Former presidential speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson died last week. We featured many of his articles and reflections (all of which can be found here), including his TED Talk on AIDS treatment and writing on Christmas hope. Here are some of the many reactions to his life and his Christian witness.
Daniel Silliman writes:
He gave Bush’s speeches about compassionate conservatism and moral internationalism their rhetorical framework: starting with the “inexorable” call of the historical moment, adding the demands of duty and conscience, naming the various temptations that could lead the American people astray, and ending with a clarion call to do the right but difficult thing, forging forward with “confident hope.”…
He remained convinced that conservatives, despite some big mistakes, should pursue bold political visions at home and abroad. They should have “heroic ambitions.”
When asked for examples, Gerson most often pointed to the president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In 2003, only about 40,000 people on the entire continent of Africa were receiving antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. In five years, the US government program delivered treatment to two million people….
Gerson frequently criticized evangelicals and conservatives in his columns, writing about how appalled he was at Christian support for Donald Trump, for example, or about how the nation needed “Republican vertebrates” with a backbone for bravery.
Peter Wehner writes:
Mike was one of the most gifted writers of his generation, a presidential speechwriter for George W. Bush who became a twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. He wrote on politics and faith, movies and books, the Queen of England, his beloved dogs, his first bout with cancer, and dropping his son off at college. Mike loved words, and he wrote like an angel. It was a way to express the longings and loves of his heart.
The best speeches Mike worked on with George W. Bush were his efforts to call forth our better selves, to right wrongs and dispense comfort, and to strive for justice….
Over the course of our friendship, I came to understand how essential faith was to Mike. He attended Wheaton College, the flagship evangelical school in America. He had been accepted at Fuller Theological Seminary for graduate studies, but Chuck Colson, then president of Prison Fellowship, hired Mike right out of college to write for him. That brought Mike to Washington, D.C., and changed the trajectory of his life, but not the outworking of his faith. He believed that politics, at its best, could advance justice.
Mike’s views reflected what he called a “Christian anthropology”—a belief in the inherent rights and dignity of every human life. It led him to solidarity with the weak and the suffering, the dispossessed, those living in the shadows of life. His faith was capacious and generous; it created in him a deep commitment to justice and the common good….
Mike Gerson was a beautiful writer with an even more beautiful soul. He lived a wonderful and consequential life. “You have been a voice for Jesus,” one friend, Jack Oliver, wrote to Mike as he neared the end. “Your homecoming will be amazing.” He hadn’t just been an example for his sons; he was an example for us all.
Mike is now with the Lord he loved and served so well. But oh, how I miss my friend.
via PBS NewsHour:
Grieving the death of my friend @MJGerson. When I hear the words “integrity”and “conscience” and “compassion,” I think of him. He was a faithful Christian and he was faithfully Christlike. We cannot wait to see him again, on the other side of the Jordan.https://t.co/oEHyzlTjMw
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) November 17, 2022
Mike Gerson RIP
Without grasping the full import of my words, I once told Mike how unusual he was as a Christian who behaved like a Christian. A brave, warm, wise voice, he defined & lived by compassionate conservatism. A dedicated life, a devastating loss https://t.co/nSltCIoSeF
— EJ Dionne (@EJDionne) November 17, 2022
Michael Gerson was 58. I served on the board of the US global leadership coalition,@USGLC with him. Whether you agreed or disagreed with Michael, he had a moral core rare among us, and a deep and piercing intelligence and decency. l am devastated by his loss.
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) November 18, 2022
Very sad to hear of the passing of Michael Gerson. While I didn’t know him well, he was always generous in our correspondence. His writing has influenced me enormously. I will never forget his closing comments at this @GUcstpubliclife event back in 2018: https://t.co/qXybzbHUES
— Chris Crawford (@CrawfordStuff) November 17, 2022
— John Dickerson (@jdickerson) November 17, 2022
As a young White House staffer, I occasionally delivered papers to Michael Gerson’s office – he was considered a “giant” by Jr staff in awe of his mastery of words and ideas. His latter work was even more powerful – a voice of clarity, integrity, courage and faith. https://t.co/D3pFMt4eSZ
— Elizabeth Neumann (@NeuSummits) November 17, 2022
Can’t really describe how good of a person Michael Gerson was and how encouraging he was to me personally. He will be dearly missed. https://t.co/quGltqnZ4t
— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) November 17, 2022
The world has lost a great voice, a man of integrity, and a patriot. Rest in peace. Michael Gerson, Post columnist and Bush speechwriter on 9/11, dies at 58 https://t.co/wruW3ADUmT
— Nicole Bibbins Sedaca (@NicBibSed) November 17, 2022
Our colleague @MJGerson has died. His words, on parenting, faith, politics, depression, mutual responsibility moved me so many times. This human packed a huge amount of ups and downs into one relatively short life. Condolences to his family. https://t.co/qEhpl1fyVM
— Michelle Boorstein (@mboorstein) November 17, 2022
Michael Gerson, 1964-2022.
