Think Anew, Act Anew

observations and opinion

What a President sounds like

On this uneasy Fourth of July, Americans should remember that they have known uncertainty and trial in the past. They have also known terrible leadership. There is little new about those things.

Lost in history is the chaotic and unsettling first decade of the Great Republic — the decade before the Constitution was adopted. Those were years when it seemed like the centrifugal forces of localism would rip the new country to pieces, before it could even begin.

From the 1830s to 1860 the United States knew a succession of weak, unimpressive hacks in the White House. They, a corrupt Congress and a malign Supreme Court exalted slavery to the highest priority in the land (much the way guns have become sacred in the 21st Century).

Imagine today, how it must have felt to be an American in 1930:  the economy was collapsing and the federal government was committed to a path of total inaction— paralysis and Depression — that cursed the lives of tens of millions.

The Presidents who inherited those calamities, brought shining intellect and personal courage to the work of recovery and rebuilding. Those characteristics are still alive in people, even if they are sometimes drowned out by the noise of the circus.

Here are three lesser-known statements made by Washington, Lincoln and FDR, statements which don’t get enough attention when we read what they had to say:

  • Washington spoke of amity among all peoples — not mere tolerance, but recognition and respect, for each person willing to be a citizen.
  • Lincoln spoke of inequality and oppression — words aimed at slavery but just as pointedly targeting the exploitation of workers.
  • FDR’s First Inaugural is famous for “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” but elsewhere in that same speech, he decries materialism — and he blames “the money changers” who through self-interested dealings, sucked the lifeblood out of the economy.

Each statement, ancient as it may be, is relevant to life in the 21st Century.

Today, in the United States of 2017 — blighted as it is by a truly corrupt Congressional majority and an unstable fool at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — there is a good economy and a vigorous democratic culture. The USA may be suffering and may not yet have reached the darkest hour, but as in the past, it will emerge into the light.

Happy Fourth of July.

George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, August 1790

 

Prior to becoming President, Abraham Lincoln crafted his argument for the abolition of slavery, in lengthy and repeated debates with Senator Stephen Douglas.

 

FDR’s First Inaugural.  Beyond “the only the thing we have to fear is fear itself” was this searing indictment of the failed practices of capitalism:

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on July 3, 2017 by in The U.S.A..
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