The Rule of Law – Lincoln at Lyceum

“I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice.”

Lincoln spoke those words in 1837, only 24 years before civil war tore America apart. The future Great Emancipator spoke of mob justice, racially motivated violence, and attacks on American political institutions. Now in 2018, we read of racially motivated shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Kentucky store, and mail bombs sent to politicians. If 1837 seems similar to 2018, it is…and Americans should do all they can to stop it.

The ancient Romans are reputed to have said “Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum” (let justice be done, though the heavens fall). Ironically, the English Roman Catholic priest and political conspirator William Watson popularized the sentiment in Ten Quodlibetical Quotations Concerning Religion and State (1601). The idea has been that to maintain civic order, the Law must be supreme. The institutions that uphold the Law, in America’s case the legislative, executive, and judicial branches at the national, state, county, and city levels, must also remain supreme in the minds and hearts of the people. The supremacy of American law, as with the “Law of the Medes and the Persians” famous from the Bible, is a major safeguard of peace and tranquility. This is dangerous, for every type of government is better than anarchy. When the Beatles sang “You say you want a revolution” to the youth of the 1970s, even John, Paul, George, and Ringo advised restraint.

America, though, was born of revolution. We hold two seemingly contradictory values, the status quo and the change (progressive or regressive), at the same time. Lincoln himself was conservative in his aims (to preserve the Union) and progressive in his aims (ending slavery). Politics in the United States has always been an uneasy balance.

The uniting factor, of course, is justice. Racial discrimination and even slavery in America has always been unjust, exactly as it has been in the Africa, Asia, Europe, India, Middle East, South America, and every other nation throughout human history. However, the murder of innocents through abortion is equally unjust. Neither modern “progressives” nor “conservatives” have a monopoly on justice. Rather, we can learn from each other. The real villains are those who would destroy American political institutions and leave us with tyranny. Justice will never be perfect in any human society, and justice delayed is not necessarily justice denied. However, Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum is not a bad rule of thumb. Our society would be much better if we as individuals knew it, believed it, taught it, and practiced it. Abraham Lincoln did.

 

 

National Suicide – Comments on Lyceum

In our ongoing study of Lincoln’s words to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, IL on 27 January 1838, we have briefly examined some of the amazing blessings of America. These include her geography, her resources, her development, and her political institutions. Most people throughout history have been crushed by the boot of tyranny, from Argentina to Japan to Zimbabwe. Even today in China, Russia, Turkey, and many other nations, the light of liberty is flickering, or has gone out. The American people, working through brilliantly conceived and enduring political institutions, have lived in freedom, limited primarily by their own industry and imagination.

We have also discussed the men and women who made the United States the amazing country that it is. As heirs to their wisdom and to their labors, we must be grateful. As heirs to their folly and mistakes, we must be humble, because it is not clear that we are any wiser, or any more industrious, than they were. Looking at the United States today, one wonders if we are not greater fools and greater sluggards. Those who cast aside the Greek democracy and the Roman Republic thought they were building better societies.

Today we must explore Lincoln’s next passage, asking where the danger to America would come.

“How then shall we perform it?–At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Lincoln’s logic is impenetrable. As a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, the people decide if that nation will endure. Our political leaders are not space aliens who flew in from a distant planet, they are our neighbors, our co-workers, and our fellow citizens. Money and fame notwithstanding, it is ultimately we who put them in office. Does power corrupt most people? Of course. Do humans get proud? Absolutely, as almost everyone has in all of history. But unless angels rule us, and most of us wouldn’t want an angelic society because we all enjoy our personal vices, we are stuck with people to lead us in government. We can curse them, and make them worse than they are, or bless them, and make them better than they are. The choice, and the consequences, are ours.

If as Lincoln said the danger to America is not in foreign invasion, where is it? It is in national suicide. How can we kill ourselves?
1. By killing ourselves, the literal destruction of the American people by other Americans. Since 1973, over 60 million American babies have died by our own hands.
2. By killing our souls, forgetting the God who created us, sustains us, and guides us.
3. By killing our character, the loss of the values that made us great. In America, each person is created equal in value and responsibility before God; equally free to pursue their own lives and equally accountable for the consequences of their choices. Courage, industry, honesty, compassion, and a whole host of other virtues follow from this fundamental idea.
4. By killing our minds, turning us into media-dominated automatons too afraid and too confused to think, speak, and act for ourselves. By exchanging reality for fantasy, whether through the Internet, television, video games, or something else, and by preferring virtual relationships to real ones, we become less human.
5. By killing our dignity, promising income without work and vice without consequences.
6. By killing our bodies, using alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs until we waste away.
7. By killing our families, using “personal fulfillment” to separate us from those who should be our greatest support, as we are their greatest support.
8. By killing our communities, writing laws, regulations, and procedures to kill jobs, paralyze initiative, dehumanize interpersonal interactions, brainwash children, and make honest men into criminals.

