by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note.
I want you to know how jubilant I am, at 70, to have yet another chance to determine the fate of the greatest nation on Earth. I have followed, since 1956, every triumph, every embarrassment, every great step, and every one best left forgotten.
I have enjoyed and exercised every American citizen’s right to criticize, excoriate, ridicule, belittle, and mock the great affairs of the greatest nation.
I have seen the littlest and most contemptible of my neighbors say things which in ancient days would have caused a duel to the death. And yet here, on hearing such matters derided and held up for public censure, no one has shrugged a shoulder, much less batted an eye.
We are the country which is a sewer for every contemptible, banal, dangerous, and downright stupid notion that has ever existed in the annals of our species.
Now, I invite you to my little history involving as it does one native son’s involvement with the process that still remains the last best hope for humankind, and the opportunity for what we can never forget, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Ideas as pristine and relevant today as the day Thomas Jefferson held his glorious composition to the light to say “Nice, very nice indeed.”
The great state of Alabama…
I come from a voting family. Its members would no more miss an election than they would spit in Church. Next to baseball, elections were the affairs most discussed, harangued, examined. Every election produced opinions by the bushel, discussions that could quickly turn rancorous, or worse.
People were held contemptible if they did not exercise their constitutional privilege, and each time someone said “No, no I’m not voting”, they were reminded, and often too, how men and women just like them had died so that some bozo could say “No, no I’m not voting”. Contempt was heavy in the air, and was called upon whenever necessary to remind people who were citizens that that citizenship entitled them to exercise the suffrage, that is to say, vote.
Some tried to evade their responsibility by holding their manicured fingers to their exquisite noses and saying “These are not proper candidates, for this is not the best the nation can do. These are a black eye to our fine system.”
I have always found this jejune opinion particularly useless. A system of governance like ours, with thousands of electoral posts to fill, will not always, or perhaps even ever, rise to greatness, perhaps not even one person of consequence, ideas, stature, and the capacity to cover his errors better than others.
This is a system of the people, by the people, for the people, and if these particular people do not rise to the high standards of brilliance, why then, sir or madam, neither would you.
Democracy, voting, gives us the opportunity yet again to prove that we can be better than we are, to prove that our system will continue even when so many of its members do nothing but censure, denounce, disparage, denigrate, and attack it.
I have paid close attention to this system since 1956, when aged 8, such names as Estes Kefauver, John Sparkman, and J. Lister Hill crackled the radio, and there was a magic, even a grandeur about how the people and their government came together.
It was a very hot summer in Illinois that year, but when isn’t it? My father had decreed that we should landscape our backyard in suburban Chicago. It was hot work, tedious work, hard work, and never ending work. B
ut the burden was lightened by these great words booming across the convention, the nation, and the world: “The great state of Alabama casts...”, for these were the salad days of a system that told the world how united we are in our processes, even if we disdain (some of) the candidates who represent them. Thus, the summer passed one wheelbarrow load after another, good soil of the great state of Illinois.
We were especially proud that our state was frequently cited on the radio because our former governor, Adlai E. Stevenson, was in nomination again, after having won the nomination in 1952, and then was crushed by America’s hero, Dwight David Eisenhower.
Estes Kefauver, the Senator from Tennessee who wore a coonskin cap without (I think) too much derision, told the world that Adlai Stevenson was weak, soft on Communism, and the most terrible insult imaginable, an egghead, a designation which Governor Stevenson wore like a red badge of courage.
Kefauver was crushed, but was given the Vice Presidential nomination by Stevenson. Young Senator John F. Kennedy lost by a hair, that Vice Presidential slot. Winning it would have been a disaster so early in his career.
This Tennessean who could never by any stretch of the imagination have been called an Intellectual, was proud of his mangled grammar, and wanted the world to see that we were not only a nation disdaining intellectuals, and with Estes Kefauver, never would be.
And thus the state banner of Tennessee, which represented both John Scopes, accused of teaching evolution in the notorious Scopes Monkey Trial (1925) forbidding the teaching of evolution, and the majority of Tennesseans, who believed in the Good Book, and nothing else, was released into the aisles of the convention.
It was thrilling. It was the people in action. These people were working for us. We were not like the people of Hungary, or the great land we called Red China, or all the barbarians of Uganda, and so on through the catalog of horrors called nations.
I was a boy who could spend his summer helping my father (however reluctantly), pestering his brother, and tormenting his cat, without a commissar calling to pressure us, or a fascist dictating our thoughts, or the military forces of any country intervening in our most trivial and intimate affairs.
I was a citizen of the Great Republic, and I listened accordingly, for though Governor Stevenson may not be my candidate, or even Dwight David Eisenhower for that matter, I had the ability and the great honor and privilege to help build a nation as I wanted to, as all my fellow citizens wanted to do. This was the greatest honor of all.
This year, I shall go to the Baldwin School on Sacramento Street to continue my partnership with the Great Republic. I am not as spry this year as before. I may even use my walker, since an article in the Boston Globe suggested people with walkers go to the head of the line.
However, I have no desire to expedite the process. I cherish its every arcane and esoteric aspect. There is no one else in my house to say “Don’t forget, today is voting day!” All those who used to say this to me have gone before. I shall be asked my name at the polling booth even though the lady behind the counter knows who it is. And I approve her unwillingness to fail to follow even one direction.
She’ll hand me my ballot; we still use paper ballots in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I shall take up the pencil, look over the names, including the ones at the bottom of the ballot, which no one ever knows. I am happy, proud, tenacious, and curious.
And as I go out into the chilled air of a Massachusetts Fall, I mentally tip my hat to the great founders of the Great Republic, for we have been in partnership this long while, and I salute you, though I be from time to time censorious, angry, petulant, and dismissive.
I’m allowed to so feel and so act. I have voted, and thereby continued my essential relationship with my government, and my nation. God bless America, and may her staunch citizens live on whether they criticize or whether they do not, for this is the legacy and the reason for our greatness, and why the vote you cast is a measure of honor and hope.
About the author
Dr. Jeffrey Lant is well known worldwide for his insight into corporate events, leadership, personnel, etc. He is the author of over 60 books, and over 1,000 articles on a wide variety of topics. He is known for telling it like it is.
To get access to all of Dr. Lant’s many ideas, projects, programs, books, and materials, go to www.drjeffreylant.com. Don’t try to do all of this alone when you have such superior assistance available right now.