We call the Columbia Tower Club's breakfast interviews On the Shoulders of Giants in the hope that those who accept the invitation to be our guests fit the role of giant whose shared wisdom can permit us to stand on their shoulders, as it were, to perhaps learn from them in shaping our own futures.
And despite his likely reluctance to accept the "giant" characterization, former Governor and U.S. Senator Dan Evan comes about as close as any public figure in this state to earning the accolade "giant."
So we hope to put some of his thoughts and deeds on display and in the discussion next Friday morning, October 25, the date when he has agreed to be our guest interviewee.
It was 55 years ago this November that Daniel J. Evans was elected governor, the state's youngest governor, defeating two-term incumbent governor, Albert D. Rosellini, who was seeking a third consecutive term in the 1964 election. Evans bucked a Democrat landslide nationally that year in winning.
It was an election season not unlike this one in terms of the fierce political battles that then, as now, even created divisions within parties, with the John Birch Society creating a right-wing focal point for Republicans.
Despite being a Republican and a self-styled conservative, Evans became known for his administration's liberal policies on environmental protection as he founded the country's first state-level Department of Ecology, which became President Nixon's blueprint for the federal EPA.
He was a strong supporter of the state's higher education system, including founding Washington's system of community colleges.
And he fought unsuccessfully for a state income tax, basically telling voters that if they rejected his tax plan they maybe should reject him as well. But voters made up their own minds and kept Evans while rejecting his income tax.
He achieved national prominence in 1968 as he was chosen to give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention that nominated eventual president Richard Nixon. Evans was talked about for a time as Nixon's possible running mate but his refusal to endorse Nixon, instead of throwing his convention support to Nelson Rockefeller, ended vice president talk.
In reflecting on Evans in preparation for the interview next Friday, I went over some previous columns I did on him and was reminded that he was an elected official who was impossible to pigeonhole ideologically. As both governor and senator, he avoided ideological rigidity and found good ideas might sometimes spring from the Democrat side of the political aisle. And that dumb ideas could sometimes be offered by his fellow Republicans.
Proving he was impossible to typecast politically, Evans was equally comfortable blasting "talk show hosts screeching about waste in government," proponents of term limits and a balanced-budget amendment, environmental extremists, and excessive regulations that stymie growth.
In a memorable speech he made in Seattle to an audience of business leaders in the mid-90s, Evans offered a couple of bits of political wisdom that bear sharing.
"By constantly trashing our political leaders, we also breed disrespect for our own system, of government," Evans said. "The result is a new political landscape dotted with constitutional amendments and initiatives designed to protect citizens from 'evil' politicians."
Of two ideas whose proponents have continued to seek traction, Evans told a business-leader audience: "The balanced budget amendment is a loony idea that is meaningless until we decide how to keep a national standard set of books so we can measure balance."
And of the idea of term limits, Evans offered: "As a voter, I am outraged by those sanctimonious term limiters who would steal from me the freedom of my vote."
But in addition to hitting "those talk show hosts who cater to the base emotion of people," he took to task "the politicians who blithely promise what they know they cannot deliver," and "those rigid environmentalists who will see you in court if they don't get all they seek."
Thus he has always been a leader in what I, and many, feel is an unfortunately disappearing breed, those who view ideas on their merits rather than insisting that any new idea must be vetted based on where it fits ideologically.
Evans celebrated his 94th birthday this week with friends, followers and admirers, and students of history, still awaiting completion of his autobiography.
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