Published: May 14, 2021

Original article can be found at The Denver Post
Originally published on May 14, 2021 By Patty Limerick

Before 2021, whenever I heard the name “Cheney,” I was overcome by a compulsion to overgeneralize.

“I know all I need to know about that clan,” I would think, “and I know that I do not like them.”

In the weeks since the Jan. 6 takeover of the U.S. Capitol, Congresswoman Liz Cheney has cured me of the narrowmindedness with which overgeneralization infects its victims.

Representative Cheney has declared that the presidential election of 2020 was not stolen. The time has come, she has insisted, for Republicans to reject Donald Trump’s control of their party. Denounced and threatened by the leadership of the Party and by many of its voters, she holds her ground. Every day, she honors the oath she took to defend the Constitution.

Plus, she is permitting me to recover — in public — from a severe bout of narrowmindedness.

If the Center of the American West retains the ability to host distinguished speakers, I will invite Congresswoman Cheney to visit with us, and I will hope that her father and mother will come with her.

If she accepts this invitation, I will introduce her as a person of principle, integrity, and a deep love of our country. I will also note a few of the issues on which she and I disagree.

We are, for instance, not of one mind when it comes to military interventions in distant locales. Like her father, she wants the United States to be a forceful presence worldwide. Meanwhile, I am stuck in a contradiction: I fully support civilian control of the military, and I worry when people who have never served in the military hold the power to dispatch soldiers to distant wars. To reckon with this muddle, I could not ask for better conversational company than this father-and-daughter pair.

I am just as eager to have the company of Congresswoman Cheney’s mother. From 1986 through 1992, Lynne Cheney was the Chair of the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). In that era, when debates over Western American history were heated, word reached me that Lynne Cheney’s views on the Western past differed from my own. Embracing the “small world” ties that crisscross the West’s open spaces, I would welcome the chance to find out if my views of history have converged with hers, if hers have converged with mine, or if our views have headed off in new directions entirely.

And here’s the main reason that I believe Congresswoman Liz Cheney and I would enjoy each other’s company: We share a rare ability to maintain our tranquility in situations where others become rattled and anxious.

Though her visibility dwarfs my own, she and I are equally at peace with the role of the maverick. When we realize that we must speak out, we do not hesitate to accept our calling.

While the people who hoped for our silence grow agitated, we grow calmer.

Years ago, folklore informed me that the Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities had renamed me “Backpack Patty.” Since backpacks are infinitely preferable to purses and briefcases, I have always taken this as a compliment.

Lynne Cheney gave me the best nickname I ever had. I would like to have the chance to thank her in person.

Patty Limerick can be reached at, and you can find her blog, “Not My First Rodeo, at the Center of the American West website.

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