Larry Banman: New Year’s resolution: Respect the office even while disagreeing with the politics
December 29, 2008
We are less than a month away from the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 56th president of the United States of America. On Jan. 20, 2009, our country will induct into that office, for the first time in our history, a man of African descent.
According to presidential-inauguration.com, the first president, George Washington, was inaugurated at Federal Hall in New York on April 30, 1789. Washington repeated the oath, read by Chancellor Robert Livingston of New York, with one hand on the Bible: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Establishing a custom that has been followed by all succeeding presidents, Washington added, “So help me God” at the end. In eloquent
Enlightenment form, Washington’s inaugural address spoke of “the Great Author of every public and private good,” “the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men” and civic virtue required for successful government.
Washington needed only 135 words to complete the address at his second inauguration in 1793. Some 48 years later, President William Henry Harrison needed 8,495 words to complete his address. During that address, which lasted some two hours in the cold weather, Harrison failed to wear a winter coat and developed pneumonia. He died a month later. From that example, there is no doubt a lesson to be learned by long-winded orators.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration is noteworthy because of what he did before his swearing-in. FDR went with his wife to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a church service on the morning of March 4, setting a presidential precedent of attending an inaugural-day worship event.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy became the United States’ youngest and first Catholic president. During his inaugural address on Jan. 20, he delivered his now-famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
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I have given quite a bit of thought to the impending inauguration. I am not a fan of Mr. Obama’s politics. In fact, I believe some of the policies will ultimately prove to be detrimental to the path that I think the country should follow. However, I also believe that it is important to respect the office of our nation’s elected leader.
Whenever one of my daughter’s had a problem with a teacher or a coach, I trotted out the standard phrase, “They may not always be right, but they are still your teacher.”
When President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley in March 1981, the chief surgeon who operated on the President that day was an avowed Democrat. When Mr. Reagan was wheeled into the operating room he commented that he hoped the surgeons were Rebublicans. Dr. Joseph Giordano, the aforementioned liberal Democrat said, “We’re all Republicans today.”
When Jesus told his disciples to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” I believe the guiding principal behind that statement was that certain aspects of that office were to be respected.
In the last months of Bill Clinton’s presidency, I found that I could not stomach the sight of the man. When he was on television or radio, I immediately changed the channel. It was more that just disagreeing with his politics or being disturbed by his morality. I found myself with a loss of trust in the office of president. I often wondered (hypothetically, of course) if he called and asked be to fulfill some task to serve my country, if I could and would answer in the affirmative.
One of my resolutions this year is to determine how to respect the office of those in authority even while disagreeing with the politics they represent. Coupled with that resolution is the need to learn how to register disagreements appropriately. I think you have a lot more credibility when you come from that position rather than a position that is always adversarial.
I don’t disagree that this country needs change. I don’t, however, think it comes from one person. There are a lot of fundamental changes that I believe are necessary, but those changes need to come from the grassroots level. They have to come from us as individuals, as the American people. I am concerned that people are assuming they will wake up on Jan. 21 to a new and brighter world. It is assumed by many that replacing President George W. Bush is the answer to all that ails this country.
Unfortunately, the economy will not suddenly right itself. The credit and housing markets will not magically heal. American automakers won’t suddenly find themselves in the black. Terrorists won’t suddenly find jobs as importers for Pier 1.
I have great faith in the power of the individual. However, I am concerned that the people of this country have the resolve to seek changes from which they will receive no immediate benefit. That kind of change would be revolutionary and, frankly, I’m not sure our revolutionary spirit is still alive.
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