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It Was the Best of Times, the Worst of Times: The Economy

the economy: ups and downs

Economy: The Best Times, the Worst Times

I grew up in the volatile, exciting, and often strident 60s and 70s, finishing high school in the ‘spirit of ’76’ bicentennial year. During my formative years –

• John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated
• The culture of divorce and promiscuity took root and blossomed
• Watts burned and riots rocked Chicago during the Democratic National Convention
• America surrendered in war for the first time when it pulled out of Viet Nam – unless you count Korea, which was at best a stalemate
• Muslim terrorists killed Jewish athletes at the Olympics
• There was an energy crisis
• Commercial airlines and cruise ships were hi-jacked (and yes, my future wife was a ‘stewardess’ on that 1978 Delta flight that got redirected to Havana)
• The American auto industry lost its preeminent role
• A president was impeached and removed from office
• Disco conquered the airwaves – yikes
• The U.S. Olympic basketball team lost its first ever international game to the U.S.S.R. in a highly controversial ending
• Oh, and ‘we’ landed on the moon

Whatever you think of Jimmy Carter ‘the President,’ he made a number of profound statements that summed up where America was a month before the end of my teens years in a speech he gave on July 15, 1979.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else – public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Ironically, Carter’s greatest failing may have been the palpable sense of pessimism – a near doom? – that pervaded his demeanor and words throughout his presidency. And in case you are wondering, yes, this was part of his famous “malaise” speech. How was I going to argue with that? I didn’t feel very confident about the future myself.

It was Ronald Reagan who seemed to understand Carter’s words better than Carter himself and brought a positive buoyancy to the American psyche over much of the next decade. Some say he was just in the right place at the right time and got lucky that the business cycle turned around but even his most ardent critics have to admit his sense of optimism may have helped change some things.

In a Tale of Two Cities (1859) Charles Dickens penned the immortal phrase: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … Set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, he showed how the peasants were oppressed and brutalized by the aristocracy and how in turn they were indiscriminately brutalized by the revolutionaries. (Brazilian author, educator, and reformer Paulo Freire described the psychological movement from oppressed to oppressor in his landmark book Pedagogy of the Oppressed [1968] that described freedom movements in South America.)

There is a lot of hand-wringing today. And for reason. There is a plethora of real and pervasive international, national, ethnic, economic, moral, social, personal, and spiritual problems. And yes, the American auto industry is reeling yet again.

Maybe it is the end of an era of prosperity and more importantly opportunity. But I suspect that the real reality is what Dickens described; we are living in the best of times and the worst of times. Even if consumer confidence was up and economic indicators were through the roof – the best of times for some – if there are oppressors and oppressed then it is still the worst of times … for somebody.

And yet a focus on such ‘realism’ simply doesn’t ignite passions and energize dreams. And what are dreams but what Carter called ‘confidence in the future’ … the belief – as unrealistic as it might seem – that my plans and actions can create a new reality. I can do something to build a better world.

Jesus said, ‘ the poor you will always have with you’ (Matthew 26:11) – very realistic – but men and women who have faith in Him have been at the forefront of compassionate ministry.

Even as companies fall there are people who still work to build new companies … and succeed.

Today is just like other days. The best of times. The worst of times. You may fall to one side of that equation personally. No matter. As a psychology professor said in a graduate class I took: I don’t care where you’ve been or even where you are … I want to know where you’re going!

So where are you going? What does the future look like to you?

Honesty Is the Best Policy – Quotes From George Washington

Quotes by George Washington.

The First President of the United States of America

Honesty is the best policy … the wisdom and character of George Washington was essential to the birth of the United States of America.

Despite being touted as the Father of Our Country, is it possible George Washington is underrated?

When Henry Lee delivered his funeral oration in 1799, he said of him, he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Washington through force of will, personality, diplomacy, and talent kept the union from disintegrating before it started. After winning the Revolutionary War, Washington headed straight for his plantation in Mount Vernon to retire from public life. When King George III heard this, he said that if Washington would actually do that he was the greatest man who ever lived. He didn’t. But it still seems to be the case that Washington really wasn’t interested in holding power, despite winning the presidency two terms.

His quotes underscore the degree to which our nation was built on the premise that liberty requires good citizens – and that good citizens are those who practice virtue and live with integrity.

Washington’s words are a nice personal reminder and challenge on how we should live!

While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case they are answerable.

It is with pleasure I receive reproof, when reproof is due, because no person can be readier to accuse me, than I am to acknowledge an error, when I am guilty of one; nor more desirous of atoning for a crime, when I am sensible of having committed it.

I shall make it the most agreeable part of my duty to study merit, and Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.

A people … who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company.

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession.

Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth.

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.

Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.

I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War.

George Washington On Politics and Virtue and Handguns

A happy and blessed 4th of July to you and America on its 233rd birthday.

On this fourth day of posting quotes it is only fitting to give George Washington the seat of honor. When Henry Lee delivered his funeral oration in 1799, he said of him, he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Yesterday we highlighted Lincoln, who held the union of a young nation together – at the cost of a Civil War – through force of will. Washington was the one who through force of will, personality, diplomacy, and talent kept the union from disintegrating before it started. After winning the Revolutionary War, Washington headed straight for his plantation in Mount Vernon to retire from public life. When King George III heard this, he said that if he would actually do that he was the greatest man who ever lived. And it seems to be the case that Washington really wasn’t interested in holding power, despite winning the presidency two terms.

His quotes, as well as those of Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln from previous days, underscore the degree to which our nation was built on the premise that Freedom required good citizens – and that good citizens were those who practiced virtue and lived with integrity. A nice reminder for our day on this 4th. Enjoy!

While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only in this case they are answerable.

It is with pleasure I receive reproof, when reproof is due, because no person can be readier to accuse me, than I am to acknowledge an error, when I am guilty of one; nor more desirous of atoning for a crime, when I am sensible of having committed it.

I shall make it the most agreeable part of my duty to study merit, and Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.

A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company.

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession.

Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth.

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.

Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.

I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War.