I am stepping a bit out of my area of comfort to reflect on some thoughts regarding today's inauguration pomp and circumstances. Last night I was leafing through James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds
(which is a really good book, I highly recommend it) and a passage described criticism of the United States' early concepts of democracy in which Europeans mocked the notion that the general public was empowered to vote for and elect the leaders of the nation. But, contrary to this haughty noble's opinion, the power vested in the people by the United States Constitution not only has withstood the test of time, it, along with the Bill of Rights and the other accumulated amendments have allowed this glorious experiment in "forming a more perfect union" to thrive.
This day we experienced the transition of one presidency to another. Although the context of President Obama's assuming the nation's highest office is historic, while I watched the new president taking the oath of office, there were tears in my eyes. This was not just because of today's history, but it was compounded by the simple fact that I, along with every other citizen, live in a place where our constitutional rights allow us to make the creation of history a reality.
And in the spirit of patriotism that we all share on this inauguration day, it is each and every American citizen's duty to exercise those constitutional rights:
- To freely practice the religion of your choice;
- To not just speak freely, but scream loudly when criticism is warranted, (or even if it is not!)
- To a free press that demands transparency from those elected few who lead our nation, as well as those millions who willingly serve the nation as employees in the public sector; and
- To join with others in a peaceable assembly to exercise these rights.
There are people who wish to quiet those who criticize the office of the president. But recall what George Washington said: "If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." And to those people willing to yield any part of their liberties to the government in the name of security, the sixth amendment to the constitutional grants the right for people to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Recall the words of Benjamin Franklin: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
There have been many changes in our collective lives over the years of the previous administration - turmoil, pain, loss, growth, success, failure, more success, even greater failure. Times not only change, but the speed of change seems to increase as well. Hopefully our new leaders will apply consideration and thoughtfulness as they plan programs to move us all forward into the future.
Posted January 20, 2009 8:36 PM
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