Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Congressman Retires, His Gesture Flickers Yet

The Christmas season of 1980 arrived, and the mailman delivered a daily assortment of greeting cards. Every Christmas for several years, I had received a routine card from Syracuse Congressman Jim Hanley and his family. Oh, I know what you're thinking, it's not unusual for members of Congress to send their constituents greetings this time of year -- except, well, you know, somewhere in his office I must have become known as "that UFO guy," and surely would have been an ongoing annoyance to at least somebody on the staff. Good grief, my presence had been felt in that office since the mid-sixties.

But even I, that UFO guy, received a nice card every year from the office of a man who suspected there was something to this business of UFOs, even if he couldn't do much about it. However, for starters, Hanley was directly responsible for obtaining many of the official documents I've scanned, presented and/or referenced in this blog. His letters of encouragement (see a couple of them here) over the years, whether simply expressing an interest in the UFO subject or extending a warning about being too open concerning my interest in the topic during my Air Force enlistment, meant a lot.

This Christmas card, however, would be his last, for this was the year he announced his retirement from Congress, aptly stated in the card's message (see). As usual, the card was signed with the names of he, his wife and son.

When the new federal building was constructed in Syracuse, it was named the James M. Hanley Federal Building, in tribute to the man who did so much for Central New York, a member of Congress who left his profession as an undertaker to represent his people, the uncommon common man praised for his integrity and never enveloped in so much as an ounce of the scandal that one almost expects these days from some amongst the Washington flock.

And the recommendation, his advice that the Carter Administration consider me for a UFO study (see letters in recent blog entry), should one have been in the works: I can hardly believe to this day that he submitted my name, no matter how improbable the likelihood.

I thanked him numerous times in letters for information he and his office provided. Still, I never met him personally, so I was really just another constituent, a name without a face. I expect that I was treated no differently than others who wrote for assistance, and therein probably lies the key to his longevity in Congress. Truly, we whom Jim Hanley represented were all considered equal.

The former congressman died a few years ago. There was little to do, but to leave a few words in an online family obituary guest book. I simply wrote that Jim Hanley had once done an incredible kindness for me. Actually, he had done many, but the ultimate, that recommendation, was the one I'll always remember vividly because of the "what if" factor. What if?