I first met Jack Kemp in the early 1990s, when he paid a visit to my then-boss, former President Richard Nixon. Kemp admired Nixon for his brilliance, vision, and extraordinary strength of character. Nixon admired Kemp for his intellectual curiosity, tremendous leadership skills, and charismatic character. Nixon also loved football, so inevitably, their political pow-wows almost always morphed into long talks about the NFL.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Kemp was a thoroughly modern conservative: a firm believer in limited government, lower taxes, and the incredible creativity, innovation, and drive of the individual. Individual liberty was at the heart of what the Founders' believed, and it was at the heart of what Kemp believed as well.
He first ran for president in 1988 but faced an uphill battle for the Republican nomination against the incumbent vice president, George H.W. Bush. He wanted to make another run for it but realized that other, younger leaders were coming up and perhaps it was their turn. He also realized his talents were put to use better elsewhere, including think-tanks where he further developed his concept of enterprise zones to revitalize inner cities. Civil rights remained a major concern for him, and he never abandoned his commitment to supply-side economics as an engine of economic growth and job creation.
On the football field, especially for the Buffalo Bills, Kemp was a standout, even among other incredibly talented athletes. From there he entered politics, serving his nation on Capitol Hill, and then went on to serve his nation by generating ideas and programs that sought to uplift and advance America.
He was a true Renaissance man, seriously accomplished in many fields, while remaining humble and good-natured and full of integrity.
I'm sure that tonight, Richard Nixon and Jack Kemp are sitting together as they once did, discussing tax cuts, the new president, and of course, a little football.