Fathers and sons
Last night, as he was delivering his victory speech in Toronto Centre, Bob Rae attempted to tell a story about his father, Saul. He choked up and couldn't get the story out. It was an incredibly affecting moment. It started me thinking of other times when politicians have tried to speak publicly of their fathers and found words failing them.
* Paul Martin, holding his first press conference as Prime Minister in December, 2003, started to tell journalists about the flag he carried into work to mark his debut day in office. It was the flag that flew at half-mast on Parliament Hill the day his dad, Paul Martin Sr., died. Martin started to explain the significance and seemed to be surprised himself, as he choked up and couldn't finish.
* Former prime minister Brian Mulroney went back to his home riding of Baie Comeau after he announced his resignation in 1993. He started to talk of his late father, Ben, and broke down in tears. He explained later to journalists what set him off: "I was born 500 yards from here... My father died 200 yards from here. He lived his whole life down the street, so I suppose what you really see is the coming together, almost like a film, of your life, your childhood."
* Even Stephen Harper, the current prime minister, not known for public displays of emotion, has publicly acknowledged his disappointment that his dad, Joseph - who he calls "the most important man in my life" - did not live long enough to see him become prime minister. (He died in 2003.)
Harper once introduced me to his father, at an old Reform Party convention in Ottawa, back in the 1990s. What I remember about that brief meeting is that the two were obviously very proud of each other.
Maybe it's overly sentimental, but I think politics is better for these moments. And I'd like to hear the end of the story Rae began last night.