A Salute to Jack Nicklaus
Jude Wanniski
July 15, 2005

 

Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Golfers
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Man I Most Admire

I could have simply written a memo today about Jack Nicklaus, who played his last competitive PGA tournament with his round at the British Open this afternoon. The crowd at the Old Course at St. Andrews cheered in waves of love and affection for the greatest golfer of our time. Eight years ago, in this space, I devoted the memo not to the 10 athletes I most admire, but to the 10 men then living that I most admired. Nicklaus was the only athlete on the list. And as you will see, I had in 1975 written an editorial for The Wall Street Journal to applaud Nicklaus upon his winning the Master's on the preceding weekend. It was the first editorial in the 100-year history of the Journal that had been dedicated to an athlete. I sent a copy to Nicklaus and he responded with a hand-written note that I treasure. Here's what I saw back then. Perhaps I will do another list in the near future.

 
August 25, 1997
Men I Most Admire

George magazine this month has an article about the 20 "Most Fascinating Women" in politics, according to the tastes of the author. I agreed with a number of the selections, most definitely Maureen Dowd, the columnist for The New York Times. The piece got me to thinking about men in politics, then men in general, not the most fascinating, but the men I most admire. Iím starting a list. If youíd like to add to it, we will pick a day next month and extend the list. In no special order of importance, here are those who first came to my mind.

Pope John Paul II. Well, I am a Catholic, but he is the first Pope for whom I felt admiration, something beyond respect, a man who not only has a commitment to excellence -- which many men have, but also a determination to wring as much out of life as he can in the service of God and man. His 3-hour mass in Paris Sunday, attended by one million young people, is evidence of the hunger in the world for religious experience. The Pope is about the strength we get from having God in our lives, and about standards of morality, but also about reconciliation. By reaching out to Cuba, to Libya, to China, without preconditions, he is trying to bring as much harmony as he can to the global family by the turn of the millennium. How I pray he lives to see that day.

Minister Louis Farrakhan. Once I passed through the veil into his world, I completely changed my opinion of this spiritual leader, seeing him not the way the press portrays him, but the way his followers see him, as a truth-teller and holy man. If Min. Farrakhan were asked to draw up a list of the ten men he admires most, Iím certain Pope John Paul II would be on it. Both men seem driven by an inner voice that urges them in the few years remaining to them in this world to seek reconciliation and forgiveness in the global family. What the Pope did yesterday in Paris, Min. Farrakhan did at the October 16, 1995 Million Man March, giving men who may be weak in themselves the strength to reform by coming together in a mass communion.

President Bill Clinton. I have to admit it, first to myself, then to you, that the man has won me over. We can respect men who set a goal for themselves and finally throw in the towel when the forces they confront are overwhelming, but I admire men who plough ahead when they are almost certain of defeat, as it certainly seemed after his first two years as President. His goal clearly has been to be a good President, to keep the peace, to promote general prosperity, and to do so with as much dignity as he can, given myriad scandals or signs of scandal around him. For all his human weaknesses, heís done that as best he can, and for that I admire him.

Jack Kemp. In 1995, Jack threw in the towel, not against overwhelming odds, but against overwhelming doubts that he had any more to contribute in elective politics. I respected him for that, knowing he would never tire in his contributions to public discourse, but I have to admit the admiration Iíd felt for him from time to time during the 21 years of our friendship had waned. It came back to a degree as I watched him conduct himself with dignity in an impossible role as Bob Doleís running mate. My admiration for him was never higher than when he got up from his seat at the MGM in Las Vegas before the Tyson-Holyfield fight and in full view of the crowd walked over to shake hands with Louis Farrakhan, knowing it was the politically incorrect thing to do. If he can hold onto that inner security, heíll be the next President. He otherwise is a perfect fit for what the world needs in the Oval Office to begin the third millennium.

Robert Novak. An amazing man, the gold standard of American journalism. At 66, he still works a 12-hour day, a seven-day week, trying to single-handedly make up for the deficiencies of a press corps that has, as a class, lost the commitment to the standards we were taught as young newsmen. There is no other journalist in Washington who has as much respect as Novak, at least among the elected political leaders of both political parties who know how rare a man he is, dogged in his determination to keep his word, to dig as long as it takes to get more of a story than anyone else, and above all to be fair. Top it all off, the only man Iíve ever known who has been as good a husband and a father as Bob is my own.

Robert L. Bartley. The editor of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal for more than 25 years, Bartley talked me into joining his staff at the very beginning of this quarter century of awesome achievement. A year younger than I, he was at 34 already a wise man, who carefully guided the page as it became the most influential in the world, practically crafting the agenda of the Reagan Revolution from the ground up. Everyone who has worked under his patient hand remembers the experience with reverence. He has flagged now and then in recent years, making me think he might hang it up, but in recent months we see the fire again and admire.

Alan Greenspan. When he was named chairman of the Federal Reserve by President Reagan ten years ago, I expressed great displeasure, believing he would purposely induce a recession in order to defeat inflation. Iíve known Alan almost as long as Iíve known Bartley, who introduced me to him in 1972. Now in his 70s and just married, Greenspan is intellectually younger now than he was at any time since Iíve known him. Although most men are fixed in their general view of the world when they are in their early 40s, Greenspan still eagerly learns from every mistake. The second most powerful man in the world, he has used that power wisely and admirably, and hasnít finished yet.

Irving Kristol. Another man Bartley introduced to me in 1972, Irving became for me the model of a man of wisdom, who has been passionate on both sides of the great divide of socialism and capitalism -- and understands there is something to be said for both, merged into what became neo-conservatism. More than anyone else Iíve known, he taught me that because things are not always what they seem to be, it doesnít pay to get too excited one way or the other about most things in public discourse. Now closing in on 80, Don Corleone, as I call my intellectual godfather, is still pushing the intellectual envelope, as witness his WSJournal op-ed last week on the new American imperium.

Jack Nicklaus. In the world of sports, I have respect for a great many men, but admiration only for Nicklaus. Iíve never met him and have had only one exchange of letters with him in all my years of observing him as The Quintessential Golfer, which was the headline on an editorial I wrote for the WSJournal when he won the 1975 Masters. Tiger Woods may someday win more green jackets than has Jack (so far), and I hope he does, but he may never be as serene. What an admirable quality, that kind of serenity, an inner peace with himself which in political figures Iíve known only in Ronald Reagan, and in the entertainment world have seen only in the late Jack Benny.

George Jellinek. In the world of entertainment today, the person I most admire is not technically an entertainer at all, although I spend more time listening to his voice than all others combined. Now in his 70s, Jellinek for more than 30 years has been the worldís leading disc jockey for the operatic voice, and I have tapes of more than 200 of his shows, "The Vocal Scene," which airs Thursday night at 10 in New York on WQXR. I always have five or six of the tapes in my car, to avoid the radio and the chance I might hear an unsettling report on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Listen to him for several weeks and even if you donít like opera, you will feel his eagerness to share with us his knowledge, joy and appreciation of the highest challenges known to the human voice. Next month, my wife Patricia and I will spend ten days aboard the Mozart, on a musical cruise up the Danube, with a dozen other couples, Mr. Jellinek our guide. It will for me be the equivalent of playing a week of golf in Scotland and Augusta with Jack Nicklaus.