- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2001

Born in Cando, N.D., farm worker Dick Armey was 18 years old when, camped atop an electric pole one night while the temperature was more than 30 degrees below zero, he decided that he would become the first member of his family to graduate from college. A quarter-century later, Professor Armey, who by then was chairman of the economics department of the University of North Texas, was watching a House debate on C-SPAN one evening with his wife. Legend has it that Mr. Armey told his wife, "I could do as well or better than any of them." Interpreting her response as a sign of encouragement, Mr. Armey decided then and there that he would run for office. Thus began one of America's most improbable political careers, and one that officially ends with Mr. Armey's recently announced retirement at the end of next year.
The North Dakota native will leave the House as its only Republican majority leader since 1954. That didn't happen by accident. It was Mr. Armey, after all, who was a prime architect of the 1994 "Contract With America." That was the brilliantly conceived political manifesto that catapulted the Republican Party from its seemingly interminable status as minority party in the House to majority. Beginning in early 1995, with his handling of the 100-day drive to pass virtually the entire "Contract With America" in the House, it has been Mr. Armey's deft control of that chamber's legislative agenda during the last seven years that has been indispensable in maintaining the Republicans' control of the House.
Mr. Armey will leave knowing that the ideas he so aggressively embraced were instrumental in some of America's greatest accomplishments during his political career. In his speech, Mr. Armey recounted the tangible American achievements during his 17 years in Washington, including the supply-side economic revolution that precipitated "a course of economic prosperity and growth unparalleled in the history of the world"; the demise of communist tyranny in Eastern Europe; the collapse of the Soviet Union; the victory in the Gulf War; and the recent success in the "freedom revolution."
It was fitting that the last major legislative victory Mr. Armey, a lifelong proponent of free trade, orchestrated before he announced his retirement was the passage of trade-promotion authority. As Mr. Armey observed, "Peace through strength and supply-side economics changed the world for the better." Along the way, the political role he played and the ideas he so passionately embraced were mutually reinforcing factors that contributed much to many of America's successes. The boy from Cando has lived a life that epitomizes America's "can-do" spirit. Mr. Armey will be missed.

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