Friday, October 31, 2008

Taking a Moment to Be Thankful

Yesterday, I stood in line today for 45 minutes to cast my vote for President of the United States.

I had some time to think while I was waiting and a few things occurred to me as the line muddled along.

First of all, it was incredible to see the lines for early voting. People of all ages, economic status and races were in line - and none of them seemed overly annoyed by the wait. It made me happy to see people involved and it renewed my optimism (just a bit) that America can emerge from the difficulties that lay ahead a stronger, wiser nation.

Second, and more importantly, it occurred to me how extraordinary an event the election of the American President is when viewed in a historical context. The American President is often called "the most powerful man in the world". George W. Bush has demonstrated over the last eight years that this is probably true. Of course, he is not even remotely all-powerful, but his decisions mean life and death for millions (and not only on issues of war and peace).

And yet, despite the power of the office and the allure that comes with it...the office changes hands every 4 or 8 years in an utterly peaceful manner. This is something we take for granted as Americans, but it is actually an extraordinary thing.

If you look at history - or even select parts of the world in 2008 - you can regularly see dramatically less important (even trivial) offices change hands only as a result of bloodshed or other violence. But that does not, nor has it ever, happened here.

King George III is believed to have said about George Washington that he would be "the greatest man alive" if he declined to become a monarch after winning the Revolutionary War. Of course, Washington reaffirmed this selflessness when he declined to run for a third term as President. It was a remarkable act to be sure.

The true miracle, however, is that the precedent Washington set was upheld by the 41 (soon to be 42) men that followed him.

I'm generally restless and unsatisfied with the state of the country. As proud as I am of it, it is my nature to focus almost exclusively on the things that could be better. Sometimes, however, it is good to just stop, smile and be thankful for a few minutes about the things that continue to go well.


James F Barry said...

First, I think this is going to be a watershed election - altering the landscape of politics much like 1980 did. I think the enlargement of the electorate is going to greatly expand the issues that politicians talk (and hopefully do something) about.

Second, you are spot on about the George Washington and US history. This election is a great example of it too. I mean, the chance of an Obama victory and then W not stepping down and demanding a recount until McCain winning is next to impossible. But, take an election this divisive in many other places on earth, and there'd be preparations for rioting and mass demonstrations one both sides if their candidate didn't win. God Bless the USA.

By the way, I think it was be just great if at an Obama rally, people started chanting U-S-A! U-S-A!


Anonymous said...

Well, not ALWAYS so peaceful... :)