It’s easy to get cynical about politics, especially in New Jersey.
Cynicism and politics form a symbiosis of bitter purpose here, enlivening the self-interest of statehouse and city hall predators and scavengers and dampening the enthusiasms of those who would aspire to nobility.
Occasionally, we see people step forward who remind us of the best expressions of public life – and of the best promise of our jaded state.
Such a person was Edward Romano, who died today at age 21.
Mr. Romano served as president of the Rutgers University Democrats, and in that capacity showed a rare love of civics and history and genuinely touched many other people with his lively, immensely well-informed and joyful love of this country’s political process. A rigorous intellect, he also possessed something just as special, if not more so, which formed a common assessment of him by his peers in the hours after his death. In the words of his college friend Luca Bonvini, “He was a genuinely kind person.”
Everyone said that, and one can see it in the pictures.
An energetic man, Mr. Romano was deeply passionate about Americana, and loved the 19th Century and railroads and little nuggets of unappreciated historical detail, and he thrilled in sharing all of it in his own way. Photos of him on Facebook show him sporting a coonskin cap and riding the rails cross country, always infectiously smiling and always sharing with his friends and colleagues.
At least one classmate recognized him as a teacher, and all called him a leader.
New Jersey is in such a bad way that we can ill afford the loss of someone like Edward Romano.
But lest we cave in to the notion that life here must be mean and narrow and lacking in historical context, cynical, and without the fire of inspiration, we should take this moment – a sad moment but important – to meditate on this good man; and to remember our youth and their brilliance, how refining it is to those who lose their way, how brave – and how fragile.
Edward Romano, Rest in Peace.