Where Have All The Statesmen Gone?
2008-Feb-01 - Christopher H. Hause
The folk song from which I borrowed the title of this soliloquy is a lament. In the song we are reminded by their absence of flowers, girls, soldiers and finally flowers again.
While in Washington at the recent SOA meeting, I had the occasion to visit a museum that contains a remarkable mix of art and history. The National Portrait Gallery brings to life heroes and villains of the near and distant past.
At one time, our presidents were the heroes. And, more often than not, these heroes were statesmen in the face of conflict. Revolution and war have produced a fair number of our American heroes.
Words associated with statesmen are "courage" and "conviction." Fear and cowardice do not produce an end to suffering or an endearing legacy.
Often, statesmen are unpopular among their own people. But true statesmen are somehow able to see the path that ends poverty and suffering and increases peace and prosperity. They are able to see the world as it is and how it could be and realize their role in the transition. Statesmen are not afraid to humble themselves to the greater good.
Sometimes it is necessary to put yourself, your reputation, your position at risk to bring about change. Anwar Sadat bought an assassins bullet with his courage to stand up to those who would perpetuate violence.
As I look over the state of presidential candidates I have to wonder if there is a Lincoln, Gandhi or a Churchill in our future.
America is a great land. And we will continue to be a great land even in the absence of great leadership. But it will take a true statesman to oversee the changes necessary in Africa and the Middle East to spread that greatness around the world.
I think we boomers had better find our signature statesmen quickly if we are to leave a world for our children that is better that the one we were born into.
Because right now, there seems to be a dwindling supply of flowers and soldiers. Can we afford to "give peace a chance"? How can we afford not to?