U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., is congratulated for a top-notch performance at a heavily attended town hall on health care at Everett's Memorial Stadium. While other members of Congress canceled events or staged safer tele-town halls, Larsen show real guts by proceeding with his event. Kudos.

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ONE picture is worth a thousand words, the saying goes. A newspaper photo of Rep. Rick Larsen facing a crowd of nearly 3,000 discussing the overheated topic of health-care reform reveals a congressman with guts.

Health-care town halls are common this August recess. The latest trend is tele-town halls, telephone events that duck the dangers of in-person meetings. There has been an inordinate amount of orchestrated screaming at some events. Conduct has been abysmal.

Even the Cowlitz County Board of Commissioners canceled a meeting on the Mount St. Helens Monument after hearing enthusiasts planned to turn it into another raucous health-care forum.

So there is Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, gently, cautiously guiding his crowd through hours of discussion. The size of the audience, the decision to proceed, took fortitude. Larsen did what he had to do in a high-minded manner.

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The event at Memorial Stadium in Everett began with the singing of the national anthem. Get it? We are all Americans who love this country. Common ground.

From there, Larsen deftly led the crowd, acknowledging arguments on all sides. By conceding all sides have a point, he neutralized some heat in the stadium.

Larsen never considered canceling the event.

“Screaming and yelling?” he said in an interview afterward. “I’m one of eight kids. I grew up around screaming and yelling.”

He also said he got something tangible out of the event. A young Boeing worker said he feared he would lose the level of health benefits won from collective bargaining. Larsen agreed to check the bill and ensure language is clear that the worker would not lose his benefits.

Other members of Congress who canceled town halls are rescheduling — proof positive Larsen behaved as a thoughtful leader on an important issue.

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