Dr. Joan Perry of Kinston lost a runoff election for Congress last week in the Third Congressional District which runs down almost the entire coast of North Carolina. State Representative Dr. Greg Murphy of Greenville will be the Republican candidate running to fill the unexpired congressional term of the late Congressman Walter B. Jones on September 10.
It was a tough campaign with lots of outside money involved and lots and lots of tough ads. “Too tough” some said. There were ads that were so tough that many people say they could never run for elective office if they were the target of such ads.
Joan Perry stepped up and ran. Negative ads and all.
What could drive an otherwise seemingly “normal” and accomplished person into running for public office in this hyperventilated and often–times false and fact-distorting day and age?
Dr. Joan Perry came to The University of North Carolina in the fall of 1975 in the first class of 10 female students to win the Morehead Scholarship as Joan Templeton of Charlotte. The Morehead, now Morehead-Cain Scholarship is awarded on many factors but primarily it is a “leadership scholarship” based on the model of the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University in England.
From the moment Joan stepped on campus, everyone pointed to her and said: “She is going to do something really important with her life. She is a natural-born leader”.
That she has. She has been a practicing pediatrician for the past 35 years and treated thousands of infants in Lenoir County and surrounding areas. She raised five sons, no small feat on its own, and is now grandmother to 10 Perry grandchildren. She has served on numerous boards, including the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, and many church and civic organizations to help make her hometown and our state a better place to live for everyone.
She participates in international triathlons. At age 62.
She didn’t have to run for Congress. No one does. No one has to run for Congress or any other legislative body. She is a very busy woman doing very important things for her family and community.
She felt a calling to run. Great leaders always do. As was said of Robert F. Kennedy at his funeral, they see injustice and try to correct it; they see suffering and try to heal it; they see war and try to stop it.
They run to put out fires that other people start and neglect to put out.
In her case, she was compelled by her pediatric work and her faith to do something about the infanticide bills passed in states such as New York and Virginia this past spring. She wanted to help reform our immigration laws and balance our budget so those children she treated wouldn’t have to pay the bills we are now piling up on them. She wanted to represent the needs of our veterans and military in Congress.
There is no disgrace for any great leader losing a political contest. There is disgrace in not trying when and if you think you have the capacity to effect change and improve things for the rest of us.
Abraham Lincoln lost five of the twelve elections in which he was a candidate. Was he a great leader? What if he had quit after one loss or worse yet, never run at all?
How many thousands of great leaders have self-selected themselves out of ever becoming a great political leader because they were afraid of a tough negative ad hurting their feelings?
RFK is oft-attributed as the source but the following words originally came from the pen of George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and ask why; I dream things that never were and ask why not?”
Some women dream the same things and do something about it. Like Joan Perry of Kinston.