I was saddened to learn today, along with everyone here at the National Center for Public Policy Research who knew him, of the death of long-time conservative leader Mike Schwartz.
Mike died of ALS on Saturday. He will be missed by thousands, though his work easily benefited hundreds of millions.
Mike and I co-chaired the Family Forum (also called "Library Court") meetings of the social conservative segment of the conservative movement for several years about two decades ago. It is a time I remember very fondly, both for Mike's warmness but also for the many things we got accomplished.
Senator Tom Coburn, whom Mike served as chief-of-staff during Coburn's three terms in the House and then again during his Senate tenure, gave a moving tribute to Mike on the floor of the Senate in December, which can be viewed here.
Senator Coburn spoke about Mike's warm, giving nature and I agree with every word. While he also spoke of how valuable Mike was within his office, he did not speak much about Mike's leadership when he was not employed on Capitol Hill. I'm writing this today to help make sure Mike is remembered by the conservative movement for his many contributions during his time off the Hill, too.
It was easy for people who worked with Mike to see that Mike was fiercely dedicated to helping America be a place where everyone was safe and valued. This was most evident to me in his deep commitment to issues that help families, particularly babies and children, and those who were disadvantaged, to thrive. Mike also had a special interest in helping people, when it was possible, who were being persecuted overseas, or otherwise being harmed unjustly by people or forces more powerful than they were.
Once in a while you hear a phrase about a person that he or she was "the greatest this-or-that that you never heard of." This is about to be one of those times. Mike was one of the most effective and influential conservative leaders (most of) you have never heard of, and it's because he never sought credit or blew his own horn. He was always showing people how they could get things accomplished, putting people in touch with the right people who could help them (letting them use his name as a reference), or taking projects that were decent and turning them into something pretty spectacular through his deep knowledge of how policymaking works and just what it takes to make things happen. Mike was a leader, but a modest one. When you worked with him you knew it, but he never ran for the cameras -- given his influence, in fact, he must have been actively stepping away from the limelight. Back when we were working together I never thought about it, but I realize now that no one could be as influential as Mike without gracing magazine covers or constantly being sought by talk radio unless he was going out of his way to shine the lights elsewhere. Which is exactly how Mike was.
I can't tell you how many times I heard someone say, "let's see what Mike thinks." Now we'll say, "Let's do what Mike would have done."
God bless you, Mike. America is a better place because you were here, and we'll miss you. A lot.