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It’s an old saying that can be traced back to Persian poets. Abraham Lincoln, prior to becoming America’s 16th president, used it in a speech: “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”
One of my early childhood memories, around the age of 3, involves pointing at our tiny black and white television screen and identifying “Tricky Dicky,” aka then-President Richard Nixon. My parents were quite amused.
Since then multiple presidents have come and gone, all with some degree of angst and dissatisfaction. Ford inherited a huge mess in the form of Watergate. Carter went down in flames after the Iranian hostage crisis, and was widely blamed for high inflation. Reagan—much beloved in memory these days—had his own troubles. He had some great diplomatic successes—“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”—and yet the national debt, federal budget deficit and trade deficit skyrocketed, in spite the so-called “trickle down” theory of economics. The first George Bush we elected said “read my lips, no new taxes” during his campaign, then promptly raised taxes. And while the economy may have soared under Clinton’s administration, his personal ethics (or lack thereof) left much of the nation in moral turmoil. The second Bush’s election came amid tremendous controversy (hanging chads, anyone?), yet he carried the country through the terrors of 9/11. He also carried us into two Middle East wars. With Obama’s election, the nation polarized more than ever, and that division has only widened since the most recent election.
What’s the point?
Presidents come and go like weather systems.
Family, friends, neighbors, community… those things remain.
Relationship overrides political posturing. Or it should. Will we be the American people who come together in unity around our shared history and belief in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, or will we allow ourselves to be torn apart and destroyed by extremist ideologies on either side of the aisle?
I watched the movie “Spotlight” a few weeks ago. It’s about investigative journalism. There were a number of thought-provoking things in the movie, but the one that stuck with me was the new editor of the Boston Globe, an outsider from Florida, asked his reporters something to this effect: “What would make this newspaper essential to our readers?”
It’s a question I’m asking myself every week now, and one I’d be interested in hearing your responses to.
Memorial Day weekend is upon us once again. Between all our three-day weekend activities, may we take at least a moment on Monday to honor the men and women who have died in active military service to our country. Have a safe and happy weekend!