I wanted to write today about two people I admire greatly.
First is Randy Babbitt. I first met Randy when he was President of the Air Line Pilots Association, in 1993. President Clinton had appointed him to a commission chaired by my former boss, former Virginia Governor Gerald L. Baliles (as an aside, he now runs the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, they’ve just produced a very important report, Are We There Yet: Selling Americans on Transportation, which I recommend highly).
I was the Clinton/Baliles Commission’s executive director. I worked closely with Randy and found that he was always in search of new and better ways to help lead the aviation industry into the future. He took positions on some issues, like foreign investment, that were surprising and constructive. He was a major part of the commission’s success. And in the years following we worked together on a wide variety of issues.
When President Obama appointed him to head the FAA I felt it was a job for which Randy had prepared his whole career. We’ve had some fine people head the FAA during my time, but I don’t think anyone was better prepared. When the events of late last year unfolded, his being pulled over and brought in and then leaving FAA, it was a tough day for all of us. When I had a chance to sit with Randy and find out what really happened, I was angry. As we all now know, and as that judge saw for himself on the video, this is something that never should have happened. Whether it was a mistake by the officer or a flaw in the system or whatever, he should not have been pulled over, he should not have been brought in, and he should still be running the FAA.
As my folks always told me, life is not fair. But I am so glad that Randy has been, rightly, exonerated, and that the aviation industry will once again be able to rely on his experience and wisdom.
Second, is Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, who passed away this week at the age of 90. Katzenbach was a key member of JFK’s Justice Department and is the guy who faced down Gov. George Wallace, literally, at the schoolhouse door. He played an indispensable role in the civil rights advances of the 1960’s, and in the Johnson Administration was made Attorney General. Later, he moved over to the State Department as an Undersecretary; the kind of move that would be impossible in today’s Washington, but back then people made such moves for the good of the country. While there, he played a role in the effort to change the course of our Vietnam policy; an effort that was overwhelmed by bigger forces.
In the end, Katzenbach made a huge difference in the life of our country for years to come. His book, “Some Of It Was Fun” is an excellent read; I recommend it highly. He was one of those people whose name is perhaps not widely known but who made a huge difference that history will long remember. Nicholas deB Katzenbach. RIP.