“Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master”.
I’ve no doubt that those were among the first words Jane Barnett heard after she passed from this life to the next. In the parable of the talents, Jesus indicates this as the ultimate praise and reward for a job well done. Jane is a shining example of good and faithful service in every aspect of her life.
Jane’s biography and long list of positions held and campaigns worked on is well known, so I will not focus on those. I want to talk about the essence of Jane – the goodness of her heart, the depth of her love for things and people she held dear, and her commitment to the values that made America.
If you knew of Jane’s commitment to four basics in her life – faith, family, friends and country – you could reasonably predict how she would react in any situation. Her Catholic faith was her cornerstone, and Jane walked the walk as well as talked the talk. Her faith shined brightly from Jane every day in every situation. Her family was the center of her life, and even in the most harried political situation you could always get a smile out of Jane by asking about family members.
She was a fiercely loyal friend, not oblivious to the faults of others but was always nurturing, understanding and ready with advice and encouragement. Friendship with Jane was a little like malaria – once you had it you had it for life.
And then there was her love of country, the pursuit of which occupied all of her adult life. Jane was the Fourth of July, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Stars and Stripes Forever rolled into one. Her patriotism was not of the blind variety, but she knew the truth of Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill” and the need for “a banner of bright, bold colors” to defend that city and its values.
She lived that belief by helping Reagan and a very long list of conservative candidates get elected. She also lived it by serving the Republican Party and conservative movement in almost every leadership position extant. Jane saw politics as a noble, important part of life. She was fond of relating to attendees at campaign schools a quote from Pericles, “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take in interest in you”.
My first extended opportunity to work with Jane is also one of my fondest memories. We were both members of the California delegation to the 1976 Republican National Convention. As 20-somethings we were assigned the task of speaking to other 20-somethings in delegations committed to Gerald Ford to probe for possible defections to Ronald Reagan. It was by and large a frustrating experience, but watching Jane reach the Ford delegates with her combination of friendly persuasion and irrefutable logic is a lasting and cherished memory.
The morning after he lost Reagan addressed the California delegates. It was a highly emotional, tearful experience, but Reagan was at his best. He admonished all not to be discouraged, but to continue the fight. He closed with what turned out to be prophetic lines from a Scottish ballad, “ I am wounded but am not slain; let me lie and bleed awhile; I shall rise and fight again”.
Jane, myself and many others took the Gipper’s advice to heart, and a powerful conservative resurgence was launched from the bitter ashes of that defeat. Jane was intimately involved with Reagan’s 1980 campaign and had the satisfaction of watching him give his acceptance speech at that year’s convention. She stayed involved in the campaign and was a key ingredient in making “morning in America again” a reality.
The subsequent years were full of challenges and victories that in small ways were as significant as the one in 1980 in building the conservative movement and restoring America. Jane never failed nor flagged in those tasks. When I saw her about 10 days before she passed away the conversation was not about illness but about the future of our movement and our country.
Today’s conservative warriors can take a lesson from Jane’s life and perseverance. She lived through the bitter defeat of 1976 to see sweet victory in 1980. She carried on after the electoral debacle of 1992 to see the great comeback of 1994. Winston Churchill was fond of saying “never give in – never, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never give in to the seemingly overwhelming might of the enemy”. Jane lived those words, winning far more battles than she lost and making America better because of it.
One of Jane’s favorite saints was Francis of Assisi. A favorite saying of his was “preach the gospel daily, use words if necessary”, meaning that the best teaching in life comes through example. Jane exemplified those words on a daily basis, through good times and bad. You could never go too far wrong following Jane’s example in just about anything. Those of us who loved and wish to honor Jane can do no better than emulating her in following the advice of both Churchill and St. Francis.
This is difficult piece to close, because it feels too much like saying a final good-bye. But of course it is not good-bye in any real sense. Jane’s love, spirit and heart remains alive for any who wish to partake of them. My Catholic faith makes me enough of a believer in the efficacy of the intercession of saints with the Almighty that I know I can now stop praying for her and start praying to her.
I can’t think of a better close than a slight paraphrase from Hamlet; “Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight sweet princess, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”.