When Michael Jordan got emotional at the Basketball Hall of Fame Ceremony last week, I remembered Edmund Muskie. Edmund Muskie was a US Senator from Maine who ran for President in 1972. When Muskie cried in front of a rolling camera, his campaign was over. Who, after all, could trust a weak man in the Oval Office? How could a weeper stare down the Soviet Union? After I saw Jordan’s tears, I wondered if his fate might be similar to Muskie. Would Michael Jordan suddenly become the basketball player who cried in public?
I doubt it. In the thirty-seven years since Muskie met his end on the campaign trail, men do tear up or cry in public. Consider US Presidents or a Presidential Contender. Remember the George Bushes, Bob Dole, and Bill Clinton? One can almost argue that Edmund Muskie paved the way for these men to cry in public and thrive.
Muskie was a US Senator and a Presidential Candidate. He was on the Democrat’s Presidential Ticket with Hubert Humphrey as Vice-Presidential nominee. He was Secretary of State under President Carter. Now that Muskie is no longer with us, it appears his most memorable contribution to the world continues to be the tears he shed.
When the young Edmund Muskie dreamed of his future, I don’t think he imagined being a trailblazer for masculine tears. Instead, he probably led with ambition. When I think about my own legacy, I count my achievements and acts of stewardship. I compare myself to Michael Jordan and come up short. When I take Muskie’s tears to heart, however, I realize some legacies are wildly unintended, yet no less powerful. I take comfort in knowing I am not in charge of my legacy.