Heroes and family propelled a life of political fascination

The president of the United States was in Grand Junction a couple of weeks ago. I consider this a distinct honor for our community, and I couldn’t go — me, the political junkie.

I got to wondering why politics has fascinated me all my life. I realized there were several factors heading my life in that direction.

My mother was probably the major influence.

I suspect that no daughter ever really understands her mother. One of my regrets is that I do not really know mine.

Like most of us, she was two people. The one I knew best was a superb cook, a meticulous housekeeper. Obviously I didn’t get that gene.  She was also a very social woman with lots of friends and lots of organizations, which she invariably led — a very proper and conventional woman of her generation.

The other half was a woman of deep political principles and — I now realize — social principles. At the time, I did not pay all that much attention to her social principles, but I do know what her deepest political convictions were.

She was 37 before she could vote, but she knew how vital it was. She was a rock-ribbed Republican.

Ralph Carr was governor of Colorado when, in 1942, he denounced the herding of Japanese Americans into 10 prison camps, including one near Lamar. His action destroyed his political career, but it made him a hero. My mother thought Ralph Carr was the greatest governor who ever lived.

She advised me —no, she instructed me — to vote a straight ticket always because that was the way to preserve the two party system. And, of course, she told me never to vote for a Democrat.

Along with 40 or 50 other Coloradans, she and Ralph Carr were delegates to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 1940.  I don’t remember her reaction to Carr’s political suicide, two years later, but I know that she supported him.

My Dad was also involved in politics, but his chief involvements were different. He was a businessman and his goals were in the community where he was very active.

So here I am, with a couple of political genes from the generation before me and a couple of activists in the generation following.

Son John, at the age of 10 or so, asked me exactly what Congress does. I suggested that he ask the expert, and he did. The late Congressman Wayne Aspinall spent an hour in his office, discussing government with this curious little kid. John was so impressed he emerged a lifelong Democrat.

A few years later, son Dave was working in Manhattan and rode the elevator each morning with a woman who was starting a new magazine. He called me and suggested that I might be interested in it. I was.

The woman was Gloria Steinem and the magazine was Ms. I was a subscriber as long as I could read. Probably Gloria Steinem is to me what Ralph Carr was to my mother.

So, with Dave keeping me informed about feminist activities in New York and John serving as president of the Arizona ACLU, and my mother’s voice telling me to be a good Republican, I didn’t have a chance.

Of course I showed my independence when I became active in the women’s movement and I became a Democrat, but I’m not sure I would ever have dared to tell her.

I wish I could know how she would have reacted to the second wave of the feminist movement.

I will never forget my mother on her deathbed in November, 1960, a political person to the end.

Peter Dominick was running for the United States Senate from Colorado, and she had been active in his campaign. On the morning after the election she roused a little and asked, “Did he win?”

I answered, “Yes.”

She whispered, “Hooray.”  That was the last word I ever heard my mother say.

Henrietta Hay can be reached by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and on the Web at henriettahay.com.


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