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Lessons from my aunt

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By Congressmen BOB CLEMENT

What I learned from Senator Anna Belle Clement O’Brien.

My aunt Anna Belle always said “politics” is a beautiful word. It’s not because politics used to be a kinder, gentler environment in her day.

She’s seen her share of ugliness during political campaigns, and she’s also maneuvered some extremely tricky political situations. She said “politics” is a beautiful word because she witnessed first hand its power in changing lives.

As her career began, Anna Belle found politics a wonderful way to help people. In high school, Anna Belle and her brother Frank were troubled by economic inequities in their classes at school. Back then only children who could afford textbooks had them. Frank convinced Anna Belle that he could help students in Tennessee classrooms if he were gov¬ernor. Years later, Anna Belle helped Frank get elected gov¬ernor, and, among many other accomplishments, Governor Clement made sure the state provided free textbooks to all students. 

From that moment on, Anna Belle recognized that politics was an effective weapon against injustice. During her own career as a Tennessee State Senator, Anna Belle fought for and won mandatory insurance coverage for mammograms, the critical weapon in the fight against breast cancer. Further¬more, she was a tireless patient advocate who battled for the right of the terminally-ill to dictate the role of extreme medical intervention in their care plans. Patients can now write a living will and know it will be followed.

On a personal level, my Aunt Anna Belle practiced what she preached, and I learned sincerity and purpose as a witness to her example. I would often think of Anna Belle’s words of wisdom as I followed my career path:

1. Remain positive; never entertain negativity.2. Remain friends with adversaries or political foes if at all possible.3. Be loyal and never betray people’s confidence.4. Use examples and stories to get your points across to indi¬viduals and groups.5. Through disappointment, get back up, put one foot in front of the other and look ahead instead of remaining in the past.6. Remember life is about relationships rather than the accu¬mulation of possessions.7. Laughter is good for the soul.8. To be a change agent, one must reach out to those with different opinions to reach compromise for the common good.9. Help any and all, if given the opportunity, without ques¬tion of status or influence.10. Be a good listener and take counsel from others, and al¬ways remember that there is some gray.

All of us are powerfully impacted by our relatives in ways we don’t realize until we take our own place in the world. What I now understand is if you define “politics” the way Anna Belle meant and lived the word, the possibilities for hope and change are limitless.

Senator Anna Belle Clement O’Brien died on Aug. 31 at age 86 two weeks after a fall at her home. A short documentary about her achievements is online at Genuine Human Produc¬tions. The museum she founded to celebrate the birthplace of her late brother, Governor Frank G. Clement, is online at  Clement Railroad Hotel Museum. Bob Clement is a former eight-term U.S. Congressman representing Nashville. Clement is Chairman of the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum in Dickson (www.clementrailroadmuseum.org). He is also President of Clement & Associates, a public affairs firm based in Nashville and Washington, D.C. Clement is also a former president of Cumberland University in Lebanon.

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