once worked at the Free Congress Foundation and hosted a show on a television program it produced. But he cut his teeth at Operation Rescue, a group that remains the spear point of the pro-life movement in the United States. The Washington Post profile said that he had grown up in inner-city Philadelphia in a "troubled home" replete with "social pathologies."
However, Mike's early adversities never entered into my conversations with him. For me, he epitomizes the happy Celtic warrior of good. Over rounds of Guinness stout at the Irish Times bar in Washington DC, he and other fellow warriors managed to get Congress to hold its first hearings on the abuse of human rights by the British government in Northern Ireland. It was his acute political acumen, verve and good humor that animated and directed the debates and plans whereby he could formulate action on this and other initiatives in his long career of service in the political sphere. Having fun at the expense of one's political adversaries can be done with panache and without rancor, as I found in my association with Mike.
I found that despite the fervency of his belief in the sacredness of human life and the cause of traditional families, I never heard Mike disparage, ridicule, or calumniate his ideological and political adversaries. When speaking of them, Mike spoke with sadness that there are indeed people who do not recognize or refuse to acknowledge the humanity that links the smallest and defenseless unborn human beings to the infirm and the elderly among us. While he could readily acknowledge that there is indeed evil in the world, Mike is always resistant to the temptation of dishing up the same sort of invective common to those who advocate the "choice" for "terminating" unborn children.
Prayers, as always are in order. First, there should be prayers of thanksgiving from those who love life and its Author for the example of duty and charity that Mike Schwartz has shown in his career. And there also should be prayers of supplication, for healing that comes from the Great Physician. This is what I will do as I give thanks for knowing such a happy warrior and good servant of the Lord as Mike Schwartz.