The list could be much longer, and the examples legion, but this is enough for now. Americans who love their country, who abjure our ongoing national suicide, would do well to look at what a young country lawyer said to a group of other young men a long time ago…Lincoln at Lyceum.

Grateful to our Fathers – Comments on Lyceum

Showing gratitude to our fathers for American government is a good idea for us today

“We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them–they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Their’s was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only, to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter, undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation, to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.”

I have been personally involved in three political miracles. I stood in the cold rain on the Washington Mall at the Inauguration of George W. Bush (20 Jan 2001), I was second in command of Fort Belvoir’s military medical contingent at the Inauguration of Barack Obama (20 Jan 2009), and I was the deputy commander of all Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed military medical forces on the Washington Mall at Obama’s second inauguration (21 Jan 2013). Why were these events political miracles? Because they were peaceful transitions of power. America is not like ancient Rome, which had four emperors in one year (69 AD). We are not like modern China, which has an unelected ruler for life. And we are not like most nations for most of human history, in which rulers were chosen by their “royal” blood, and the blood they spilled from others. Why do we enjoy such political miracles? Because of the work of our forebears – fathers and mothers.

I have spent many hours in Washington working with the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and others. I have met with members of Congress and worked with their staffers on important issues. I have also studied totalitarian regimes and seen Baghdad immediately after Saddam Hussein, when some Baathists still clung to whatever they could keep. Our government is a model of stability, and even cooperation, compared to Louis XIV’s France, Frederick’s Prussia, and Stalin’s Soviet Union. Why do we enjoy such political stability? Because of the work of our forebears – fathers and mothers.

I did Christian missions work in Guatemala, and traveling in Cairo, with machine gun armed police officers and soldiers everywhere. I took Chinese Bibles from then-British Hong Kong into Red China (via Shenzhen and Quangzhou) in December of 1988 and more than once stared down the barrel of an AK-47. I traveled in Erdogan’s Turkey, where they copy the passport of every traveler every day, ensuring that the watchful eye of Big Government knows who is in their country and what they are doing. By contrast, citizens rarely experience the heavy hand of the military, and visitors to America travel freely from sea to shining sea. Why do we enjoy such political freedom? Because of the work of our forebears – fathers and mothers.

Why aren’t we grateful to our fathers for the wonderful system of government they have left us?
1. We cannot see the good in this heritage, focusing instead in what is bad, or at least what we don’t like. This blindness may in intentional or unintentional.
2. We know nothing of history, or current events in many countries of the world, and don’t care enough to find out, so we have nothing to compare our political system with.
3. We don’t like “dead white men.”
4. We are chronological snobs, believing that our era is far more enlightened than the “primitives” of the past, and that we have little to learn from them, never realizing that our descendants will think the same thing about us.
5. We live “lives of quiet desperation”, unwilling to take the time to be thankful to anyone for anything.

America is not perfect. Our transitions of power are less smooth, our politics are less stable, and our freedoms are more skewed, than they should be. Our politicians are sometimes corrupt, and institutions can be overbearing, but compared to the rest of the world, and to almost all of history, we have so much to be thankful for.
Let’s be grateful to our fathers (and mothers, of course) for the amazing land we call the United States.

Useful Quotations on International Relations

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

“This accession of territory affirms (Louisiana Purchase) forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival that sooner or later will lay low her pride.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“We do not covet anything from any nation except their respect.” Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British statesman, writer. Broadcast, 21 Oct. 1940, to the French people.

