There's an old bromide that explains the importance of perseverance — it's not what happens to you in life that matters most, it's what you do about it.
In January 2012, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a first-term Illinois Republican, suffered a debilitating stroke that threatened to take his life and left him paralyzed on the left side of his body.
On Thursday, after months of recovery and rehabilitation, assisted by a cane and flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kirk walked up the 45 steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to signal his formal return to work.
We congratulate Sen. Kirk on his recovery; we commend his devotion to duty, and we salute him for the courage he has displayed throughout his continuing ordeal. Most of all, we thank him for the outstanding example he has set for millions of Americans who have gone through or are going through difficulties that test the limits of human endurance.
Among the many points Kirk has made in a flurry of recent interviews is the importance of not giving up, even when the odds seem overwhelming.
"A stroke isn't the end of the world; you will come back," he said.
Although he is returning to his duties in Washington, D.C., Kirk's recovery continues. He remains partially paralyzed on his left side, and his speech is sometimes labored. Kirk is clearly not the physical dynamo he once was. But his mind is sharp and his spirit undaunted. After all, how many people in the throes of a life-changing medical event would take on the additional challenge of learning Mandarin Chinese and Polish?
Before his stroke, Kirk was one of the shining stars of state and national politics. Energetic, articulate and a font of knowledge, he gave the impression of a man whose star had not yet risen to its highest level. The vagaries of life, however, can get in the way of big dreams, and Kirk has endured an obvious setback.
Still, he's a man of great determination and ability with much left to contribute to our nation. It's great to see him climb back in the ring, even if he needed a little help to do so.