Last night I was reading some excerpts written by Thomas Jefferson. I was nearly struck dumb by the strength and lucidity of his words. A few weeks ago I heard again the words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. They bring tears to my eyes.
Then there’s George W, who also brings tears to my eyes, but for quite the opposite reason. Even when he does manage to string together a coherent sequence of words, he sounds patronizing and merely restates the obvious. During the campaign leading to his first election, Bush was named the candidate more people would like to drink a beer with: a man of the people, an average Joe, just like the rest of us. While I understand the sentiment, at another level, I also find this notion appalling.
How did we get to a place where we’ve managed to demonize intelligence, preferring to interact with the world, its plethora of cultures, and eons of history as if all things were simple and easily understood? Just because we wish it to be doesn’t make it true. As we’ve had sad opportunity to witness over the past 8 years, it takes a lot more than a winning smile, a firm handshake, a frat house full of cronies, and the occasional chancellorial backrub to run a country. Given our current state of affairs, I’d like our next President to be a brainiac. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring smart people to navigate the complexities of the world, to set a beacon so that others may follow, and to solve problems rather than create them. So I guess I’d prefer that our nation’s chief executive really be a cut above the Average Joe, perhaps even several notches above average.
Lincoln and Jefferson were both intelligent and spiritual men, and I yearn for the return to our national politics true statesmen such as these. It is the things for which we reach that define us, and these guys both reminded us of our highest and noblest ambitions. I’d have a beer with them any day of the week.