When I became publisher of the Creston News Advertiser in 1988 I got involved in the local Chamber of Commerce and was soon appointed chair of the Chamber’s legislative committee. My duties included moderating the monthly legislative coffee when our area legislators met with constituents.
At that time our part of Iowa was represented by Rep. Jack Beaman, Rep. Horace Dagget and Sen. Leonard Boswell.
Beaman and Dagget were Republicans; Boswell was a Democrat. I was expecting at least a few political fireworks at the first meeting but when voters began asking questions ̶ some of them hard-hitting ̶ the fireworks didn’t happen.
All three men behaved like gentlemen, referred to each other as “my friend” and could have easily won a Sunday school civility contest.
As the legislative season progressed I found that this was not a fluke. This is how these three politicians conducted themselves on a regular basis.
I became acquainted with all three but got to know Horace Dagget and Leonard Boswell quite well.
Horace, one of the finest men I have known, served our area until 1997 and passed away a year later.
Leonard served in the Iowa Senate from 1985 until 1996, the last four years as Senate President. In 1996 he successfully ran for U.S. Congress where he served until 2013. Leonard passed away on August 17 at the age of 84.
These gentlemen were excellent examples of men who valued personal integrity over political ideology. They often worked together for the benefit of Southern Iowa. Both were men of faith with whom you could trust your wealth and your life.
I am registered as a “no party” voter these days but I was a registered Republican for many years.
In the summer of 1992 Leonard visited my office and asked if I would serve as the moderator of a debate between him and his Republican opponent, Gordon Kokenge of Clarinda.
Why, I asked, would a Democrat ask a Republican to moderate the debate? In response, Leonard played a tape recording of his meeting with his opponent a few days earlier when they discussed a debate. In the conversation, Leonard told Mr. Kokenge that he would agree to a debate if I would serve as moderator. The reason, he told his opponent, was that he was confident I would be completely fair to both candidates. I was flattered by Leonard’s opinion and understood it came from his own deep commitment to fairness.
I moderated the debate in Lenox and representatives from newspaper and radio newsrooms in the senate district served on the panel of questioners. All went well until near the end when a panelist asked a question that hinted that Leonard had accepted a fishing trip to Canada as a gift from a lobbyist.
I watched the color rise in Leonard’s neck and face and then in a terse but still gentlemanlike manner he denied the allegation, told the questioner that he was offended by the insinuation and invited him to examine all of his receipts from the fishing trip.
After the debate had ended the panelist approached Leonard, admitted it was an unfair question and apologized for asking it. I watched as Leonard graciously accepted the apology.
Long before getting involved in politics, the Southern Iowa farmer had spent 20 years in the United States Army rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served two one-year tours of duty in Vietnam as an assault helicopter pilot, risking his life many times over, and two NATO tours of duty ̶ one in Germany and another in Portugal.
During his military service Leonard earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, the Soldier’s Medal and a number of other awards and decorations.
Leonard Boswell is my hero on multiple levels. A Southern Iowa farm boy who gave two decades of his life to protecting our nation, came home and then invested another three decades as a public servant who often rose above partisan politics to best serve his constituents. And through it all, Leonard was a man of integrity.
We could use more men and women like Leonard and Horace in leadership today.