“For leaders unable to choose among their alternatives, circumspection becomes an alibi for inaction.” Henry Kissinger

“The bargaining position of a country depends on the options it is perceived to have.” Henry Kissinger

“The public does not in the long run respect leaders who mirror its own insecurities or see only the symptoms of crises rather than the long term trends. The role of the leader is to assume the burden of acting on the basis of a confidence in his own assessment of the direction of events and how they can be influenced. Failing that, crises will multiply, which is another way of saying that a leader has lost control over events.” Henry Kissinger

“Facing down a nonexistent threat is an easy way to enhance a nation’s standing.” Henry Kissinger

“Humiliating a great country without weakening it is always a dangerous game.” Henry Kissinger

“Heads of government are notoriously vulnerable to arguments that question their courage.” Henry Kissinger

“The bargaining position of the victor always diminishes with time. Whatever is not exacted during the shock of defeat becomes increasingly difficult to attain later.” Henry Kissinger

“In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. First inaugural address, 4 March 1933.

“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 2 Sept. 1901, Minnesota State Fair, quoting a favorite adage and referring to military preparation and the Monroe Doctrine.

“When great nations fear to expand, shrink from expansion, it is because their greatness is coming to an end. Are we, still in the prime of our lusty youth, still at the beginning of our glorious manhood, to sit down among the outworn people, to take our place with the weak and the craven? A thousand times no!”

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, Sept. 1899, Akron, Ohio, justifying the war against Spain.

“The man who loves other countries as much as his own stands on a level with the man who loves other women as much as he loves his own wife.”

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 6 Sept. 1918, New York City, on the anniversary of the first Battle of the Marne.

The Year in Law, Government and Politics

8 Jan – President George Washington delivered the first State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress in New York City (1790).

8 Jan – The only time in US history that the US national debt was $0.00 (1835).

16 Jan – Ivan the Terrible crowned himself the first Czar of Russia (1547).

16 Jan – The United States prohibited alcohol use throughout the nation in the 18th amendment to the Constitution (1919).

21 Jan – The National Assembly of Quebec adopted and flew the Quebec flag for the first time, inaugurating the Quebec Flag Day (1948).

29 Jan – Whig Senator Henry Clay proposed the Compromise of 1850, which admitted California as a free state, left Utah and New Mexico to popular sovereignty, limited Texas’ territorial claims, abolished the slave trade in Washington DC, and strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act, was introduced to Congress and passed in September (1850).

11 Feb – The first session of the United States Senate was opened to the public (1794).

23 Feb – A plot by the “Spencean Philanthropists”, including trade unionists and members of the London Irish community, to assassinate every British cabinet member, known as the Cato Street conspiracy, was uncovered (1820).

10 Mar – The US Congress ratifies the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican American War (1848).

12 Mar – The newly inaugurated President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation for the first time in what became his first of thirty “Fireside Chats” (1933).

15 Apr – Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator and US President during the Civil War, died after being shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington DC the night before (1865).

1 May – The Act of Union came into effect, uniting the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland into the United Kingdom, also known as Great Britain (1707).

4 May – Margaret Thatcher became the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of Great Britain (1979).

9 May – The Royal Houses of England and Portugal signed the Treaty of Windsor, the oldest diplomatic alliance in history which remains in effect (1386).

16 May – US President Andrew Johnson is acquitted by one vote in the US Senate, retaining the Presidency after being impeached by the US House of Representatives (1868).

13 Jun – Rhode Island became the first British North American colony to ban the slave trade (1774).

1 Oct – Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China (1949).

24 Nov – Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged killer of President John F. Kennedy, was murdered on live television in the basement of the Dallas police department by nightclub owner Jack Ruby (1963).

28 Nov – The Kingdom of Hawaii was recognized as an independent nation by the United Kingdom and by France.

1 Dec – Portugal proclaims King Joao IV as its ruler, ending the unity of the Iberian Peninsula (1640).

5 Dec – Former US President John Quincy Adams took his seat in the US House of Representatives, becoming the only US President to serve in the House after leaving Executive Office (1831).

5 Dec – Utah ratified the 21st amendment, becoming the 36th state to do so and ending Prohibition (1933).

7 Dec – Delaware became the first state to ratify the new US Constitution (1787).

11 Dec – With WW2 looming, King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom abdicated to marry American widow Wallace Simpson. Edward’s younger brother George became king (1936).

The Long Shadow – How to Follow a Superstar

A Tennessee democrat who was firmly committed to the Union, Andrew Johnson had a distinguished career as congressman, senator and governor of his state. Hoping to send a message of reconciliation to the rebellious South, Lincoln chose Johnson as his vice president in 1864. Johnson’s debut on the national stage went poorly, with a rambling and perhaps drunken speech when he assumed office in March 1865. Lincoln followed with a masterpiece, his Second Inaugural Address. Little did anyone know that in only six weeks, at one of the most crucial times in American history, the rambler would be President.

