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Sophia A. Nelson

Sophia A. Nelson

Posted May 8, 2009 | 12:32 PM (EST)

The GOP & Jack Kemp's Example: Inclusion Matters or the Party of Lincoln Will Perish


Today we will officially bid farewell to my longtime friend and mentor Jack F. Kemp. There will be an "open" memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. starting at 2:00 PM. It is open to friends, family, and the public.

I have been deeply touched by the tributes that have poured in about Jack Kemp since his untimely death this past Saturday evening. And I have been even more touched by the tributes that have poured in not from Republicans or Conservatives but from Democrats and Liberals alike.

Jack Kemp was everybody's favorite Republican/Conservative. The GOP leadership would do well to model itself after him in class, temperament and substance. In my tribute to Kemp titled, "Jack Kemp: Why I Became a Republican" published in Monday's Root.com http://www.theroot.com/views/jack-kemp-reason-i-became-republican I spoke about Kemp's unique ability to combine fiscal conservativism and a strong military defense with urban policy and meaningful outreach to the less fortunate among us. No other Conservative that I am aware of has been able to walk successfully across such different pastures, and be well liked by both sides for doing so.

Kemp was a "happy warrior" and he inspired me and many young people in the 1980s and early 1990s to join his brand of GOP Conservatism. Jack Kemp understood deeply what it meant to be in the "Party of Lincoln". He articulated it masterfully in this 1997 clip from NBC's Meet the Press http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/30546704#30546704

My advice to Rep. Eric Cantor and others who are on the so-called "listening tour" is that they had better take a long hard look at the example of Congressman, turned HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. Kemp got it and he fought for the GOP to be inclusive up until the last months of his life. I know, I corresponded with him about it via email and we had planned to connect for coffee once he was better. Sadly for me, Jack never got better and now he has gone to his place of rest.

The GOP lost a great role-model on Saturday. If the Party truly wants to find its soul again, someone had better emerge who is a lot like the late Jack Kemp. In so doing he/she will be the right Quarterback to lead the GOP team to victory and inclusive political growth once again.