Mark Twain was one excellent observer of the human condition. I was reminded of that last week when the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy honored me (and thus this newspaper) with its Libertas Award.
It may have been a snore for most of the audience, but I was impressed and humbled that former Gov. Steve Merrill and Fox News’ chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, came out to say what they did about me and the newspaper I am fortunate to help publish.
Carl Cameron started his career as the one-man news band at WZID and WFEA many years ago, moved up to WMUR-TV, and has since become one of Washington’s most informed and hardest working newsmen. He is, indeed, one of the more “fair and balanced’’ of TV newsmen. New Hampshire should be proud to call him a native son.
Steve Merrill remains a friend and one of the smartest and wittiest of New Hampshire lawyers and governors. It is no exaggeration to say that he could probably reclaim the corner office in Concord just by saying, “Mother, may I?’’
The two of them conspired with my family, friends and colleagues to put together a totally embarrassing tribute, including a video with several of them (even grandson Ike, who stole the show) speaking of me as if I had already gone to my eternal reward.
Which is where I thought of Twain. On the one hand, I thought of his story (some say it was Abe Lincoln’s first) of the fellow who was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.
If it weren’t for the honor of the thing, the fellow said, he would just as soon have walked.
Twain also wrote of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn attending their own funeral and hearing nice things said of them.
“As the service proceeded,’’ Twain wrote, “the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads ...”
The things said of me, many of them way too nice, were appreciated. The things said about the importance to New Hampshire of an independent newspaper with a clear point of view in its opinions and a down-the-middle approach to informing the public were not only appreciated, they were inspiring for a newspaperman in these challenging days.
Which puts me in mind of another Twain line.
The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.
Write to Joe McQuaid at Publisher@unionleader.com or on Twitter @deucecrew.