To say U.S. Senator Carl Levin is as rumpled as an unmade bed is perhaps insulting to the bed but sartorial perfection has never been his calling. With reading glasses at the end of his nose and errant long hair swept across a balding head, you might be forgiven if first impressions left you wondering about the seriousness of the man.
You'd be dead wrong.
Not that he doesn't deserve it. He has served in the Senate since 1978 and is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a post he's held for many, many years. He is now 78 - another term would mean he'd be a senator until he was in his mid-80s.
A lawyer, he has led investigations in Washington and, if you ask some of the people on the other side of the questioning, you'd find it wasn't always a pleasant experience. The term prosecutorial comes to mind.
Congressional Quarterly said he had a reputation "for a tough, prosecutorial style of questioning witnesses at hearings that rarely, if ever, comes across as grandstanding."
Over the years the News-Review editorial board interviewed Levin many times. Almost always, he was late to the party. Almost always, he stayed well beyond the time that was allotted (putting the folks at the next stop into the waiting line).
He was never one to shy away from answering any question, and with his years of service, he was well versed on all the goings-on in that deliberative body.
Coming from Detroit he had a special affinity for the automobile industry and worked hard to ensure the Big Three were treated fairly. That careful caretaking also extended to the Great Lakes where he continued to push for protection of those great bodies of water that so define our state.
What struck me most about Levin was his view of the job and what that meant.
He comes from a family that lives the life that public service is a worthy calling, that serving the people in politics is a worthy endeavor. His father served the state, his brother Sander is a ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee and he had an uncle who was the chief judge of the federal district court for the eastern district of Michigan. For the Levin family it's not about them but about
serving the people of Michigan.
Michigan will lose some influence in Washington when Levin retires as the new senator won't have the standing or the knowledge that Levin currently brings to the job.
But whoever our next senator is would do well to reflect on the way Carl Levin went about his job and emulate it.
The new pope
The elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Pope Francis I provides a number of firsts that will play out in the coming months and years as he leads the more than billion members of the Roman Catholic faith.
The new pope is the first from Latin America where 40 percent of the Catholics live worldwide.
He is the first Jesuit.
And he has the humility and empathy for the poor and downtrodden that marks him more as a pastoral priest than a pope.
As cardinal in Buenos Aires, he lived in a small downtown apartment and rode the city bus to work. Obviously the trappings of the job were of little use to him.
He certainly will touch the people of the 350,000 member diocese of Tucson with the fact he speaks Spanish.
The world awaits Francis I's leadership.
Tom Ulrich was Sam Malone before there was a Sam Malone.
For about 30 years Tom was the bartender at the Wheelhouse Lounge at The Pier in Harbor Springs. Soft-spoken and always ready with a pun, Tom had new jokes at the ready -- along with your favorite adult beverage.
He wouldn't call out "Norm!" when you entered the bar but he did softly call your name and then ask what you'd be having -- as he'd get to work getting you what he knew you'd be having.
Tom died recently at 77 and I'm sure all who knew Tom over the years raised a glass to mark his passing. It's the least we could do for the Prince of Puns.
Kendall P. Stanley is retired editor of the Petoskey News-Review. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.