Nick on Politics: Thoughts on the Inaugural

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Nick on Politics: Thoughts on the Inaugural

Calvert County, MD - 1/22/2013

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By Nick Garrett

No President has been without scandal, especially during inauguration time. The public is often very forgiving and optimistic during inauguration time. Even George Washington had his fair share of political fire and it did not make him happy. The first two presidents viewed the President in an “above the regular person” executive than is often given credit. However, George Washington operated with a purity that a modern president just would not get suggesting in one of his inaugural addresses that an elected official should take as little compensation as possible for doing the peoples work, a tradition that if you ask an elected official what they make compared to expenses is still holding true. 

My grandfather during the seventies made less than $18,000 a year as a legislator. It is much more now. There was a time when an attempt to overthrow President Washington was afoot and he dealt with it in a masterful way that few presidents since have probably come close to. During one speech President Washington pulled the notes from his pocket, paused, and took out a pair of spectacles. In the audience where supporters and those who would overthrow his leadership due to his age and “incompetence.” Washington, after the deliberate pause, calmly said as he put on the spectacles, “Please forgive me… I have grown not only grey but blind in service to my Country.” It is said “nair a dry eye could be seen in the hall.”

The inauguration is often a way for the President to outline his, or her, vision for the country before the politics of that pathway begin. William Henry Harrison, our ninth President spoke for over three hours at his and made himself sick from the long speech in the cold rain, and died about one month into office. Yet other Presidents have given us our most long-lasting phrases of Americanism, such as, “ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country.”

As we reflect on President Obama’s second inaugural I think about the landscape that he faces now compared to other Presidents coming into office. America has changed, we have changed, and our expectations have changed. We are no longer becoming a world superpower. We are maintaining that role and finding that it is becoming increasingly expensive to be that power and continue to provide the liberty of the people.

The American people are getting increasingly angry at what is viewed as a diminishment of individual liberties. This seems at direct odds with what each person feels they are entitled too. After Sandy Hook the Second Amendment is now at the forefront. Have we separated what we think would be best for us individually versus what may need to be done collectively to protect our families while in public?

Have we considered the cost of maintaining the most advanced military in the entire world? It is the direct number one reason we are safe to live as we wish today. We have high tastes and demands as consumers but also criticize the spending of a government that requires tens of billions to manage the military, economic infrastructure, and international relations. However, we just know in our hearts the amount of money the government is spending beyond what it brings in is wrong. We can’t keep living in debt right? The idea of taxes has become a dirty word yet at the same time we demand that school systems compete academically with our world competitors in science, math, and engineering. 

Could it be that our expectations are unrealistic and we don’t consider the vastness with which our government operates allowing our daily liberty to pursue our own success with only the requirement that we contribute to our state and nation? On the ground it is quite simple. Increased traffic on the road outside my business from people coming to patronize me requires me to pay for that road. The fact that we can operate until after 9 p.m. because of lights means I owe a debt to that infrastructure. It must be paid for somehow. 

The modern Presidency comes to us courtesy of Teddy Roosevelt. The public eye, use of the media, photo ops, public sentiment permeating government; the presidency has sure come a long way in 110 years. As Obama takes office I am going to give him the benefit of establishing a direction. I think even Democrats would agree that he is not perfect and maybe his actions have not matched the lofty rhetoric. However, with no reelection looming maybe he will learn from the first four years, and as he ponders his words for the inauguration of the next four and inspire the American people to believe once again. I think one uncertainty is that our style and approach to politics needs to change dramatically and that is a really tough thing to do when for 250 years it has been done a certain way. It will likely take a lot of political fighting and pain to get to that new way of interacting in a global neighborhood. 

I still believe in America and our process. The fact that the exchange of power no matter the outcome is accepted has kept us intact since the first time John Adams agreed to walk away when Thomas Jefferson beat him. More recently Mitt Romney and his supporters, while grudgingly, accepted the outcome. Now we as a county, state, and Country, have a choice as to how we engage the next four years. Will we criticize the policies or do our best to make a difference on the ground with the issues we can affect and hope that long term this revolution can long endure. 

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