At a time of extraordinary challenge to America's leaders, the example set by Mike Mansfield is both instructive and heartening.
Mr. Mansfield, who passed away last Friday, could seem almost an anti-politician. When he took the reins as Senate majority leader in 1961, the contrast with his predecessor was marked. Lyndon Johnson had been unquestioned boss of the upper chamber. Mansfield would become first among equals.
He chose not to dominate fellow lawmakers, but to get them to work together. He needed Republican help to pass crucial civil-rights legislation. Over the years, some of the kindest words said about Mansfield came from across the aisle.
As ambassador to Japan for more than a decade, Mansfield was equally effective. He confronted his hosts when necessary, but deeply respected their culture and viewpoints.
The man who rose to these heights of accomplishment was the orphaned son of Irish immigrants. He dropped out of school before eighth grade and joined the Navy at age 14.
Mansfield - patient, fair, and devoted to democracy - embodied the strengths that can see America through any crisis.