Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tribute by Dr. John Brademas

Tribute by Dr. John Brademas, President Emeritus of New York University, at a service in memory of Jane Bell Davis.

Trinity Church, New York, NY, Saturday, January 28, 2006.

“I am John Brademas, President Emeritus of New York University.

I have known Douglas Davis for some forty years, since the time I was a Member of Congress with a particular interest in legislation to support education and the arts, and Douglas was already a prominent art critic.

I came in time to know Douglas’ wife, Jane Bell, and, I am proud to say, became godfather of their bright and beautiful daughter, Victoria.

In view of Douglas having cited Jane’s Quaker origins and her later having become an Episcopalian, I am reminded of the debate in the House of Representatives in Washington in April of 1965 on the legislation of which President Johnson was most proud, what became the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

I was on the Committee that drafted the measure as was the late Charles Goodell, a Republican from upstate New York, also on the Committee, and a very fine person.

Charlie attacked the bill on grounds that it did not permit Federal funds to go to religious schools--due to our Separation of Church and Stateî\.

Carl Perkins of Kentucky, Chairman of the Committee, managing the bill, turned to me and said, “John, answer him!”

I said, “Mr. Speaker, I am the best qualified member of this body to address this issue. My father is Greek Orthodox, my mother belongs to the Disciples of Christ Church, I’m a Methodist and before coming to Congress, I was a professor at a Roman Catholic college.

And as one of the remaining bachelors in this place (of which I then was a part) if I can just find myself a nice Jewish girl, Iíll be the finest flowering of the ecumenical movement!”

Well, the Members broke into laughter and the challenge to the bill failed.

But a week later I received a letter from New York City on Saks Fifth Avenue stationery, with these words: “Dear Congressman, I have read with interest your advertisement in the Congressional Record. I’m 5’4”, green-eyed, blonde, single and Jewish. Your attention would be appreciated.”

So I took her to dinner, she was very nice, and from that point on, I told that story whenever I addressed a Hadassah group!

But as Douglas, in his deeply moving tribute to Jane, spoke of ì-love-you, I recall one other incident.

Many years ago, as a young Congressman, I joined several prominent Greek-American business leaders--I must explain that my late father was born in Greece and that I am the first native-born American of Greek origin elected to Congress to visit Istanbul where we called on His All Holiness, Athenagoras, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, first among equals in the hierarchy of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

After receiving us in his office, the Patriarch invited us to lunch and although I was the youngest member of the group, because I was the only public official, His All Holiness seated me at his right hand.

During the course of our conversation, the Patriarch said, “Mr. Brademas, I tell you what we should do with all the theologians. We should put them all on an island and let them talk to one another. What Christianity is all about is love!”

I must tell you that immediately there swept through my mind the thought, “My heavens! The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is a Quaker!”

I shall always be grateful for having known Jane Bell Davis as a lovely and highly intelligent young woman even as I recall how she assisted me in a couple of my campaigns for reelection to Congress.

As we pay tribute to her memory today, I think of a prayer I used to hear in the chapel in Harvard Yard when I was a student:

Let the spirit that was in Jesus be in us also, enabling us to know Thy truth, to do Thy will and to enter into Thy peace.

May that spirit go with Jane Bell Davis.”


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