Power Shift
“Family Time” is no Empty Phrase

In 1992, I was living in Washington, D.C. and pondering a weighty decision. I was working the job of a lifetime as Legislative Director to Congressman Jim Bunning, but was considering whether I should return home to Northern Kentucky.

My wife and I loved D.C. and considered our jobs fun and engaging.

The final decision, however, was wavering on a factor that had never been a part of our lives before … children.

Our first son was four years old. His future kept creeping into our nightly discussions.

One day I read an editorial cartoon by Cincinnati’s Pulitzer Prize winning Jim Borgman.

In the small space, Borgman had penned three images – the US Capitol, the White House and a dad reading to his child. The caption of the cartoon read: “Choose the real seat of power in America.”

Shortly after seeing that simple message, my wife and I made the decision to move home.

Today, a copy of that Borgman cartoon hangs next to my desk.

Late last year, congressman Geoff Davis (Kentucky 4th District) shocked Northern Kentucky voters when he announced that he would not seek reelection to the United States House of Representatives. No one saw Davis’ announcement coming and it set off a flurry of speculation about why he was leaving. First elected to Congress in 2004, Davis had been a fast learner and had quickly climbed up the ladder of influence in D.C. Davis gained a spot in the leadership structure that led to a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He had just passed his most significant legislation to date. So, why leave now?

The “spend more time with the family” reason that Davis gave in his press release was quickly brushed aside by local political wags and speculation began to run rampant as to the “real” reason behind the surprise announcement. Davis was moving up, so there had to be something more nefarious to his sudden departure. Rumors ranged from illness and House investigations to job offers and higher political aspirations.

As the initial shock of the headlines began to subside, another thought began to creep into people’s minds: “Maybe, just maybe, Geoff Davis was telling the truth.”

Today in D.C., honest public officials sacrifice their family lives for long, thankless hours to gain reputations stained by the scandals of others. Congressional spouses can’t go out without people approaching them to opine on Congress. Children feel they have to talk to the scheduler to get in a game of catch.

At some point, the members of Congress with a soul must ponder the value of their public efforts vis-à-vis their own family.

As hard as it might be to imagine, maybe Geoff Davis figured out what Jim Borgman taught me many years ago and simply chose to be true to his family. It is more important to be remembered as a great dad than a good congressman. ■