Jewish World Review April 8, 2005/ 28 Adar II, 5765

Greg Crosby

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Two Good Men | One thing you have to say for the times in which we live — they are eminently interesting. This has really been an incredible few weeks, caped off by the passing and funeral of Pope John Paul II. This pope will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the all time greats. So many "firsts" attached to the man that it could (and undoubtedly will) fill a book. The first pope to recognize Israel, the first pope to visit a synagogue in centuries, the first pope to journey to Washington and visit the White House, and I could be wrong, but I believe the first time a sitting U.S. President has attended a papal funeral.

Believe it or not, Pope John Paul II started out as a young man writing plays and acting on stage. I guess it's true — everybody wants to be a movie star. Thank G-d he was one actor who saw the light, turned to religion, and devoted his life to a greater cause than narcissism. That makes two of them now — the Pope and Ronald Reagan.

Now don't get upset with me here, I'm not saying that Reagan and the pontiff were exactly the same, only that there are quite a few similarities. To start with, they were both good men. They both came from humble beginnings. Reagan played football in school, the future pope played soccer. They are both what might be called "self-made men."

Both men went into acting, they enjoyed performing. Both men were prolific writers. Both were deep thinkers yet viewed the world in a broad sense, a sense almost simplistic in its clarity of values, of right and wrong. They believed in G-d and felt that they had a calling to do good works and make the world a better place. They were motivated by a desire to elevate, not themselves, but mankind.

They understood that good and evil are real forces in the world and that man has a choice as to what path to take. They were brave men; they took chances and confronted evil as they saw it, without equivocation or concessions to popular views. Yet at the same time, both abhorred war. Both were optimistic men, they believed in the inherent goodness in man. They knew that given a choice, all people wish to be free from despots and tyrants and live in dignity. Both men worked to help people achieve those goals. They both had strong love for their countries.

They were both victims of attempted assassinations; they survived their wounds and went on to do great things. They were leaders who were beloved by their followers and supporters. People liked being in their presence, and the feeling was mutual. Both men truly liked people. They were outdoorsmen; they were physically active and enjoyed spending time mountain climbing, chopping wood, skiing, or riding horses. They were tall men in stature as well as ideals. Both possessed an energy and enthusiasm that inspired others, especially young people.

They lived long lives, but suffered in the end with debilitating illnesses. Death did not come swiftly to either man, both endured a protracted passing. People came from the world over to view them one last time as they lay in state, to pray over them and mourn them. They waited in lines day and night. The lines went on for miles in Rome, as they did last year in Simi Valley.

Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. Two leaders — one a leader of religion, the other a leader of a country. Two good men. Two men who changed the world for the better by their deeds, by their reasoning, and by their tireless spirit. How fortunate we are to have lived in the time of these men. May they rest in the peace of G-d's heaven and may we not soon forget what they stood for and all they did to improve the lives of so many.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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