A Missouri democrat who came to national prominence investigating fraud, waste and abuse on the Committee of Military Affairs during the Second World War, Harry Truman had earlier served as farmer, haberdasher, judge and US senator. With President Franklin Roosevelt in declining health and many expecting that he would not survive his fourth term, the party looked for a vice president who could succeed in the top job. Eighty-two days after the Inauguration, Roosevelt lay dead, and Truman took the top job.

Johnson struggled during his presidency, continually battling Congress on civil rights and other issues, being impeached by the House, and retaining his job by only one vote in the Senate. Historians have judged him to be among the worst presidents. Truman could never compete with the wildly popular Roosevelt, and did not try. He stuck to his agenda and his style through the atomic bomb, economic upheaval, strikes, the war in Korea, and the start of the Cold War. Though his approval rating was 22%, the worst ever, in the final year of his presidency, Harry Truman is now ranked among the best US presidents.

Many have considered why Johnson failed and Truman succeeded in their quest to follow a superstar. Johnson had the disadvantage of following a relatively young and still healthy president who no one expected to die. He also had to rebuild the nation. Truman’s ascension to the presidency was expected, but he had to stabilize the world. This article attempts to help leaders know how to follow predecessors whom others consider to be superstars.

Publicly Acknowledge Reality

1. Your predecessor is loved; do not be perceived as diminishing that in any way. If you do, you, not he, will be diminished.

2. Charles de Gaulle is the most famous man credited with saying “The graveyards of the world are full of indispensable men.” While it is true that the world will not collapse with the loss of any individual, it is equally true that no one is replaceable. Each person’s combination of knowledge, skills, personality, and industry is unique. Don’t even try to replace a predecessor.

3. However, many people could do any given job competently. Your job is not to replace a superstar, but to use your unique attributes to move the team and the organization to the next level and face a new set of challenges.

4. No one, no matter how good, can or should stay in a job forever. New times call for new people. Lincoln had an excellent plan for bringing the United States back together after the Civil War, but Lincoln was one of the greatest leaders in human history. Judging from his performance at Yalta, it is not clear that Roosevelt grasped how the world would be after World War 2, and not clear that he had a sound plan.

5. There are some people in the organization who do not consider your predecessor a superstar. No one is loved by everyone. No matter how good you are, you are not loved by everyone either.

Transition

1. If your predecessor is a real superstar, he will be sad to leave the people he has worked with so well. However, he will not impair your transition.

2. Once she is gone, she will not interfere in the organization. She will stay gone unless asked to assist.

Your task

1. Maintain the advances of your predecessor. Andrew Johnson kept Lincoln’s rough outline for gently bringing the South back into the Union, although he struggled against a vindictive Republican congress. William Taft advanced, albeit imperfectly, Theodore Roosevelt’s progressive agenda. Neither tried to turn back the clock.

2. Move the organization ahead to meet new challenges. Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, but Joshua led them into the Promised Land. Moses’ task was great and his results were legendary. Joshua’s task was also great, and his results also stood the test of time.

3. Know and use your own style. You will fail if you try to mimic someone else. You have strengths and weaknesses just like she does.

4. Improve your strengths, improve your weaknesses, and use your staff to help compensate. Andrew Carnegie, the American steel magnate, famously opined that the key to success was to surround yourself with good people.

5. Leaders are beloved by their troops because they love their troops. You must care for your people more than you care for yourself. The Chinese military writer Sun Tzu wrote

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.”

6. Leaders are respected because they know their job better than anyone else, and work hard.

7. Leaders are followed because they know where the organization should go and how to get there.

8. As you are accomplishing your mission, enjoy your job and your team. They will not enjoy you if you do not enjoy them.

Anticipate a Positive Future

1. Make sure that your team knows that while their beloved leader has moved on, the team’s future is bright. It is your job and theirs to make the future better.

2. If your predecessor is a real superstar, rather than someone who is interested primarily in himself and his legacy, he will want your tenure to be even better than his, because he wants the best for the organization. The group’s well-being is more important to him than his own.

Conclusion

Some may argue that Andrew Johnson had no chance to succeed following Lincoln, and that the best he could have done was to be a placeholder until the next president came in and the magic of Lincoln had faded from public memory. However, as the examples of Truman and Joshua prove, capable men can succeed in the long shadow of superstars.

