It's easy to forget at times here amid the celebration of private enterprise and the condemnation of excessive government interventions that there are some noble government employees out there and that the work they do in enforcing the rule of law makes America what it is.
I was reminded of that personally this morning at the funeral of David Trager, who in a long career served as both a federal prosecutor and a federal district court judge in Brooklyn.
Eulogies were offered by one of Trager's colleagues on the bench, Edward Korman, and by two of Judge Trager's children. Two stories particularly struck me.
The first was told by the judge's son, who reported that in addition to his father's many other roles, he served as "self-appointed Turtle Warden of East Hampton." This was a job that involved, upon sighting a turtle attempting to cross a road, parking the car at roadside and then directing traffic around the turtle, at some physical risk to the turtle warden, for the ten minutes or so that it took for the turtle to cross the road.
The judge's son said he once asked his father why he didn't just pick the turtle up and place it on the other side of the road. His father replied that the turtle is always free to change its mind.
(Trager stepped down from the turtle warden post after being confirmed to the bench.)
The second story is of the judge's origins. One of his daughters told of reading the judge's own eulogy of his father, who arrived in America as an immigrant from Europe knowing no English and hardly any other people. He eventually found work as a window washer.
The immigrant window-washer's son made his way to Columbia and then Harvard Law School and then the federal bench, finding time along the way to make a lot of friends and admirers, if the huge and racially diverse crowd on a snowy morning at the funeral was any indication.
I didn't, alas, know Judge Trager very well (his wife wrote for me at the New York Sun a bit), and the context in which I did know him was not his courtroom. But I always appreciated the encouragement he provided. For me, the remembrances of him this morning illuminated both the social mobility and the commitment to modest, impartial rule of law that are such important parts of both why people like the judge's father want to come to America in the first place, and why their descendants are proud to make it their home.