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The day we celebrate - and worry

By D. G. Martin
Posted Monday, November 15, 2004

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"Just wanted you all to know it's official. They have counted all the provisional votes and I have won."

November 11 might have been the very best day for our family to celebrate.

The call came to my wife and me on November 11 from our son Grier, who had been a candidate for the North Carolina House of Representatives from a district in Raleigh. Until then he had insisted that not celebrate even though newspapers had already reported his win, and his opponent had graciously conceded.

But he wanted every vote counted before, as he said, "we uncorked the champagne."

November 11 might have been the very best day for our family to celebrate. It is a special day for us for lots of reasons.

It is Veterans Day, of course. Just before his recent campaign began, Grier completed several years of military service as a lawyer in the Army JAG Corps.

In fact, two years ago on November 11, he spent the day packing his gear and telling his wife and his week-old daughter goodbye. Early the next morning I drove him down to Fort Bragg on his way to a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

November 11 is also St. Martin's Day. It is observed more in Europe than in the United States. In some parts of Europe it is a family feast day that marks an early beginning of the Christmas season. It is a little bit like Thanksgiving, but the traditional bird is a goose rather than a turkey.

St. Martin was also a soldier. According to legend, on one very cold day he came upon a beggar who was had no coat and was freezing. St. Martin took off his own cloak, cut it into two parts, and gave one to the beggar.

November 11 was also my father's birthday. My son Grier Martin has the same name as his grandfather, who before his much too early death had served for many years as president of Davidson College. For all my life my major claim to fame has been that I am "Grier Martin's son." From now on though, I will be known as "Grier Martin's father."

Sometimes on November 11 our Martin family gathers to celebrate my father's birthday and St. Martin's Day. We have cooked a goose, shared a meal, and counted our many blessings. This year, though, the goose is still in the freezer. There was too much going on and we had been told to wait before we "uncorked the champagne."

The next time we gather on that day, we will have the memory of Grier's election victory to add to the list of things that makes that day special for us.

Underneath our pride, there are worries. We were proud of him when he left for Afghanistan two years ago, but the obvious dangers made us uneasy. Now, as he embarks on his political service, we know he faces another set of dangers. They may be quite different from those of a soldier in a hostile situation. But they are very real.

The pressures on elected representatives sometimes get to even the most well meaning public servants. You will be pushed to "make deals" to help your constituents or to get support for things you think are important. There are potential compromising situations around every corner.

*Raising money for the next campaign: Who are you going to ask? What might they expect in return?

*Dealing with pressures from your constituents: What do you do when they demand your support for things that you know are not best for the state?

*Maintaining a proper sense of humility: Surrounded by people who are "courting" you in order to get your support for their programs, how do you maintain a humble spirit of service?

*Misleading campaign ads aimed at you: Can your reputation survive the intense scrutiny and misleading attacks on your character that will come every time you are involved in a close campaign?

*Losing: Can you deal with it? Just as most good basketball teams lose along their way towards an NCAA championship, it is a hard fact that most ambitious politicians lose an election or two before their careers are over. Losing might not be everything, but it is hard, and to some it is devastating.

Grier is probably among the first of the returnees from military service in Afghanistan and Iraq to win the opportunity to serve in elective office. There will surely be others who, like St. Martin and Grier, have experiences in the military that move them towards public service. Those who take the great risks that accompany either military or political service should always be in our prayers. And, on each November 11, our family will give them our special thanks.


D.G. Martin is the author of "Interstate Eateries" a handbook of home cooking places near North Carolina's interstate highways-available through Our State Magazine (800-948-1409 or ). He is the host of UNC-TV's North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. This week's (November 21) guest is Walter Turner, author of "Paving Tobacco Road."

Programs coming up:

November 21: Walter Turner, Paving Tobacco Road

November 28: J. Peder Zane, Remarkable Reads

December 19: Sharyn McCrumb, Ghost Riders

January 2: Clyde Edgerton, Lunch at the Piccadilly

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The day we celebrate - and worry
Dr. David Grier Martin, LL.D. (1910-1974)
President of Davidson College 1958-1968
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