You may be following a superstar, but no matter how good, his or her time is over, and yours has begun. You have been placed in this new role by your superiors, and by powers even higher. You must respect and appreciate the past, but you must shape the future. Now all that remains is to do it.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is a day on which Americans are reminded to give thanks for the blessings that we, as individuals and as a nation, have received. Many spend their Thanksgiving watching football, others travel, and almost everyone eats more than they probably should. Many celebrants thank the people with whom they spend the day, usually family and friends, most thank whoever prepared the meal, and everyone should thank God, ultimately the One who provided everything we have.

Of course, to thank God requires that we believe in a personal God. It makes no sense to thank God if you don’t believe that one exists, and it also makes no sense to thank a god who isn’t a person, someone who isn’t a “someone”; unless you are of the sort who thanks the air that you breathe or the water that you drink. Surveys suggest that about 95% of Americans believe in god in some form, although perhaps 20% of those believe that god is a cosmic force, as opposed to a Person.

The Theory of Evolution plays a role. Those who believe that the universe began in a Big Bang and proceeded to develop into what we see today in the absence of divine intervention are entirely logical if they ask “why thank God for anything that we have received when the impersonal forces of evolution gave it to us?” Even if they believed in such a distant god they would be justified in withholding thanks from someone who never did anything for them.

Of course, in the absence of a personal God it is hard to explain where human personality came from. It is far easier and more logical to assume that human personality is as illusory as divine personality. If people who believed this were entirely rational, they would conclude that there was no point in thanking whoever made their Thanksgiving dinner or gave them Christmas presents. In such a belief system, these actions are equally the result of impersonal, deterministic forces.

The difference in how we see Thanksgiving in modern times is suggested in the above discussion, but it is better illustrated in comparing Presidential Thanksgiving Day Proclamations over the past two centuries.

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation – 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation – 1863

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States – A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation 2012

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans everywhere gather with family and friends to recount the joys and blessings of the past year. This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives. As many pause to lend a hand to those in need, we are also reminded of the indelible spirit of compassion and mutual responsibility that has distinguished our Nation since its earliest days.

Many Thanksgivings have offered opportunities to celebrate community during times of hardship. When the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony gave thanks for a bountiful harvest nearly four centuries ago, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wampanoag tribe – a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before. When President George Washington marked our democracy’s first Thanksgiving, he prayed to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come. And when our Nation was torn by bitterness and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln reminded us that we were, at heart, one Nation, sharing a bond as Americans that could bend but would not break. Those expressions of unity still echo today, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country, the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve, or the providence that draws our families together this season.

As we reflect on our proud heritage, let us also give thanks to those who honor it by giving back. This Thanksgiving, thousands of our men and women in uniform will sit down for a meal far from their loved ones and the comforts of home. We honor their service and sacrifice. We also show our appreciation to Americans who are serving in their communities, ensuring their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. Their actions reflect our age-old belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and they affirm once more that we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth, but from our bonds to each other.

On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2012, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together – whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors – and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

– BARACK OBAMA

Comparison of the Presidential Proclamations George Washington

Notice the differences of the proclamations over time. In 456 words, George Washington reminded Americans of the providence (care, guardianship and control) of Almighty God and implored them to “obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” He suggested that we spend our time in thanksgiving and prayer, and to “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue”. God is mentioned or at least alluded to in almost every sentence.

George Washington did not refer to individual ethnic groups but referred only to the “People”. He highlighted science and liberty and his desire for our nation to be a blessing, and for God to bless, all Mankind. Washington referred repeatedly to the People “establishing a government”, “becoming a Nation” and “establishing Constitutions.” He mentioned the importance that each individual do his part “whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually”. Aside from “I”, he never referred to himself. Finally, Washington asked pardon for our national sins.

Abraham Lincoln

In the midst of the terrible Civil War, Lincoln also referred to the providence of the Almighty God and the Most High God. He mentioned the human tendency to forget the source of our blessings, and alluded to the hardness of the human heart. After reflecting upon the blessings that the Union had enjoyed, despite the hellish conflict, Lincoln gave credit to the personal God, not the strength of men. He also referred to the sins of his nation.

“No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

As in Washington’s proclamation, Lincoln focused on God as the benefactor to whom our thanks belong. He never mentioned individual ethnic groups but simply referred to “fellow citizens” and “the American people.” As with Washington, God is referred to in the masculine personal. Lincoln referred to himself as “fellow citizen”. The length is 519 words.

