Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The State of the Union
First, I was overwhelmed with a sense of history. This very same House Chamber has been in use since 1857, so I started thinking about all those who have served and spoken in this place, from the days of Lincoln until this evening. In this room Woodrow Wilson described his fourteen point plan for peace. Here, FDR marked a date that will live in infamy and asked for a declaration of war.
And each year the State of the Union has been reported to a packed house, nearly the entire United States government in one room. In times of war and peace, depression and prosperity, triumph and tragedy, year after year, in this same room. Amazing. History upon history upon history. If only these walls could talk - not just the official speeches made and recorded, but imagine all of the debates and deliberations, the casual conversations and tense confrontations.Some of it would make us proud. Some would likely make us blush with shame. Even our most cherished institutions have our dirty fingerprints all over them.
A second thought came to me. How does this government ever get anything done? Whatever your party or platform may be, can we all agree that partisan party politics is our biggest obstacle to making real progress in our day. When gaining power and keeping power matters more than solving problems, when half of our government is committed to the defeat of the other half, when we refuse any compromise for fear that the opposition will share the credit and gain political capital, what real progress can we make?
No wonder our wise first president took care to warn us: "I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state . . . The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. . . the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it." - George Washington, Farewell Address
As I reflect on this remarkable evening, I think Winston Churchill was right. "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." God bless our mean and messy government, still Liberty's best hope.