What a Man: Dean Barnett, 1967-2008

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by William Kristol

The Weekly Standard

10/28/2008 12:00:00 AM

Aristotle says somewhere that courage is the first of the virtues, because it makes the other virtues possible. Dean Barnett was brave–to a degree that perhaps only his beloved wife, Kirstan, and others in his immediate family were able to appreciate. Dean rarely talked about what he had done over the years to overcome his disease, and what he had to do every day to overcome it. But overcome it he did–until it finally cut his life short. Too short. But, as one of Dean’s friends put it, “More life in 41 years than 5 people cram in 80.”


Mitt Romney remembers in The Weekly Standard:

I remember meeting the Barnett brothers. It was 1994 and I was running against Ted Kennedy. Keith, now a lawyer in Boston, was jovial and enthusiastic. Dean was more laid-back. He had a knowing smile–like he hadn’t caught the canary yet, but he had it locked in a room. Over that campaign and over the years that followed, I got to know Dean very well. And I learned why he was smiling–Dean was “wicked smart,” as they say around here. He had extraordinary perspective and insight. He brought a lot more to our friendship than I ever could have imagined.

Dean didn’t tell me that he had Cystic Fibrosis–I heard it from an acquaintance. Dean was too intent on giving to our friendship to expect me to give something back to him. Over the years, I knew of his visits to the hospital and bouts with complications, but Dean’s smile and generosity of spirit never faltered.

Perhaps his unusual appreciation for the precious value of life enabled Dean to see what others missed, to cut to the nub, and to dispense with excuse and correctness. What it meant to me was advice and counsel that came clean and sharp. What it meant to his readers and listeners was unadorned truth and honest expression. We will miss Dean for what he saw and said. I will miss him for that and for much more. He was the real deal.

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