Probably best known as Dan Conner on "Roseanne," veteran actor John Goodman has been in more than 50 movies and awarded a Golden Globe and two American Comedy awards. His role of a lifetime, though, may well have been portrayal of Glen Allen Walken on TV's "West Wing."
According to the storyline Walken is Speaker of the House and the political enemy of sitting President Jed Bartlett. Bartlett's Vice-President had resigned in disgrace, making the Speaker constitutionally second in line for the Presidency.
Bartlett's daughter is kidnapped, and in the best interest of the country Bartlett turns over the office of President to Walken.
Walken, knowing the country can have only one President at a time, says "You are relieved Mr. President." Walken's character then proceeds to take command and make decisions about which Bartlett's staff is not sure.
As the story develops Bartlett's daughter is rescued. Then comes one of the great scenes of American television: Walken turns the power of President of the United States back to his political enemy, Jed Bartlett, as also provided for in the Constitution.
It was great television precisely because this is what we want to believe about America and about the people we elect to represent us in governments: When faced with a crisis of command, enemies -- politically and perhaps even personally -- will act with honor, putting the best interest of the nation above everything.
Something like this really did happen to real people in the real world.
On Aug. 8, 1974, having been told by his longtime political supporters that it would be impossible for him to remain in office, President Richard Nixon announced he would resign the Presidency effective at noon the next day. Vice-President Gerald Ford, who had not been elected to that office, would be sworn-in as President.
There was a story told at the time of a man living somewhere in the Midwest who bundled his 12-year-old son in the family car and took off that August night for Washington, D.C. to be there for the departure of Nixon and swearing-in of the new President.
That man wanted his son to see what was happening: What he did NOT see was just as important.
The Washington Mall did NOT fill with a million good people demanding the ouster of a bad man; nor of a million bad people demanding removal of a good man.
The United States Army was NOT called out, the National Guard NOT put on alert.
The military Chiefs of Staff did NOT meet to decide who would now be President, whether to fire the Cabinet, or if Congress would be adjourned.
What that man wished most to have his son see was this: What men of honor do when faced with a crisis threatening peace and the pursuit of happiness. And, why it is that God still blesses America.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.