November 10, 2023 By Michael Weymouth

Adam Kinzinger, the speaker at Wednesday night’s Boston Speaker Series at Symphony Hall was warmly greeted by the audience, in large part because of his stance against Donald Trump and the role he played as one of two Republicans on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the Capitol. And as the evening progressed, it was clear that we were hearing the voice of optimism in an otherwise troubling time.

Kinzinger spoke eloquently and with great conviction of America’s greatness and the important role it has played and continues to play in the world.

He related stories about his military service as a C-130 pilot and the bravery and commitment of American troops in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. In fact he is still a pilot in the Illinois Air National Guard. But he was most enthusiastic about non-military projects, especially in Africa where he had visited a number of USAID programs. One was an agricultural co-op which enabled farmers in a Kenyan village to increase their productivity to the point where they could feed their families but also have enough produce left over to sell on the open market. Another was a project in Ethiopia where small coffee farmers were able to band together in a co-op to become a more potent economic force and more effectively market their coffee. Both were examples of how the recipients of American aid were able to create sustainable economic lives in an otherwise economic wasteland. He added that the people in those villages had no doubt about America’s greatness. The most powerful country in the world had come to their remote village to help them.

As one would expect, Kinzinger made periodic digs at Donald Trump and the MAGA crowd, but he always returned to the subject of American greatness. At one point he described a hypothetical encounter with an alien wherein Kinzinger pointed out the various countries in the world and how they were often fighting with one another, but here in America, many citizens of those countries had immigrated and come together in one place. The alien responded, “now that’s a disaster waiting to happen.” But no, said Kinzinger, once here, people who had come from authoritarian countries where their voices were disregarded and often silenced, suddenly found that they had a voice, that they had the power to change things through the democratic process. They had become Americans: from many, one.

You could have been forgiven for thinking Kinzinger was a Democrat, so consistent with liberal ideology were his observations, but in fact, he is a Republican. He was a reminder of how much we should value character in our leaders, and how one’s political affiliation is actually a secondary consideration. Kinzinger’s Republican partner on the January 6 Committee, Liz Cheney, falls into the same category. Both are considered Republican renegades. Unlike Kinzinger who was retiring after 12 years in Congress, Liz Cheney was willing to risk her seat to oppose Trump and the MAGAfied Republican Party. Unfortunately the GOP Conference chose to expel them both from the Republican Party.

In the Q&A that followed Kinzinger’s speech, the last question was whether or not he would consider a run for the presidency in 2028. Surprisingly he said he might. His answer was a reassuring reminder that there are people in government who deserve our support, if indeed American greatness is to endure.

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