COLUMN: In Face of Evil, Let Us Unite as Americans

June 20, 2017
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

Last Wednesday, I was getting ready for a morning meeting in the nation’s capital when I saw the terrible news that an individual had attacked the members of the GOP congressional baseball team while they practiced in a neighborhood field.

Like everyone who saw the news, I was shocked. The GOP team had been practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, a bipartisan tradition that began in 1909. Five people, including Congressman Steve Scalise from Louisiana, Zachary Barth, Matt Mika, and U.S. Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner, were injured. As of this writing, Rep. Scalise, Matt Mika, and Special Agent Crystal Griner remain in the hospital.

As awful as the attack was, had U.S. Capitol Police not been present to act with such bravery, the scenario would have been unimaginable. On Wednesday, we saw pain and confusion, but we also saw heroism.

It is difficult to see how any good could come out of such evil, but the overwhelming response has been to bring people from opposing viewpoints together. The Democrats’ team, holding their own baseball practice at a separate location, bent their knees in prayer on behalf of their colleagues. After the attack, the entire U.S. House—Republicans and Democrats—met together in an auditorium. Members came together and spoke about the importance of setting a tone that can be an example for Americans to see people of good faith disagree without being disagreeable.

The Congressional Baseball game for charity went on the day after the shooting. Nearly 25,000 tickets were sold, raising over $1.5 million, which is a massive, record-setting success for the event. Special Agent David Bailey—on crutches from his injuries—threw out the first pitch, which had been inscribed with a note by Matt Mika who is still hospitalized in serious condition. I was inspired to see real bipartisan unity and good-natured rivalry.

Reverend Patrick Conroy, the Chaplain of the U.S. House, expressed the thoughts of many in an opening prayer after the attack:

We thank you for the men and women who respond to the crises that befall us, especially the Capitol Police, and all first responders. May their heroism and generosity of spirit be an inspiration to us all, and may they be assured of our appreciation of their service….[M]ay Republicans and Democrats be mindful of the rare companionship they share. Men and women who have taken very public responsibility for our country, that carries so many burdens and today the reminder of shared danger. May this day be characterized by kindness, goodwill, and compassion, one to another.

In today’s political climate, it is too easy to forget just how blessed we are to live in the greatest republic in history. Americans—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—united together, are the most free and most prosperous people in history. In our national memory, let the images of wounded baseball players be replaced with images of Americans united in prayer and caring for each other.