Hamilton Jordan came through Washington last week. You may remember him as the boy wonder of American politics who devised the plan an obscure governor named Jimmy Carter used to become President.
As Carter's chief of staff, Jordan became one of the most powerful men in government and left Washington believing what he did there would be the defining experience of his life.
Today, he would tell you all that was mostly irrelevant. Because he contracted cancer and beat it three times. Cancer became the defining experience of his life.
These days, he and his wife run a camp for children with cancer and he travels the country telling people to get regular check ups to watch for cancer signs.
His message is a simple one: if cancer is found, take control of your disease. Learn all you can about it before you commit to any treatment.
He also brought some sobering statistics. Forty per cent of us will eventually get the disease. Yet we spent less on cancer last year than we will spend on our newest aircraft carrier.
It's a vital message and with his contacts he can get it to the right places to get something done.
But as I listened to him, I was struck by something else. We can never know what's next in life. Nor can we pick its defining moments. That is done for us. It is how we deal with the unexpected, the things we cannot control that defines our lives and reveals our character.
Life dealt Ham Jordan some bad cards for a while there, but the way he played them is making the world a better place and tells us who he really is. We can be grateful for that.
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