Crushing on Henry Clay

It’s funny how people can recall a particular class lecture, a name in history, sometimes a mundane seeming data point that resonated with them. I can remember sitting in the second row, 4th chair back, in a cool winter classroom, while my junior high school history teacher – and no, it wasn’t middle school then – talked about this fellow, Henry Clay. Clay was interesting. He might not have been the Lebron James of the constitution writing competition, but he had this artful, respectful, workhorse way of ferrying information back and forth between the more fiery types. He was my original example of how effective and valuable it was to work hard, to help people gather all of the facts, not just one version of them, and to get something done.

I love Henry Clay. The Great Compromiser. It was through his elegant defense of compromise that we have the country we know today, founded on reason, intellectual rigor, freedom to pursue happiness, health, and personal and community interests. The Great Compromiser was a great example. In modern American society, much handwringing and heavy sighing happens over the lost art, as grown-ups at virtual and actual water coolers everywhere ask„ “Since when did compromise become a dirty word?”

I love the growing focus on the value and honor in compromise. I have never viewed it from the lens of giving something up, either. The truth is, for me, that compromise is simply one’s opportunity to make a better decision for themselves, based on an enlarged set of facts or deeper understanding of the issues. It is why I value and want to hear the other guy’s side. I always have. I find it interesting to learn what the other guy thinks. I still want to be right, which, just ask my husband, is always the case. But since I already know how I see the world, looking at it from another view makes me smarter, better prepared, sounder, and in the end, let’s face it, more right.

Sara Flitner