Good men live, lead, and die. In life, they have great impact. They see what others do not, apply energy to help us get there. Some have great impact after death. There was only one Rush Limbaugh – his impact will cast light far into the future. Here is why.
Much has been said about this pioneer of conservative talk radio, who died last week at 70, after an exemplary battle with an inexorable foe, stage four lung cancer. Call it another example of Rush’s willingness to engage “the good fight,” maybe his best.
At the end, his faith was stronger, his resolve reconfirmed, his iron will gone steel, his kind heart bigger, humor sustaining, and humility on his sleeve.
Anyone who listened, whether for 30 years or three hours, knows what they heard, how different he was from others in temperament, tone, authenticity, and effect. But to put it in words, maybe for recall later, Rush taught lessons on multiple levels, not just about politics and policy.
First, he taught truth matters. Search for it, find it, declare it, do not step away from it, help others see it.
Second, listen, because people will mold the truth you found, help you see it through their eyes, refine it, expand it, confirm it, hearten you as you hearten them.
Third, truth is not invented but found, like natural law, human yearning for liberty, rights we all recognize – speech, worship, assembly, self-defense, self-determination. These are God-given, not manmade. Governments cannot impair them without moral hazard; everyone has them. That is why government must be limited, so God-given rights will not be.
Fourth, trust your instincts, do not be bamboozled by what you are told – because that is what individuality requires, trusting what you know to be right, your common sense, the voice of your conscience, true north in the storm. And every life is beset by storms; his was too. Hearing loss, managing pain, unanticipated addiction, senseless persecution, defamation, grief, gratuitous insults, being misunderstood. Still, he shared what he saw, felt, learned in battle – and at calm.
Fifth, take what you know and what you believe seriously, but not so much yourself. Keep perspective, remember and confess your foibles, even if others hold you in high esteem. Humor is not just about lightening the mood or entertainment, although it does lighten, lift and entertain.
It is about realty, remembering we are all laughable, that we must know how to laugh at ourselves, and become comfortable with others laughing along. Self-deprecating good humor, a quality Rush much admired in Reagan, he also possessed in barrels. It takes you farther than anger, lowers a foes’ defenses, spurs reflection, makes every conversation more agreeable, even memorable.
One remembers Kipling’s poem “If.” Stanzas describe Rush: “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 …”
And this: “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!’ …”
So, Kipling’s poem is long, sentiments tight, but application to Rush just right. Rush was Kipling’s quintessential “man” – 130 years after Kipling wrote, another light that shines.
Sixth, Rush taught – treat others with respect, up to the point where they begin disrespecting and degrading others. When they forfeit the respect with which you treated them, do not let their actions affect your mood, just point out the obvious counter example, and have mercy.
Seventh, be kind in ways that matter, especially to people who need much, ask little, and do not expect your kindness. Empathy costs nothing but returns much. The best charity is unpublicized.
Eighth, give credit for ideas from others, even if you are an engine. Again, it costs nothing, is honest, reinforces idea creation; people are more grateful for thanks than you are for the idea.
Ninth, for what comes your way, be grateful. From adversity we learn about ourselves, what pluck we have; from good fortune we learn deeper gratitude; from challenge strength, from disappointment resilience. All push us higher, broadening our perspective, deepening gratitude.
And finally – what Rush did every day on the radio and what made him a force and a success, until his last moment with us – give all you have, because the only thing you take with you … is what you give away. And on that note, Rush has treasure waiting, because he gave it all away, left it all on the field, taught with all his heart, will be missed like no other. Our mission is to keep applying those lessons tirelessly, as he would do, would wish, and did. There was only one Rush, but his light lives.