Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers. Distributed by The Associated Press
Rest in piece, Dr. Bowen
Even in our era of divisive politics, Hoosiers found common ground in their respect for former Gov. Otis Bowen, who died Saturday at 95.
We look back with nostalgia at his two terms as governor, 1973-81, not just for what he accomplished, but for how he accomplished it.
His signal achievement as governor was getting property tax relief through the Indiana Legislature. The goal sounded benign, but the deal also required an increase in the sales tax. That proposal passed the Senate by only one vote, but it showed Bowen’s extraordinary ability to persuade and lead.
After his service in Indianapolis, Bowen went to Washington, to serve with distinction as Health and Human Services director under Ronald Reagan. It fell to Bowen and Surgeon General Everett Koop to help Americans understand and respond to a health crisis that had no precedent: the AIDS epidemic.
How did this mild-mannered, northern Indiana family doctor manage such effective state and national leadership? It’s no great mystery. He approached government the same way he approached medicine — as a way to serve and help people. And he stuck with his principles, whether he was delivering babies in Bremen, pleading his case for tax reform in Indianapolis, or crusading for decent health coverage for seniors in Washington.
Perhaps the best description of Bowen’s simple magic comes in his own words, from his 2000 autobiography, “Doc: Memories from a Life in Public Service, by Otis R. Bowen, M.D.”:
“Hindsight tells me that a governor must be a decisive problem-solver, have good character, and be willing to lead politically, governmentally, and symbolically. A public official’s most important traits are honesty and integrity. These are the foundation of credibility, a public leader’s most precious commodity. A governor cannot lead by trying to please everyone, straddling the fence, or trying to come down on both sides of it. He must lead by making decisions based on common sense and tempered by compassion.”
Dr. Bowen’s long life of service has ended, but he leaves a legacy of wisdom.
— South Bend Tribune