Eulogy by Governor John Kasich
Governor of Ohio
February 1, 2014
Of Richard Allen, I don’t know if it’s appropriate here today in the synagogue, but how about a round of applause for those remarks that he gave? They were beautiful. Gordon just loved him and respected him and there’s nobody like Dick Allen that I’ve ever met. God bless you, sir. You know, I go to a lot of these services and… maybe not a lot, but I go to enough of them and sometimes I go when I’m very sad. But for some reason today, I’m kind of happy.
Gordon, he’s so alive in my mind. He’s just so alive in my soul. I woke up in the middle of the night, a night ago and just thinking about, what am I going to say about Gordon? It’s so hard to describe Gordon Zacks. Dick, you know, you talk about the old policies of containment. You could not contain Gordon Zacks. Trying to contain Gordon Zacks is like trying to contain the sun, Kim, on a cloudless day at noon. You cannot contain the light of that sun and you cannot contain the essence of Gordon Zacks even today upon his passing. His essence was so big and so positive and so upright. Yes, that’s why he’s so alive in my mind today.
Dick talked a little bit about the impossible. We’re going to take this action and we’re going to take that action and you can’t win. Gordon looked at the impossible and Mr. Sharansky who is on his way here today. One of the great man alive in the world today. Gordon Zacks understood that from sheer will, Sharansky would be released from the clutches of the Soviet gulag. Gordon knew he would ultimately win these battles and you know what I think he communicated to all of us? There’s no such thing as the impossible. Only the possible. It may take time but we’ll get there. So Kim and Cathy, to me, Gordon is like that star in the sky. An impossibly beautiful and clear night, where you tell your daughter, wish upon that star. It’s hope. That’s what Gordon was for all of us. He was hope and maybe could be called “a man called hope”. Because he never saw the things that we couldn’t achieve but only those things that we could. Strength and courage, he never doubted who he was and he acted upon it. He had such courage and he used to tell me, “John,”- when I’d say, “should I be in politics?”- he said, “John, let me explain something to you. History never remembers the toga makers. Never forget it. It’s what you do to move the world and what you do to change the situation on this globe.”
His strength and his courage, the courage of this convictions, Kim and Cathy, he was like a lion. The fierceness of a lion and the strength and the courage of a lion. And laughter. Huh! Is there anybody who would love with you better than Gordon Zacks? Is there anybody who could take that laugh all the way from the bottom of the soul and display it and laugh right with you? Rabbi, the scriptures. Ecclesiastes talks about the power of laughter. The blessings of laughter. He knew how to be serious but he knew how to be right with you. In your moments of joy and maybe at times even silliness, Gordon helped all of us to see our purpose. That’s what he did. He would tell all of us what he thought we should be and he was usually right. And he told us about our purpose when we couldn’t even see the purpose ourselves. And he was so selfless in this. He just wanted everybody to do well. He was so excited when you did well.
That’s what made him so lovable. We know he was all of our fathers. All of our coaches. All of the people, he was the man who believed in us. All of us and we shant forget that. Now that he’s not here physically to encourage us. My time together with Gordon. I mean, I took this trip to Israel and he’s telling me about Jerusalem. He’s telling me how beautiful it is and on and on and on and I finally looked, I said, “Gordon, could you knock it off with the PR?” And then I saw Jerusalem. You’re right Gordon. The most beautiful place on earth and someday, god willing, my children will see it. On that trip we went to Bethlehem on Christmas day. We got back to the hotel and I say, “Gordon, I was in Bethlehem on Christmas day, my mother-” he said, Stop right there. You get on the phone and you call her right now.” I said, “Mom, I’m in, I was just in Bethlehem,” and my mother cried and Gordon cried because he knew about the relationship between me and my mother and our faith and Gordon was happier. Tenfold happier than I was in talking to my mother.
We were on a, in an armored car with a guide and we were driving – of course with Gordon, driving the whole country and we looked up on a hill. And I said, “Gordon, look at all those sheep up there and look at those tents. I wonder what those people are doing?” He said, “John I think they’re called Bedouins.” I said, “I’ll bet they’ve got a really interesting story to tell. Why don’t we stop the car and go up there and like drink something with them.” Gordon tells the guide to stop the car. So, Gordon and I climb up this hill when we go into the tents. And there are the sheep and there are the Bedouins and we’re drinking tea and Gordon’s running the show and he’s talking to them and interpreting to me and all this. It was pretty fantastic.
We came down. We got in the car and we went around the curve and on the other side of the curve, we met a convoy of Israeli soldiers. They surrounded the car and they pointed their guns at us through the windows. Quickly or maybe not so quickly our guide, put the window down and explained that we were just there hanging out with Bedouins trying to figure out what was happening. They said, don’t do that again. Gordon looked at me and he said, “I will run the rest of this trip John and you butt out of this before you get us killed.”
We went to the pyramids one time and Gordon and I talked to President Mubarak and Gordon had relations with ambassadors that I had met through my job in Washington; even negotiated privately with them. But we were at the pyramids and I was very excited about this because you know, Gordon could go to the Cairo museum and be there for about 30 seconds and say, “I’ve seen enough.” But we were going to go to this wonderful light display at the pyramids. And we sit down and get ready for the show to start and then an announcer comes on and he said, “Ladies and gentlemen these pyramids were built with the joyous work of the volunteers who built these pyramids.” Gordon grabs me by the scruff of the neck, he said, “Those are my people and they were slaves. We’re out of here.” I never saw the light show.
My daughter Reese is now 14. When she was 12 or 13 years old, I saw her with a big book in her lap. I said, “Reese, what are you reading now?” She said, “Daddy, I’m reading that great book that Mr. Zacks wrote.” They loved when he came. Some magic tricks. His jokes. He gave them those skates that could slide on the wooden floor. I could kill Gordon for that. My wife and my daughters were as connected to him and he come to dinner and the dinner would normally be scheduled to go from seven to nine o’clock and everybody knew what was going to happen. Normally at about 12:30 in the morning, Gordon would say, “I have to go home” and he and I would sit out on the back porch and just talk. It was so special.
You know, one of the reasons why, I celebrate his life today and I have seen great sadness with the family which I understand. I lost a mom and a dad and didn’t recover for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of death and I’ve been very sad about it all. About the loss. I want to tell you about my last visit. Kimmy was there. I said, “Well, you know, you’re father is a blaze of glory. He’s going to go out in a blaze of glory whenever he goes.” And she said, “Well, that sounds so good. I’m going to write that down. I hope you’ll remember it.” But we sat on the den. I said, “Gordon, are you afraid?” Because he wanted no heroic treatment. He wasn’t going to stand for it. Period. He said, “John, I’ve lived a great life as anybody could had ever lived. I’ve did everything that I’ve wanted to do. I’m ready to go. I’m going to go out like I came in.”