The distant run . . .
This is about a column I never wrote; an interview which suffered from translation.
It was a private chat with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich four months before he was handcuffed and hauled off to jail in his jogging suit by FBI agents working like a SWAT team.
Conducted in Denver, the location of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Blago’s silver mane was still bottle brown; his demeanor gracious but frenetic, and his insistence on reciting poetry by the legendary British writer Rudyard Kipling was … well, weird.
The poem was called “If”; a primer for becoming “A Man.”
At the time, Blagojevich was in big trouble, pretty much ignored by his Dem party mates at the convention in August 2008, where Barack Obama got the historic nod.
Trouble was about to ring Blago’s doorbell with a federal sledge hammer.
Now that it appears President Donald Trump is considering commuting Blagojevich’s 14-year jail sentence for political corruption — during which time his wife, Patti, and two young daughters have grown up in the midst of outrageous misfortune — I have re-visited the Kipling poem.
While Blagojevich often quoted excerpts from the poem to other media, his repeating of it nearly in full over and over again during our conversation was what really struck me at the time. In reflection, his frantic recitation of the poem now makes sense.
Check it out.
Here are excerpts from the poem:
If. . .
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!
• Postscript: Blagojevich chose to teach the history of heroic men to fellow inmates during his early time in prison.
• The big question: Will Blagojevich, an inveterate jogger, soon be granted “a distance run” into the future in freedom?