Monday, October 8, 2001
Many years ago in Shimoda, Japan, Sen. Mike Mansfield broke away from a conference to invite a bunch of foreign correspondents to lunch. We stood drinking sherry and chatting for a few minutes, then sat down. Someone started a question: "Senator ..." The majority leader interrupted: "No questions, please. This is my lunch. I invited you and I'd like you to answer my questions." We sat like schoolboys for an hour while he picked our brains.
A life of service
Another time, my wife Fumiko, who is Japanese, won a prominent literary prize for her book on Washington, D.C. Mansfield, by then the American ambassador in Tokyo, invited her to come see him. As was his custom, he personally went into the pantry to fix her a cup of coffee before sitting down. The ambassador had nice things to say, then put aside the small talk and slipped into a graceful and learned conversation about America and Japan.
Mike Mansfield died last Friday at the age of 98 and America lost a gentle man who had given well over a half century of dignified and distinguished service to our country. We are a better nation for his having passed our way.