Leading the Leaders
Terry Strine could have retired to a life of ease. But when you believe the country is headed down the wrong road, you have to act. Meet his new young leaders.
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They are enthusiastic, fresh-faced, young—or, at least, youngish—10 men and seven women, all well turned out in tailored suits or dresses. There are no long-hairs among the men, and only two sport beards, neatly trimmed. There is one African-American, a woman.
They have gathered in the main house of Terry Strine’s gentleman’s farm, which straddles the Delaware-Pennsylvania line at the end of a lane off Del. 52. As they introduce themselves in two minutes of articulate, precise language, it’s easy to see why Strine calls the 17 “fellows” in this, the second of his Leadership Delaware programs, “the cream of the crop” among young Delawareans.
Fit and trim, Strine appears at least a decade younger than his 73 years, despite a crop of snow-white hair. He is a commercial real estate mogul who assumed chairmanship of the Delaware State Republican Committee in 2003, resigned in 2008, then ran for national committeeman. He was defeated in that effort, which he calls “an incredibly good break for me, and frankly, I think, a good move for the state.”
The defeat afforded him time to reflect on his next move. Successful, wealthy, the father of three and doting grandfather of five, he might reasonably have been expected to retire with Sandy, his wife of 48 years, to the 13-acre Centreville farm or their house in St. George, Maine. (The apartment above his Investors Realty at 1207 Delaware Ave. in Wilmington would be a bit cramped.)
But for Strine, who makes the Energizer Bunny look like a slacker, retirement was never in the picture. Instead, he says, “I began writing letters to myself.” The letters reflected his concern for the country and the course it was on—a course set by a free-spending federal government that he was convinced would lead to disaster, a course that ran counter to his core conservative principles of self-reliance, limited government and paying as you go.
Growing up on a small farm near York, Pennsylvania, young Strine learned those principles from his union-member father and a widowed grandmother with whom he peddled chickens and eggs door-to-door.
He was troubled too by the long-standing tendency of elected officials who, he says, “may have entered office for the right reasons but quickly become members of the I Party—I being incumbent.” This is especially so, he says, for members of both the state and U.S. Houses of Representatives, who serve two-year terms.
Strine soon fashioned his letters into a seven-page document that outlined a year-long program of issue-oriented forums aimed at informing and training young Delawareans to be leaders in their communities, whether in politics, business or the non-profit sector. He took the proposal to his friend, former governor Pete du Pont.
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