Where are the statesmen? What happened to leadership? Do you think that the current crop of characters on both sides could do anything but reduce the sum of human knowledge whenever they open their mouths? Could you see any of them move the public discourse by delivering something akin the following examples in a speech?
“Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.” -George Washington
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” -Abraham Lincoln
“Now, the same principle which applies in private life applies also in public life. If a public man tries to get your vote by saying that he will do something wrong in your interest, you can be absolutely certain that if ever it becomes worth his while he will do something wrong against your interest. So much for the citizenship to the individual in his relations to his family, to his neighbor, to the State. There remain duties of citizenship which the State, the aggregation of all the individuals, owes in connection with other States, with other nations.” -Theodore Roosevelt
“With experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this the greatest of all, I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without pretensions to that high confidence you reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary character, whose preeminent services had entitled him to the first place in his country’s love and destined for him the fairest page in the volume of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage is a great consolation to me for the past, and my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.” -Thomas Jefferson
Our generation of leader talks about hand size, call each other playground names, accuse each other of “smear” when challenged about their very public actions which might sometimes be honest mistakes but nevertheless border on illegal. They espouse vicious bigotry, dangerous provincialism, economic ignorance and a lack of public compassion and civility.
When I was younger, we watched the old guys making mistakes or trying to euphemistically talk about bad policy or actions. I had the hubris to think that our generation would bring better sense to the discourse. Even then we had examples of statesmanship: Nixon in China, Carter at Camp David, Reagan at the Berlin Wall, Bush I handling the collapse of the Soviet Union. Heck, Bill Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic convention was more statesmanlike than anything we are hearing now. I remember pounding my fist on the kitchen counter going, “He so pisses me off! No one else could do that. That was the greatest political speech anyone has ever given!” Even though I disagreed with him, I still was impressed. He challenged his political opponents to a higher level of discourse.
Now that our generation has reached its turn to take responsibility for our nation and looked hopefully to promote from our ranks our most capable to public office, I am not only disappointed, I fear for the republic…