Barack Obama

Only 74 years passed between the proclamations of Washington and Lincoln, compared to 150 years between Lincoln and Obama, but America has become a different nation. We read of “God-given bounty”, “our Creator” and “God” but compared to Washington and Lincoln, the Divine One is barely an afterthought. There is no mention of His providence, His judgment, His service, His glory, or even “Him”.

In 550 words, Obama emphasized “lending a hand”, helping each other and “giving back.” One ethnic group is mentioned, and the word “Americans” is used. Obama honored the military and the rest of the nation separately, while the others did not honor the nation at all. Washington and Lincoln suggested that we humble ourselves, while the word is absent in 2012. Having little history as a country, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln referred to present events. In contrast, Barack Obama spoke at length of history. His only Biblical allusion was “we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers” (Genesis 4:9). While Lincoln stated that America’s greatest gifts came from God, Obama attributes them to “our bonds to each other”. He referred to himself as “President of the United States.”

Conclusion

There can be little doubt that the themes of America, as revealed in Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations, have changed. Biblical Christianity has given way to a humanistic communalism. God is mentioned but is in no way central. Sin and repentance are entirely absent, as is the providence of God. Honor is reserved for man, and not for the Creator of all men.

If modern American Christians were to write a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, what would ours say? Would it resemble Washington and Lincoln or Obama? If the latter, can we wonder why America has changed so much over the years? Renewal in our land will not be found first at the ballot box but in the prayer room, at the pulpit, in the home, and at the workplace. If Christians humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

A Sense of Time and Place

Several months ago I waited with my children at the school bus stop. It was a cool, sunny morning and a neighbor and her child walked towards us. She had a Middle Eastern accent and an olive complexion. Having learned some Arabic in Iraq I greeted her with “Sabah al khair” (“Good morning”) and she replied with “Sabah al noor.” Curious, I asked where she came from, expecting the answer to be an Arab country in the Middle East. She replied “Iran”, where the dominant language is Farsi, and I asked if she spoke Arabic as well as Farsi and English. She answered “no, but Farsi has adopted many Arabic words and phrases since they invaded us.” What strange words to American ears, “since they invaded us.” Her explanation was shockingly personal and immediate, as though it had happened to her, even though the invasion of which she spoke was in 636 AD, climaxing in the famous Battle of al-Qadisiyyah. I couldn’t imagine saying of the British “since they invaded us”, as though it happened to me personally, but the history rolled off her tongue as if it was a current event. I asked if that was the invasion that she was referring to and she said “yes”. The centuries that had passed had no bearing on her feelings about it.

In January 2003 I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany and encountered a truck driver delivering a package to the community center at Patrick Henry Village. His name was von Manteuffel and during our conversation I asked if he was related to the famous German general from World War II, Hasso von Manteuffel. The truck driver sprang to attention, clicked his heels together and replied “Feld Marshal General von Manteuffel war mein grossvater (General Field Marshall von Manteuffel was my grandfather).” This ordinary man beamed with pride because of the exploits of his grandfather, as though he shared in them by virtue of their common blood. I later described this encounter to the US Army Europe (USAREUR) historian who explained it by saying “Americans have little sense of history and place; certainly nothing like we find in Europe. Heimat (home) is more than a place to Europeans; for them it is filled with meaning in a way that is hard for many of us to understand.”

Abraham Lincoln famously said “I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” Like most Americans, Lincoln was always looking forward and rarely looking back. It is difficult to imagine my neighbor at the bus stop or the truck driver in Heidelberg saying what Lincoln did because the distant past was as real to them as events yesterday. Their sense of time and place, and its effects on the present, were palpable. My neighbor and the truck driver would have been puzzled by Lincoln, but both would have perfectly understood Colonel Robert E. Lee’s refusal to fight for the Union against his native Virginia.

American policy makers have struggled for years with this mindset. More than one leader complained about the Serb determination to keep Kosovo; never understanding that it related, at least in part, to their crushing defeat under Prince Lazar against the Ottomans under Murad I in 1389. Some thought that this explanation was a ruse intended to cover up their real reason for waiting to keep the territory, such as money or power. It may have been, but only in part.

We encountered the same problem in Iraq. The Sunnis and the Shia have been bitter foes for millennia, since Imam Hussein was killed by the forces of Yazid at the Battle of Karbala (680 AD). Though there are current reasons for their animosity, ancient ones still matter. Events of which most Americans have never heard influence peoples’ thoughts and actions today. Many Turks remember and still rejoice in the Fall of Constantinople (1453) and Osama Bin Laden was motivated to terror, at least in part, in response to the Spanish Reconquista (1492).

