Michael Gerson (1964-2022)

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.

But he also, as time went on, wrote more intimately about his life. Some of his most popular columns were about taking a child to college and his love for his dog.

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: