Schaefer at 70

October 31, 1991

On the day before Halloween, these four headlines from The Evening Sun told the story:

More red ink is on the way

Poor seen getting poorer

Hard times for farmers

Schaefer cheered by Shore welcome

Wait a minute. That last one didn't quite fit, did it? Schaefer cheered? On the Shore?

Yes, that's right. William Donald Schaefer, the embattled governor of Maryland, went to the region with which he has been feuding -- and got a warm reception.

Amid the gloom of the day, it's reassuring to read upbeat stories like our reporter William Thompson's account of the governor's visit to Salisbury, to Easton, to Caroline County for ceremonial occasions.

These are times, to use the threadbare old cliche, that try men's souls. A bleak economic outlook, a seemingly intractable recession, plummeting state revenues -- these are the conditions which spread fear -- old-fashioned, corrosive fear. When people are afraid, they don't always act rationally, and certainly not compassionately.

An inveterate optimist like William Donald Schaefer has trouble coping with such things. It's not so much the economic conditions, or even the wrenching necessity of making budget cuts time and again, that troubles the governor of Maryland. It's coming face-to-face with the gut reality that such times tend to make people think in selfish terms rather than in community terms. In the drumfire of criticism he hears, he is beset by a gnawing anxiety that everyone has suddenly turned greedy. He reacts in ungenerous ways, which only increases the tempo of criticism.

So it was cheering, not only to Schaefer, but to all of us to hear unabashed Schaefer supporter Shirley Phillips of the small community of Berlin describe Schaefer as a man of "vision, commitment, courage." Those three words say it all about this man who has chosen to devote his life to public service. Has he made mistakes along the way? Certainly. Errors of judgment if not of intent? Of course. But on balance, his life has been one of extraordinary achievement and success.

It behooves us all to remember those achievements during this week when Schaefer reaches the proverbial milestone of three-score-and-10 -- the age of 70.

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