Those of us who write commentary about events in the news sometimes give the impression that we have all the answers.
In fact, pundits seem to thrive by affecting utter assurance that they are always right.
They bring to mind what a colleague once quipped about economist Milton Friedman: "I wish I were as sure about anything as Milton is about everything."
But one thing I've found from 24 years writing columns and editorials for the Tribune is that, though you need a framework of principles to write good opinion pieces, you also need to remain open to doubts about what you think and what you've written in the past. Rigid adherence to dogma may be a valuable quality in a Communist Party apparatchik, but in a journalist, it makes for stale thinking and unpersuasive prose.
Re-examining beliefs can be painful. But it can yield the excitement and illumination of new discoveries. Some of the columns I've found most rewarding to do involved changing my mind about something.
After the 2000 election, when the Electoral College was under fire, I wrote a column defending it. But a few months ago, I read a new book Texas A&M University political scientist George C. Edwards III that convinced me I was wrong. That was disconcerting. But explaining my new view was one of the more stimulating things I've done this year.
What's true for writers is true for readers. The Editorial and Commentary pages are a chance to contemplate a range of ideas. Reading these pages shows an openness to opposing views.
Openness to changes of mind led me to journalism, which I stumbled into during college, where I thought I was preparing for a life in politics. It also led to me to the Tribune, and to choices that have given me, among other things, three near-perfect children and a home in Lake County.
It's also led me to reverse myself on more than one position. I'm sure there will be more. On these pages, after all, no question is ever completely closed.