'So long, Doc' says journalist
Monday, May 06, 2013 10:00 PM
In so many ways he seemed too good to be true. That infectious chuckle and knowing grin. The disarming smile and eyes that seemed to radiate optimism even when his stomach had to be churning and his head pounding. Some dismissed him as a homespun "Country Doc," long on style and short on substance. They could not been more off the mark.
I first met Otis Bowen when I was a junior high student and he was a first-term governor. I remember him vividly because he was the first politician I actually liked. He reminded me of my blessed uncle and I trusted him implicitly. Perhaps it was my youthful naiveté. Perhaps it was because he always seemed to be smiling. But maybe, just maybe it was because I could never imagine the man losing his temper. I'm sure he did, but he was sure cool in front of those reporters. He just didn't look or act like the rest of pack of brylcreemed prevaricators.
I admired and will continue to admire the legacy of Governor Bowen because he was one of the few politicians who could genuinely cross the aisle and engender trust. He appreciated the fact that ongoing bipartisanship was the fundamental key to an efficient, functioning democracy, as opposed to the gridlocked quagmire now so well documented by our political pundits. Governor Bowen knew how to make a point without making it personal. That was his gift.
After his second term, when most governors head off to exotic islands and generous speaking engagements, President Ronald Reagan came calling. He wanted "Doc" to serve as his Secretary of Health and Human Services. As a still practicing physician, Bowen was certainly qualified, but if Congress was prepared for a sedentary geriatric in the final throes of the career, they were in for quite a shock. He quickly implemented significant health care policy changes, the remnants of which can still be found today, even in the dusty pages of Obama-care. Doc Bowen even fought for (ghast!) AIDS funding in the 1980's. So much for conventional wisdom.
For 95 year Otis Bowen was a staunch advocate for the people of Indiana. He was a genuine paragon of virtue, a model of humility and an enduring visage of quiet wisdom and strength. In my mind he was and is the greatest governor Indiana will ever know. Our state, our nation and our world is a lesser place because this gentle man has gone quietly, unobstrusively to his reward, just the way he would have wanted. My condolences to his wife Carol. Take heart, Mrs. Bowen, you chose wisely.
Ernie Reno is the voice behind Thunder 103.9 FM in the mornings.