The death of US Sen. Bill Armstrong a month ago, July 5, left Colorado much impoverished.
He served two terms as a US senator (Republican) from Colorado and could handily have won a third term had he chosen to run. That he did not choose to run says a lot about the man: politics are important, but other things are important, too. Power is important, but so is relinquishing power. Or perhaps better said, power is to be wielded in different ways and Bill Armstrong did not wish to live a monochromatic life. There was life in Washington, and life beyond Washington.
Armstrong had a distinguished career in the Senate, to which we turn below, but we were particularly impressed about Armstrong’s career after he left the Senate. He exhibited a spiritual side at a depth rarely seen in a successful politician on the national level. He became president of Colorado Christian University and lifted it from a relatively modest, if venerable, institution and turned it into a force in Colorado and beyond.
Perhaps it was Armstrong’s combination of political connections and sincere spiritual commitment that made this growth and prominence possible. Be that as it may, Armstrong showed that the future is as much with the training of individual minds and souls as it is with political power.
It is precisely the fact that Armstrong’s political career was successful that highlights the meaning he attached to spiritual pursuits. Armstrong was instrumental in the Congressional enactment of major Social Security reform in 1983. It was a compromise. Armstrong did not just talk about working across the aisle, he did it. And no one ever suspected him of compromising his conservative principles.
In and out of the Senate, in and out of Christian education, Armstrong was a gentleman. Friends and foes alike always knew where he stood, yet he made himself clear without making himself offensive. He was friendly, direct, civil, ambitious and kind — a rare combination.
At his funeral it was noted that as a child in Fremont, Nebraska, he showed up at a City Council meeting concerned about treating animals more humanely at a local dog pound. He became the youngest elected Colorado state legislator, then the youngest state Senate majority leader and one of the youngest elected members of Congress — all in 10 years — then began to see that success was not enough. He began to feel a “despondency,” until a chance meeting forced him to confront his faith — and he ran with it, and helped many others do the same, until the day he died.
His faith was not our faith, of course, but that made no difference in our respect for the way he built his faith, nor in his respect for ours. In a democracy, faith that is genuine and humane — whatever the religion — is an irreplaceable benefit. Bill Armstrong accomplished as much in this regard as any Coloradan we know.
Former Sen. Hank Brown summed it all up simply and perfectly. Bill Armstrong, he said, was “Mr. Integrity.” Armstrong is, and will be, greatly missed.
Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News