One lesson from the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, is that “Every man’s life touches so many others.”
Every woman’s life does, too.
On Monday, I was stunned and saddened to read in my morning paper that Cornell University President Elizabeth “Beth” Garrett had died, barely a month after being diagnosed with colon cancer, at only 52 years of age.
“Being the first woman president of Cornell, just as I was the first woman provost at U.S.C., puts me in the position of being a role model — not just for young women, but also for men,” she told an interviewer.
While at the University of Southern California, Beth “was the driving force behind the Initiative and Referendum Institute becoming part of USC,” according to my friend, Dane Waters, founder of the Institute.
I met her in the late 1990s. While we certainly were not in full agreement politically, my respect for her intellectual honesty grew and grew. She produced top notch research on the initiative process
And she cared. Years ago, when the Oklahoma Attorney General unsuccessfully sought to persecute myself and two others, Beth Garrett, an Okie native, reached out to lend her moral support.
Reason magazine mourned her passing by calling her “a staunch defender of free speech on campus.”
“There isn’t any idea that ought not to be tested and questioned,” Garrett once told students. “Because that’s how we get closer to the truth. . . . So if you disagree with someone, the answer isn’t to shut them down.”
Beth Garrett lived a wonderful life, leading by example. We’ll miss her.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
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