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Gary Hart as Ulysses

Say What

By Stephen Lowman

Lately, Gary Hart has been feeling a lot like Ulysses.

At first blush, the Greek hero and former Democratic senator would seem to have little in common beyond the fact that they will both forever be associated with watercraft. Ulysses became famous for triumphing over obstacles as he sailed his ship from one exotic locale to another in the classical age. Hart’s political career infamously blew up after the married candidate for the presidency was pictured with a young blond model named Donna Rice aboard a yacht named Monkey Business.

In his memoir “The Thunder and the Sunshine: Four Seasons In a Burnished Life,” to be published in September, Hart says he can “identify” with the Ulysses of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem. Each part of Hart’s book opens with an exploration of Ulysses’ life, which then leads into a recounting of events from the senator’s life. (Donna Rice is never mentioned.)

Hart reflects that Ulysses “thinks that to be known is to be honored for what he has done and for who he is. To struggle to find home — sometimes not too relentlessly — against odds few others ever experience is a story for the ages. Yet now, years gone by, no one cares. No one knows him.”

Hart later concludes that Ulysses’ story has become “ever more powerful and poignant” to a public servant like him who is now “without a task.”

He writes of himself: “To have known such service in so many causes and not to be able to provide it further can only leave a void and an ache in the soul. Better to set out to sea, to sail beyond the western stars, than to rust in the dust.”

Why did Hart write his memoirs? That can be traced back to Ulysses, too.

Hart says that he is “at roughly the stage in life of Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’” and a “political warrior” like himself is often “asked for some distillation of wisdom gathered over the years.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, his conclusion echoes Tennyson’s final lines.

We must “tell our own stories and sing the song of our lives, as a means of creating our own arch through which untraveled worlds gleam, worlds we may discover if we have the courage to seek them, to travel on, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

By Stephen Lowman  |  July 8, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Say What  
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