“with no regard for his own personal safety.”

My family and I have known Dr. David Schmitt (“Dave”) for about fifteen (15) years, having met him at a local church in Norman, Oklahoma while he was serving as a university research fellow. In all the time I have known him, he has never failed to act with integrity, honesty, thoughtfulness and regard for others. Dave is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He is not a superficial person and can be disarmingly methodical, deliberate, analytical and philosophical. He has a great and wry sense of humor and he is very well read. He is (likely) different than you and me in a lot of superficial and perhaps some substantive ways. In a society that values getting ahead and prefers fashion over substance, personality over character, and rewards looking out for number one, it can be easy for some to disregard, overlook or marginalize Dave. That is a shame.

The truth is we could use more people who regard the well-being of others and are willing to work and direct their energies to the improvement of society and its individuals. He was a tireless public servant who took his service to the citizens of Oklahoma seriously enough to perform his job with diligence and excellence. Unfortunately, and predictably, when ineffective and potentially dangerous bureaucracies are threatened, they tend to lash out at those who are pointing out their dangerous practices and they lash out most against who have worked hard and cultivated the character over a life time to continue to press on and to do their job with excellence and without regard to their own self-interest. After all, the quitters would have been beaten a long time ago. Most of us probably would have quit already. Most all of us would have withered under the personal, financial, physical and emotional pressure that has been brought to bear against Dave in his service to the people of Oklahoma at the Department of Environmental Quality. That is tragic.

I could go on and on about Dave’s intellectual gifts and sense of humor and service to others but really it is his strength of character and regard for others even at the expense of his own well-being that ought to be admired and emulated and supported by all of us. State government bureaucrats and pro-government merit counsels are not the final judge of a man in the end, and apparently not an accurate judge of a man in the meantime. When a man has the courage to say, “this is wrong” and stands up to be counted and does not back down under pressure to sell out and compromise his integrity, we used to call that heroism – instead, today, such a man can end up with his career ruined and fighting to survive against a system that will not abide non-conformity and challenging the status quo. While the government bureaucracy may regard itself as supreme even over and against the people it serves, I wonder how many of you and I would, in a private moment, when there is no fanfare and only the threat of real loss and harm, act in such a way that someone in the business of knowing what it means to act heroically and selflessly, would say you acted “with no regard for his own personal safety.” Whatever a man or woman claims to be and seems to be, strength of character is who we are when no one is watching. That is Dave.

Consider this account of Dr. Schmitt: https://newsok.com/article/3169870/five-honored-for-bravery

Steven Goodspeed
University of Oklahoma JD/MBA