Throughout his life, Joseph Newman remained a steadfast defender of American ideals and principles. The consistent stance of Joe throughout his adult life was founded upon a basic tenet that all are created equal. Joe had continuously written, spoken and lived a life demanding society recognize everyone, regardless of race, religion, economic status, healthy or sick mentally or physically disabled. His ideology was simple - all people must have the right to enjoy their liberty to the fullest and in actual freedom. By promoting this belief, Joseph Newman has consistently pursued the objective of nurturing an ideal society in which each individual shares the beautiful bounties of our great nation. What may appear "elderly" on the outside hardly masks the man who maintains an abundance of exuberance for living, learning, explaining, debating and conjuring up a future brighter than our yesterdays. Who else could fill that role except one that has lived those "yesterdays?"
Some time ago, I asked Joseph Newman to present to my college-level American History classes. While presenting, he was asked who the first president he had any recollection of. His response? "Woodrow Wilson!" It still brings a smile to my face whenever I recall that moment when student's jaws literally dropped in awe. Joe captured my students' undivided attention, as he does with everyone he encounters. With a quick wit and smile, Joe is a walking talking primary source of historical knowledge. Along with those memories come the vast experience of living through the Roaring Twenties, WWII, the Cold War, The Civil Rights Movement, Viet Nam, Watergate and every event on the political scene since. His exposure to inventions and technology alone are enough to blow one's mind! In fact, in 2014 Joe ran for Congress at the age of 101 and it was easy for him to promise he would only serve one term!
Knowing Joe was truly an extraordinary gift and arguing with him and learning from him was as well. One cannot avoid thinking harder after talking with Joe - especially when he ended conversations with a challenge of "you can do better!". To me, he represented a link to a past so easily forgotten today, a past that witnessed a tremendous transformation of an evolving society, eventually reaching the hectic pace of current times. Throughout his many and varied life experiences (and they are countless), his concerns for the future of our nation are perpetually hopeful. He has seen the twists and turns, the good, the bad and the ugly of our public policy decisions. Through it all, Joe remained steadfast in all of his convictions- that we are a great society and that hope still exists that Americans will do the right thing towards all that inhabit this great earth.
If there is one quote that befits Joe, it is one from Benjamin Franklin, America's original "elder" statesman" - "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." Trust me, these words accurately sum up Joseph Newman.
Rest in Peace Joe, America was better off having you, even if was only for a brief 108+ years!