So saddened by the death of this fine man and public servant. But Mike would want us to consider, in the midst of grief, as he wrote a year ago and believed deeply, “the disorienting, vivid evidence that hope wins.”https://t.co/dkjom9k3rU
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) November 17, 2022
What made Michael Gerson such an important voice in our national conversation wasn’t just the poetry and precision of his words but the moral force behind them. He was an advocate who used his talents to give abstract issues like global health a human face and a sense of urgency. https://t.co/e1zbAvBdYT
— Melinda French Gates (@melindagates) November 17, 2022
May this good man Rest In Peace. I so enjoyed his columns in the WashPost. Such a thoughtful, heartfelt conservatism. An evangelical, he understood Catholic social teaching better than we Catholics do. https://t.co/Fb2T9wNTQm
— David DeCosse, Director of Religious Ethics (@DavidDeCosse) November 17, 2022
A heartbreaking loss. A prophetic Christian voice standing against the Trump idolaters and ideologues:
Michael Gerson followed his faith — and America was better for it https://t.co/Xp2LtAoNDp
— David Gibson (@GibsonWrites) November 17, 2022
We honor Mike Gerson, and we are thankful for his earnest faith, his steadfast hope and for his confidence that Christianity has much to contribute to our public life. CCPL mourns his passing, and expresses deep gratitude for his life and witness. https://t.co/3B8DLEC0s5
— The Center for Christianity and Public Life (@CCPublicLife) November 17, 2022
Michael Gerson passed away today. He was a good friend of the Initiative, a principled leader, an eloquent writer, and a faithful Christian. He will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/B8p2Ixrm8l
— Georgetown Initiative on CST and Public Life (@GUcstpubliclife) November 17, 2022
Tragic news. Former St. Louisan @MJGerson dies from complications related to cancer. He was 58. His columns in the past few years have been a clear repudiation of fascism and Christian nationalism. He was a good and gentle man. https://t.co/yFor286nql
— Tony Messenger (@tonymess) November 17, 2022
I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Gerson. We came from different sides of the aisle, but I admired his deep faith and his commitment to promoting democracy and civility through his powerful writing. My prayers are with the Gerson family. https://t.co/FUDl1cR7MD
— Susan Rice (@AmbRice46) November 17, 2022
This is heartbreaking. Gerson’s legacy as an architect of PEPFAR has saved countless lives, and his post-govt writing has been a model of humane civility in a political culture where that is so often lacking. https://t.co/qT0hLqwtO4
— Jeremy Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) November 17, 2022
RIP Michael Gerson. His faith drove his politics, rather than the other way around; he worked to engage and persuade rather than demonize and dismiss. He was a longtime friend to @GUcstpubliclife and a regular participant in our dialogues; some examples below –> https://t.co/jgaVXal8Oo
— Kim Daniels (@KDaniels8) November 17, 2022
Devastating news. @MJGerson was a voice of principle and integrity on so many issues. And such a gifted writer. And such a modest, unassuming, nice person. Taken from us far too soon. RIP. https://t.co/bCnUNnp9OX
— Max Boot 🇺🇦🇺🇸 (@MaxBoot) November 17, 2022
Michael Gerson, a brilliant columnist at the @washingtonpost, particularly influential on faith, has died at 58. Michael worked in the Bush White House and nudged the creation of the Pepfar program on AIDS, which has saved millions of lives. A great man. https://t.co/Vrfzfvsa3V
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) November 17, 2022
Such a brilliant and compassionate man. Devastated to read this. https://t.co/WNs7xT1j9A
— Stephen Schneck (@StephenSchneck) November 17, 2022
In a time when it would have been easy to be otherwise, Michael Gerson remained civil, thoughtful, faithful and humane. We will miss him and the example he set. https://t.co/DdueNNHC3j
— Christine Emba (@ChristineEmba) November 17, 2022
I am deeply sad we’ve lost this wonderful man who with his brilliant mind and fierce sense of right and wrong, shone a light on some of the toughest problems of our time; the @NewsHour family mourns his passing. Michael Gerson, thank you for who you were; be at peace https://t.co/0EITcAnmTk
— Judy Woodruff (@JudyWoodruff) November 17, 2022
Shattering news. Michael Gerson helped bring us @PEPFAR. He also reminded us — in so many different ways, using such moving assortments of words — that we are each agents in history who can do harm or good, be bystanders or upstanders. Mike did unforgettable good. https://t.co/BSOtJBGKO8
— Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) November 17, 2022
Michael devoted significant time and energy to spending time with college students, encouraging them to bring their faith to bear in the public square in a meaningful, grace-filled way. We visited several campuses together and I was always struck by his humility and kindness.
— Katie Thompson (@k_thompson212) November 17, 2022
A beautiful tribute 2 a beautiful soul. Mike Gerson was the whole package: talented. humane, principled. He took morality seriously but not himself. He turned phrases the rest of us scribblers could only envy. He left a big mark & now a big hole. RIP buddy https://t.co/PadLNC1DW2
— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) November 17, 2022
Our world lost a special voice this morning when Michael Gerson passed from this life. As I got to know Michael, we had many conversations about the role of faith in public life, and our shared hope that we could sustain America’s most important humanitarian initiatives. https://t.co/uia25smeLz
— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) November 17, 2022
When I was working on education aid for poor nations in 2002, Michael Gerson invited me to discuss in his West Wing office. It was so classy. We’d never met & had different politics, but I could see how real & faith-driven his concern was for the world’s poorest children. RIP. https://t.co/5xtC9rgO1w
— GeneSperling46 (@GeneSperling46) November 18, 2022
No conservative writer responded to the Trump era better than Michael Gerson. Because he had integrity. Because he was a Christian before he was a conservative or Republican. Because he believed in compassion, freedom, democracy, human dignity, and decency. He will be missed.
— Robert Christian (@RGC3) November 17, 2022