Friends in High Places: Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)
Politicians with conviction, with a real sense of ethical purpose, are not the norm in today’s political landscape filled with negative campaign ads and politicians driven by special interests. However, one need not look beyond our nation’s capitol to find politicians carrying on the legacy of an earlier political era, an era filled with principled politicians engaging in fiery debates. These same debates continue even today in the dining room at The Georgetown, a retirement residence in historic Georgetown.
Over dinner, former Senator Eugene McCarthy and life-long social activist Maurice Rosenblatt recount anecdotes from their time on Capitol Hill, but these reminisces do not dominate their discussions. They have Mr. Rosenblatt’s on-going composition of his memoirs and Senator McCarthy’s most recent speech to discuss as well. Still very much active, charming and politically motivated, the two gentleman inspire not only each other but also the other residents to become involved in this thriving, intellectual community.
Maurice Rosenblatt graduated from the University of Wisconsin with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Economics. He served in the Army during WWII and has always been a committed social activist and politician. As a lobbyist, Rosenblatt was at the forefront of anti-monopoly battles and he is still an ardent believer in what could be called his mantra: “Money alone does not win in politics.” The liberal ideology that led him to help found the Committee for Effective Congress, to become a member of the board of directors of Handgun Control Inc. and to fill the position of President for the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate remains unshakeable; he is currently active in the Democrat Club.
Senator Eugene McCarthy received a BA from St. John’s University and an MA in sociology from the University of Minnesota. After a victory that shocked political analysts, he went to Washington in 1949 as a Representative for Minnesota. He helped to organize a group of liberal representatives known as “McCarthy’s Mavericks,” who heavily influenced the Democratic Party platform of the 50s and 60s. As Minnesota’s Senator from 1958 to 1971, he worked diligently to further civil rights and spoke out against the Vietnam War. It was his decision to run against President Johnson and continued American involvement in Vietnam that moved him to the political forefront. Despite the fact that Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the presidential candidate nomination at the Democratic National convention in 1968, McCarthy’s decision to run against first Johnson and later Humphrey led to a significant reform of the nomination process that helped to elicit more involvement on the part of minority, women and younger voters.
Since their early days in Washington, Senator McCarthy and Mr. Rosenblatt have worked closely together to fight for causes that were largely ignored by the political mainstream. During their long careers, the two have built a friendship that is as inspiring as it is legendary. According to Rosenblatt, the two became friends because their “committees were always under attack by Joe McCarthy. Eugene helped to organize effective counter measures.” Then and now, they both agree that they simply “speak the same language.”
A few years ago, Rosenblatt made the decision to move into The Georgetown because of its location, convenience, affordability, and, he says, “because I found people here that I could talk to and relate to, that were not pretentious but could provide intelligent companionship.” He was later asked to share his evaluation of the community with Senator McCarthy. He and his children decided that living in a remote, rural area of the Blue Ridge Mountains was no longer safe for the Senator. When asked why he decided to join his friend at The Georgetown, Senator McCarthy jokes that he was tired of eating his own cooking. However, he is quick to inform inquirers that he has “gained momentum and purpose” since moving into the community. Rosenblatt, by his side, provides confirmation that the Senator has “really improved since the move.”
Nowadays, the two may not be in the news as often, but they are certainly still newsworthy. They are positive, active and social members of the community at The Georgetown. Their pasts spark curiosity and help to foster an intellectual community. Humble and approachable, they are always willing to answer questions and engage in conversations with the other residents.
Senator McCarthy, an accomplished poet as well as politician, has led a poetry discussion group for the other residents. Recently, he gave a presentation commenting on the PBS video about his life and his political achievements entitled “I’m Sorry I was Right.” In answer to resident questions, he explained the video’s title: “If you say ‘I’m sorry I was right’ it irritates them. I wouldn’t advise it to other people.” Obviously still a political dissident, he frequently returns to Minnesota to speak to his former constituents.
An avid watcher of CNN, Mr. Rosenblatt is still politically minded and motivated. When not busy working with his publisher on his memoirs based on his observations of America, Washington and the evolving political landscape, Rosenblatt is involved in the political discussion groups in the community.
Mere miles from Capitol Hill, the political mavericks that made themselves known decades ago have found their intellectual mates and their niches in a retirement that is anything but typical. The liberalist ideology they helped to crystallize is alive and well; its influence, like that of its founders, is immeasurable. The dinner plates may be cleared away and the debate may wind down for today, but the lives and friendship of these two men enrich the daily lives of the members of their community and inspire us all to stand up for what we believe in while surrounding ourselves with individuals who stimulate our minds and our hearts.
Maurice Rosenblatt has been described as having a “jeweler’s eye” for political talent, but he must have one for friends too. Senator McCarthy and Maurice Rosenblatt have, over the course of many years, created a friendship that is as unique and precious as any jewel. They have been in high places all their lives, but unlike many ambitious and successful individuals, they have not become socially or emotionally isolated; instead, they have become friends in high places.