I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin’
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again
Take a look. This is one verse of Tim McGraw’s, the country singer’s, Live Like You Were Dying, the song Governor Larry Hogan internalized as he fought cancer. And if you are young enough maybe this verse will light up your imagination:
I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin
Okay, I know, it is time to move on, or maybe I should become a lyricist. In my dreams.
Governor Hogan’s PAC, An America United, mailed around his autobiography Still Standing and I decided to read a chapter or two. Ordinarily I don’t read autobiographies, as the author can’t resist shaping words and phrases around self-imagination. But when I receive a gift, regardless of motive, I will at least try it.
Larry Hogan’s version of his life is not entirely impartial, but he, with the help of Ellis Henican, has written a lively story about remarkable challenges and achievements. To begin, being elected Republican Governor of Maryland, a deep blue state, twice is quite extraordinary.
And anybody (which means everybody over 50) with a medical issue or two will find the book invigorating and perhaps reassuring when reading about Governor Hogan’s cancer fight. His remarkable juggling act while undergoing aggressive cancer treatment is a testimony to advanced medicine fused with an irrepressible life force.
As is evident I went past my earlier intention, which was to read several chapters and put the book down. It is a good read and in our all too cynical approach to politics, a glimmer of light.
While reading Still Standing, I was talking to a young friend about the book. My friend is a Trump supporter and when I suggested Governor Hogan might, in his next political chapter, run for President my friend suggested he run as a Democrat. I pushed back.
Hogan, of course, has a history of disagreeing with the President and he recounts the episodes. While they add drama to the book, he does not use them as a weapon. And that is the reason Republicans should be pleased that Governor Hogan might emerge as a choice post-Trump and there will be a post-Trump.
Governor Hogan seems preternaturally aggressive, while empathetic and agile. In short, he values accomplishment and recognizes a democracy requires building coalitions. Certainly Maryland politics has offered Hogan a laboratory where he has been forced to experiment on coalition building.
Hogan has turned achieving success into an ideology. He fought cancer with a determination to do the job that was his life’s dream and unlikely achievement. And he governs more with joy than power. Power can be elusive when the General Assembly can override the governor’s veto.
And, while most politicians have scripts for dealing with so-called policy issues; Hogan seems to understand that just as his life was abruptly threatened, governments face the same challenge day-to-day. What is the playbook for dealing with a pandemic? A riot? There isn’t one. I suspect Hogan, for example, would not have anticipated quelling a riot while working with a hostile Mayor. Or, dealing with the South Korean government to get Covid-19 test kits when President Trump left that job to the States.
In the first five months of Governor Hogan’s newly minted leadership, he was confronted with the riots that followed Freddie Gray’s death and was told he had rapidly metastasizing cancer. He endured; he calls it Still Standing. Is there a coalition of voters who would like a leader who in Tim McGraw’s words would “live like you were dying”?
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.