Each individual attaches a different level of importance to their home and each perceives time a little differently. Some Americans have a powerful sense of the importance of their place and some Germans have little concept of Heimat. I have met people in the American South who, like my Persian friend, bristle at the Union forces who “invaded them” 150 years ago. On the other hand, many Americans hold no grudge against the Japanese, even though their atrocities happened much later. Culture, not necessarily nation, seems to be the key factor here. How each person views time and place seems to fall along a continuum; some value both highly, others not at all, and most people fall in between.

Is one attitude morally better than the other? No. However, depending on the situation, one attitude may be more useful than the other. Looking the future and not getting weighed down in the past has served America well. However, any American who wishes to stop a war or sell a car overseas must acknowledge that people in other cultures view the world with different eyes. While the basics, including physiological needs, security needs, esteem, love and belonging are consistent across the cultures, the specifics vary.

What should American Military Members, and Others Dealing with People from Other Cultures, Do?
1. Accept that not everyone sees the world as we do. In some cases others may be amenable to change, but in many cases not. In some cases we may need to change.
2. Study the history, language and culture of those we work with, and fight against.
3. Ask them why they do what they do.
4. Believe their answer, but take it with a dose of healthy skepticism.

Vincenzo Perugia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum in Paris in August of 1911. When arrested in 1913 after trying to sell the painting to the curator of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Perugia was asked why he had stolen it. He replied that he had done it to reclaim an Italian national treasure that Napoleon had stolen. Though Napoleon did take hundreds of works of art during his Italian campaign (1796-7), the Mona Lisa was not one of them. King Francois had purchased the Mona Lisa from Da Vinci’s assistant Salai, who had inherited the piece after his master’s death. Though Italians hailed Perugia for his patriotism, the fact remains that he had tried to sell the painting. Even if he had a nationalistic motive, it wasn’t his only one.

American leaders at all levels must be aware of the different cultures they encounter and work to accomplish the goals of our nation without unduly offending our hosts. Though we may find these attitudes frustrating, on political and financial levels we must accept these differences of opinion and deal with them when accomplishing the mission. This is as fundamental to foreign policy as it is to commercial success. The United States will need a leaders with this knowledge and these skills to lead our nation in an increasingly complex and diverse world in the future.

Useful Quotations on Politics and Government

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

Ecclesiastes 10:2 – A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.

2 Corinthians 13:1 – This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress.” John Adams (1735-1826)

“Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it.” Anon

“Government is great fiction, through which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.” Frederic Bastist (1801-1850)

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” James Bovard (1956-)

“Vote early and vote often.”  Al Capone (1899-1947)

“Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.” Douglas Casey ()

“Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”  Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

“To see the right and not to do it is cowardice.” Confucius (551-479 BC)

“A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” Confucius

“Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”  Winston Churchill

“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Winston Churchill

“In critical and baffling situations, it is always best to return to first principle and simple action.” Winston Churchill

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the prosperity. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” Winston Churchill

“Justice is truth in action.” Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

“I begin by taking. I shall find scholars later to demonstrate my perfect right.” Frederick (II) the Great (1712-1786)

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

“For the greatest part of humanity and the longest periods of history, empire has been the typical form of government.”  Henry Kissinger (1923-)

“A great President must be an educator, bridging the gap between his people’s future and its experience.” Henry Kissinger

“Americans could be moved to great deeds only through a vision that coincided with their perception of their country as exceptional.” Henry Kissinger

“Statesmen, even warriors, focus on the world in which they live; to prophets, the “real” world is the one they want to come into being.” Henry Kissinger

“In politics, however, there are few rewards for mitigating damage because it is rarely possible to prove that worse consequences would in fact have occurred.” Henry Kissinger

“Confused leaders have a tendency to substitute public relations maneuvers for a sense of direction.”  Henry Kissinger

“Every king consoled himself with the thought that strengthening his own rule was the greatest possible contribution to the general peace, and left it to the ubiquitous invisible hand to justify his exertions without limiting his ambitions.” Henry Kissinger, speaking of Europe 18th Century

“Paradoxically, the absolute rulers of the 18th Century were in a less strong position to mobilize resources for war than was the case when religion or ideology or popular government could stir the emotions.”  Henry Kissinger

