We have a lot of fast talkers, sweet talkers and trash talkers. We have few eloquent listeners.
”Eloquent” isn’t a word often used to modify “listener.” However, it is what the late Howard Baker, Jr., in the twilight of his life, described as his best virtue.
Eloquent listening isn’t about hearing what you want to hear or agreeing with everything that you do hear. Eloquent listening is all about hearing without malice.
Baker’s passage last week puts another punctuation mark on the apparently bygone era of conciliation. We no longer celebrate men who, in the words of Baker’s stepmother, resemble the Tennessee River, flowing exactly down the middle of the state.
Eulogies recalled Baker’s famous question that summed up the country’s curiosity about Watergate — “What did the President know and when did he know it? He was celebrated for his efforts as chief of staff under President Reagan for navigating the Iran-contra scandal.