Richard Penn Kemble, A Tribute

from Democracy Digest, Dec. 14, 2005

Many readers will be aware that Penn Kemble, co-editor of Democracy
Digest
, recently passed away following a brave struggle with brain cancer.
Penn’s death generated some remarkable tributes and obituaries, marked not only
by sincerity of sentiment but a notable political diversity, attesting to a life
spent transcending sectarianism and building cross-party coalitions.

A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman,
of the next generation,” said James Freeman Clarke. Penn conceived a
recent conference on the legacy of Sidney Hook
at which it was noted that he shared Hook’s belief “in the power of ideas in the
political marketplace.” In a city overly preoccupied with daily headlines,
political fads and personal fortunes of the Who’s-in?-Who’s-out? variety, his
core conviction lay in building political movements around an intellectual
analysis and a set of values, and through a vision in which ego and ambition had
no place.

Penn personified the committed social democrat for whom democracy is a “way of life”
and, as Carl Gershman argues, who puts the democratic mission
above ego or self-interest, and is “prepared to recognize, analyze, and confront
honestly and with integrity every obstacle that lies in the way of its
advancement.”

Penn devoted his last energies developing Democracy Digest and this
trans-Atlantic network to connect American and European activists and
intellectuals, policy-formers and opinion-makers, in forging a common agenda for
democratic reform, particularly in the broader Middle East. Typically, at a time
when trans-Atlantic relations were at a nadir, he felt the urgency of promoting
dialogue and action around common values, and transcending ephemeral differences
by focusing on fundamentals, thinking strategically and confronting the next
frontier for expanding freedom and democracy. With a new generation of cynical
realists and isolationists emerging on both left and right, committing ourselves
to advance Penn’s legacy of progressive democratic solidarity is not only an
honorable vocation but a political and moral imperative.
See our previous blog (Oct. 24, 2005)  on our friend, Penn Kemble.

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