“Equilibrium works best if it is buttressed by an agreement on common values.  The balance of power inhibits the capacity to overthrow the international order; agreement on shared values inhibits the desire to overthrow the international order.  Power without legitimacy tempts tests of strength; legitimacy without power tempts empty posturing.” Henry Kissinger

“The basic premise of collective security was that all nations would view every threat to security in the same way and be prepared to run the same risks in resisting it.”  Henry Kissinger

“The weakness of collective security is that interests are rarely uniform, and that security is rarely seamless.  Members of a general system of collective security are therefore more likely to agree on inaction than on joint action; they either will be held together by glittering generalities or may witness the defection of the most powerful member, who feels the most secure and therefore least needs the system.”  Henry Kissinger

“The bargaining position of a country depends on the options it is perceived to have.” Henry Kissinger

“The public does not in the long run respect leaders who mirror its own insecurities or see only the symptoms of crises rather than the long term trends.  The role of the leader is to assume the burden of acting on the basis of a confidence in his own assessment of the direction of events and how they can be influenced.  Failing that, crises will multiply, which is another way of saying that a leader has lost control over events.”  Henry Kissinger

“Facing down a nonexistent threat is an easy way to enhance a nation’s standing.”  Henry Kissinger

“University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”  Henry Kissinger (1923-)

“Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions – it only guarantees equality of opportunity.”  Irving Kristol (1920-2009)

“What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.” Edward Langley (1928-1995)

“A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.” G. Gordon Liddy (1930-)

“Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges. Let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in the courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.”  Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 27 Jan. 1837, to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill.

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 19 May 1856, Bloomington, Ill.

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Autograph fragment, c. 1 Aug. 1858 (published in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, ed. by Roy P. Basler, 1953).

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 16 Oct. 1854, Peoria, Ill., in the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

“The Republican Party should not be a mere sucked egg, all shell and no meat, the principle all sucked out.”  Abraham Lincoln

“The man who can’t make a mistake can’t make anything.” Abraham Lincoln

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail.  Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than he who enacts laws.” Abraham Lincoln

“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”  Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), “The Prince”

“A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” Harold Macmillan (1894-1986)

“Giving money and power to the government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” P.J. O’Rourke (1947-)

“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it is free.” P.J. O’Rourke

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Pericles (495-429 BC)

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”  Plato (427-347 B.C.)

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: if it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

“The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.” Ronald Reagan

“In matters of state, he who has the power often has the right, and he who is weak can only with difficulty keep from being wrong in the opinion of the majority of the world.”   Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Will Rogers (1879-1935)

“I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!” Will Rogers

The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.  Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. Radio broadcast, 2 March 1930.

“The old parties are husks, with no real soul within either, divided on artificial lines, boss-ridden and privilege-controlled, each a jumble of incongruous elements, and neither daring to speak out wisely and fearlessly on what should be said on the vital issues of the day.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 6 Aug. 1912, at the Progressive party convention, Chicago.

“It is difficult to make our material condition better by the best law, but it is easy enough to ruin it by bad laws.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 23 Aug. 1902, Providence, R.I.

“No people is wholly civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office and stealing a purse.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Acceptance Speech, 22 June 1912, Chicago, Illinois, upon his nomination for president on an independent ticket.

There is something to be said for government by a great aristocracy which has furnished leaders to the nation in peace and war for generations; even a democrat like myself must admit this. But there is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with the “money touch,” but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Letter, 15 Nov. 1913.

“The government is us; we are the government, you and I.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 9 Sept. 1902, Asheville, N.C.

“A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“The President has kept all of the promises he intended to keep.” Clinton aide George Stephanopolous (1961-) speaking on Larry King Live

“No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.” Mark Twain

“The only difference between the tax man and the taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.” Mark Twain

“There is no distinctly American criminal class – save Congress.” Mark Twain

“In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.” Voltaire (1694-1778)

 

Useful Quotations on Success

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always be where you’ve always been. Anon

People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.  Dale Carnegie

Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts. Winston Churchill

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. Bill Cosby

Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.  Albert Einstein

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success. Henry Ford

Heroes are made in the hour of defeat. Success is, therefore, well described as a series of glorious defeats. Mohandas K. Gandhi

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing. Abraham Lincoln

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. Vince Lombardi

There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything. Vince Lombardi

I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom. General George S. Patton

The past does not equal the future. Anthony Robbins

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it”  Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you.  Gloria Vanderbilt

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”  Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)