Dave Ward

The image of the sheriff is omnipresent in the familiar legends and myths of the nineteenth-century American West. But your response to the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge brought to the nation’s attention a deeper and much more restorative meaning for sheriffs in the twenty-first century. When you shouldered the role of the keeper of the peace and the negotiator in determined pursuit of resolution, a cluster of virtues, often inclined to float off into abstraction, touched down, and integrity, courage, and honesty held their ground in Harney County. While humility immunizes you against arrogance, your experience in war guides and maintains your commitment to peace. You are well aware that “the better angels of our nature” are not our steadfast companions, often disappearing just when we most need them. But you also know that their frequent departures enhance the joy of their equally frequent reappearances. To use the words you spoke on February 11, 2016, “Right now we have the opportunity as people in this great nation to come together to work through our differences and start getting things back together.”  The example of sustainable heroism that you have given us reveals the hope embedded in the words of a poet not famed for his cheer:  when it seems that “the centre cannot hold,” that is actually the perfect time to put heart and soul into holding it together anyway.