Sunday, December 5, 2010

A legend passes

I never had the opportunity to truly learn directly from Joe Cerrell.

But his lessons were easy to find.

Cerrell's passing this past week brought praise from many corners of the world.

As a Republican, I was usually prevented from piercing the "club" of Joe and his tight circle of Democratic friends. But it was clearly evident - both as a journalist and later practicing my craft in the same arena where Joe was held in high regard - that most people held very positive opinions about Mr. Cerrell.

The praise was not by accident.

Like many I hold in high regard, Joe was down-to-earth and accessible. He personally greeted you as if you were lifelong friends. He would provide a thoughtful response to your question. He would be concerned for the bigger impact of his actions or the actions of his clients. Any photograph of Joe Cerrell would immediately tell you that you were observing a friendly, caring individual.

Joe's stature and influence could have easily been used recklessly and ruthlessly in the high-stakes game of California politics. It's not that Joe didn't know how to wield some "tough influence" when needed, but it wasn't to demoralize or dehumanize, to belittle or to humiliate.

Fortunately for all of us, there are plenty of living, accessible examples of Joe's character and principles. I hope they remain visible for a long time. These are valuable lessons.

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