Hail to the Chief

Below is George Washington on Boston Commons. Washington set the tone for the presidency. He was the indispensable man, so often talked about but actually so rare in history.

Most Federal employees working in DC don’t have to come in tomorrow, inauguration day.   It would be literally impossible for most of us to get to work anyway.   I don’t know how many people will come in for the inauguration, but it will certainly be enough to clog the Metro.   I thought about going down to try to get a glimpse of the activity, but decided against it.   I would just become part of the crowd problem.  Besides, I figure I will get a better view watching TV.

Below is the stone wall in Fredericksburg.  The battle that took place there in 1862 was bloody, with the Confederates shooting from behind the stone wall.  Nevertheless, two years later, during a terrible civil war, we held our elections on schedule.  Lincoln won a second term.  Lincoln was another indispensable man.  He was remarkable not only for winning the civil war, but for his profound generosity at the end.  Read his Second Inaugural Address.

People who know me are aware of my leanings and I don’t talk about politics on this site, but I can voice support for my president.   All Americans wish President Obama success.   I am glad that he seems to be so popular worldwide.  Although I think that anti-Americanism goes beyond our political leaders or our policies, it doesn’t hurt to have a leader who is personally popular. 

I listened to an interview on NPR this afternoon with a guy whose parents were Black Panthers.    He said that he distrusted Martin Luther King when he was a young man because he thought that such peaceful and respectful tactics couldn’t work.    But as he got older, he saw the error of his ways.   Still, he said, he was surprised when Obama won in almost completely white Iowa and he was astounded when he won the presidency of the United States.    If you think back to 1968, it is truly astonishing. 

Below is the old fashioned train in Durango, Colorado.  The genius of our Constitution allowed our republic to expand from sea to sea w/o compromising our democracy.  The railroad and telegraph helped tie the continent together.

It makes me wonder how much better the world could be if some of the violent militants around the world had chosen a more peaceful strategy of change. Some of these generations long armed struggles make no objective sense if you are looking for real results.  Of course, I think the difference may be that King was trying to help his followers become part of the American dream. Non-violent tactics require a fundamental respect for and belief in the humanity of your opponents.  Many international militants have more bloody revolutionary aims and are less loving of their opponents.  They are not really looking for mutual solutions.

Each new president is a new beginning.   That is another astonishing thing.  We have become so accustomed to it that we forget how astonishing it is – 220 years of successful transitions, even during the civil war.   Few governments in world history have that kind of record of success.  The U.S. is considered a young country, but we have the second oldest government in the world and the oldest living constitution.   I expect the best is yet to come.