By Michael Kayes, CFA Charterholder
If my memory serves me, which at my age isn’t a given, I have shared with you dear reader that I have been on a quest to read 100 books in the calendar year. I’m now on number 97, so I feel good about my chances. It has been a fascinating journey as I’ve read books on these topics: Faith, Science, The European and Pacific theatres in WWII; Leadership, Morality, Philosophy, as well as several biographies; and last but certainly not least, the early days of the Green Bay Packers.
As much as I loved learning about the original stars of my beloved Packers, the most enlightening books were biographies of the founding fathers, particularly, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and of course, George Washington. Lessons learned from these extraordinary men has helped me put present day politics into a different, rather refreshing perspective. In essence, the republic that our Founding Fathers established, and the operation of the government within, has been a never-ending battle between opposing forces from the very beginning. The Founding Fathers disagreed on multiple topics and without compromise, nothing substantive would have been accomplished. Some grew to hate each other. Friendships were broken, mended, then broken again. Trust and loyalty endured for many, but for others it was lost forever. Politics brought out the best in certain individuals and the worst in others.
What does all this mean?… Politics in our country has been and always will be a battle ground for all kinds of individuals and opposing factions. The lust for power and insatiable greed in some will always be opposed by a devotion to duty and service to country in others. In essence, it is selfishness against civic-minded sacrifice. What determines which side wins these ongoing battles? Leadership, commitment, and tenacity come to mind.
Polarization, in-fighting, and slanderous tirades happened back then just as we see it all happening today. As Winston Churchill supposedly said, “Democracy is the worst government system ever devised, except for all the other ones.”
It is interesting to think about what politics or government operations will look like in the future. Will we eventually become a socialist country? Will there ever be a viable third political party and who might lead it? Are we destined to fight a second civil war? What would be the values and goals of each side? How can we convince our country’s finest individuals to run for political office at the national level?
The questions and concerns about our nation’s future are many and none have easy answers. The more I think about it the more I think we are at a crossroads. But then I remember the environment when the Founding Fathers conceived this incredible experiment in self-government and today’s political climate doesn’t seem quite as troublesome. Our democracy works in amazing ways, but it isn’t designed to always be comforting as we search for justice and strive to uphold freedom and liberty.
As I contemplate all the great men and women this country has produced, I am always inspired. They all believed in something bigger than themselves, and they all were willing to put themselves in harm’s way to fight for their beliefs. Self-sacrifice was their common thread, yet none were perfect.
After the fall of France in 1940, Winston Churchill spoke before the House of Commons. Great Britain stood alone against Germany. Churchill knew he had to rally his country to fight on alone. At the end of his speech, he spoke these immortal words, “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
Was America’s finest hour when the Founding Fathers produced the Declaration of Independence or when it delivered the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Was it when we stormed the shores of Normandy, Iwo Jima, or Okinawa? Is it behind us or ahead of us?
If I asked senior citizens that question, how would they answer? Perhaps, more importantly, if I asked high school students that question what would be their response?
I hope, in whatever time I have left living in this incredible country, that some of these questions will be answered, and I pray that individually and collectively, our finest hour is still to come.
Michael Kayes, CFA
Source: International Churchill Society – “Their Finest Hour”
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