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Missing Rush Holt Already

Today, the 114th Congress of the United States of America begins its business, with the opening session of the House of Representatives. Yes, already.

One voice in the U.S. House will be especially conspicuous in its absence: That of New Jersey’s Rush Holt, who has left Congress to lead the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

rush holt 2014Upon the end of the 113th Congress in December, Representative Betty McCollum noted, “Congressman Holt has been a leader on protecting the environment and his voice on this important issue will be sorely missed.” Unlike almost all of his colleagues, Holt brought the professionally precise thinking of a scientist to his work. Outside of Congress, Holt has been a physicist by profession.

Holt applied his careful manner of consideration to issues far beyond those that could be directly linked to scientific knowledge. Holt served on the House Intelligence Committee, where he was a strong voice against torture of prisoners by our government. Upon the recent long-delayed release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on widespread torture by the CIA, Holt remarked, “The practices of seizing people on the basis of mere suspicion, holding them without recourse, and torturing them was and remains unacceptable in the United States of America, even if those things were done in the name of keeping America safe. Those and various other dishonorable practices of our intelligence community permitted by our government in an era of fear must be disclosed so that those practices can be condemned and so that honorable intelligence officers can do their work honorably.”

In his farewell speech, Holt noted that, “In this time of frustration and cynicism, we should take note: the success of America economically, culturally, and socially has not been an accident, and it was not destined. Our success derives from our chosen system of governing ourselves. Without a sense of history, one cannot recognize progress, and humans need a sense of progress.”

Just as the successes of the United States have been the result of democratic principles rather than divine predestination, the future remains ours to make what we will. Though we are about to begin a Congress that is controlled by right wing Republicans in both houses, terrible consequences are not predestined. As much as some progressives like to forecast doom, it is never to late to make things better. We still have the power, through acts of dedicated and intelligent citizenship, to make the USA a more progressive nation, in spite of the dominance of regressives in positions of official power.

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