“Know your precincts.” Those words of wisdom were spoken to each of us at some time by Enrique Ros: loving husband, caring father, doting grandfather and great-grandfather, dedicated historian, active community leader, and, to us, political grandfather.
As a prolific author and historian, Enrique had a way with words. Sometimes witty, other times sharp, but always insightful. He taught us how to disagree without being disagreeable; how political discourse need not be insulting, but constructive. Most important, he was never far with an encouraging word, in order to make sure you fulfilled your potential.
He was a master tactician, and yes he always knew his precincts.
You could always count on Enrique to tell you who you needed to call for support in each neighborhood. This is because Enrique understood that politics is based on issues that concern everyday people, the local community. Enrique, a master social and political alchemist, developed formulas and compiled data so precise that he would advise his daughter, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of which individual bus benches were ideal for ads in order for her message to resonate.
He was always prepared, never flashy, and knew his people. You were well-advised to know as much or more than Enrique, because a daily quiz on the day’s campaign operations — from the proverbial “man behind the scenes” — would not be unusual.
Despite his unrelenting passion for U.S. politics, Enrique never forgot his native Cuba and continued the fight for its freedom. He was an unabashed defender of liberty and human rights, from his days leading a student movement against Fidel Castro to his outspoken activism against the regime as a historian, and leader in the community. Enrique understood that the best way to avoid repeating mistakes is by remembering and understanding our past. Enrique’s authorship of books on Cuban political and social history has ensured that we will not forget ours. Through his example, Enrique showed us that if there was something worth fighting for, you fight for it no matter the cost.
Throughout most of his life, he was joined by his wife, Amanda Ros. The almost inseparable duo worked tirelessly to better themselves, their family, and their community. Enrique and Amanda’s devotion to their children, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Henry Ros, and their grand-children was exemplary. In all aspects, they set a powerful example as to how we should live our lives: with grace in the face of adversity, commitment to our beliefs, and constant love for our family and friends.
Finally, and perhaps most important, Enrique taught us how to treat friends and adversaries. He never allowed us to use the word “enemy.” Enrique knew that today’s adversary could easily be tomorrow’s friend. This ensured that we never viewed political issues in personal terms. While political challenges were commonplace, low tactics were unsuitable for those seeking high office — elected or otherwise. This was the standard Enrique set for all those around him.
After all these life lessons, we are still not whole. We have lost a friend and a mentor who forged a path that so many of us have followed — who we could always call with good or bad news (which he would assure us was never as bad as it actually seemed). We will miss his praise, his admonitions, and his voice saying “eso está muy bueno, viejito.” (That’s very good, oldie.) The true value of some things, like the way Enrique touched our lives, cannot be adequately expressed with words.
None of us had political backgrounds when we began working for his daughter. His wisdom helped illuminate us and, while he is gone, his lessons live on. We will not forget them. We will pass them on as he would have wanted, and we will make sure those who come after us know their precincts.
Te queremos, Enrique. We love you.
Lorenzo Cobiella, Keith Fernandez, Rudy Fernandez, and Yara Lorenzo, former staff members to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. They are currently working to serve their community, and they know their precincts.