How do you define greatness? It’s not easy.
I looked up the definition of “great man” on dictionary.com and it came up with a theory by 19th century historian Thomas Carlyle. His belief was that, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” Carlyle argued that great men shaped history through their intellects, the beauty expressed through their art, their ability to lead and, most importantly, their divine inspiration.
There is a postscript under this definition stating that Carlyle’s theories have gone out of fashion.
My family and I are mourning the recent death of the mayor of Sumner, Dave Enslow. My son, Andy, is married to Dave’s daughter, Becky. I knew Dave for about 15 years.
A second article, found in the “Daily Elite,” is called “Eight Qualities that define a Great Man.” Four of these qualities especially apply to Dave.
A great man is self-confident. Dave and Bertie, his wife, ran their own business for more than 35 years. Dave built it up from scratch, working as a custodian for a time, while he saved money to invest in rental apartments. He served as a member of the Sumner City Council for eight years before he ran for mayor. He served the city of Sumner for three terms as mayor. He died the day before he was to have his retirement party, ending 20 years as a public servant.
A great man is a gentleman who is “polite, respectful, considerate, and attentive to a woman’s needs.” These are the qualities I experienced in observing and interacting with Dave through the years. Of course, he wasn’t perfect in these qualities, but given the recent accounts of sexual harassment that have appeared in the national and state news by prominent personalities of late, Dave was a paragon of virtue.
Dave liked to ask my opinion of what was going on in the world of politics and government. Dave always listened attentively. While we did not always agree – he was more business-oriented and conservative – Dave had a way of presenting his views in a reasonable way, which I found refreshing. I found myself agreeing with him most of the time. If only all conservatives and progressives could present their views as tactfully as Dave did, perhaps the divisions that separate the citizens of our nation would not be as wide as they are at this point in history.
A great man is faithful. We live in an age of con men in politics who say one thing and then do exactly the opposite, expecting those around to not see the contradictions and hypocrisy. Many politicians lack faithfulness, selling themselves out to the highest bidder, or to what gets them what they want – power and notoriety. I found Dave to be very faithful and consistent in his behavior as mayor and as a family man.
He was married for 41 years. He was a caring father and especially grandfather. I know, since four of his grandchildren are also mine. I saw his love, concern and the relationships that he developed with them.
A great man has integrity. Dave believed in keeping his word. There was never a time as mayor that I saw him using his office to gain advantage for himself. He always looked to the common good. One of the last things Dave said to me at Thanksgiving was that he was especially concerned that those who succeed him would keep his practice of trying to save the city money and keep a large reserve in the city treasury.
Probably, Dave’s greatest gift was his ability to see the big picture. He was a visionary. He worked for several years to get the YMCA established in Sumner. Now, that facility both creates community, binding people together by getting and keeping fit, and at the same time, brings people into the town, aiding businesses through the flow of potential customers.
Now Dave Enslow is gone. What Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton is purported to have said while he stood by Abraham Lincoln at his death, also applies to David Enslow, “Now he belongs to the ages.” He was one of the few great men that I have been privileged to know.
Contrary to the dictionary postscript, greatness will never go out of fashion.