Monday, February 28, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
He is called The Father of Our Country. Everybody knows the image of his face that was memorialized on the dollar bill, and everybody knows he was
Some 20 years before the Revolutionary War,
Based on his role as a brigadier general in the Monongahela Expedition of 1758, he is considered a major player in the founding of
Throughout the Revolutionary War his troops were greatly outnumbered and underequipped, and experienced defeat more often than triumph. But his intelligence, especially as manifested in his knack for trickery and espionage, led the way to ultimate victory. His crossing of the
Modern day America-bashers like to denigrate
In the interest of getting information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” here are some of the things he wrote and said during his time on earth:
The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army…We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.
Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all…
There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.
Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.
True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation.
I am embarked on a wide ocean, boundless in its prospects, and in which, perhaps, no safe harbor is to be found.
Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.
I look forward, with a kind of political faith, to scenes of national happiness, which have not heretofore been offered for the fruition of the most favored nations. The natural, political, and moral circumstances of our nascent empire justify the anticipation.
I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or misery.
’Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.
Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.
My manner of living is plain, a glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready, and such as will be content to partake of that are always welcome.
A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.
Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Last February I wrote about how rare it is for people to take time to notice, much less appreciate, how pretty the sky is. The point was that if people simply would take the time, they would feel less stress and feel more like they are on vacation, even when they are at home.
Well, lately I have been thinking of how true that is not only when it comes to the sky, but when it comes to the natural world as a whole. Which is too bad, because nature’s landscape is all around us -- more than 90 percent of the
Far-flung national parks like Yellowstone and
I reside in
Since New Year’s I have been spending a lot of time enjoying cool temperatures in these preserves, and this is what has gotten me thinking about the fact that so many people are not aware of them. The pictures above were taken at Brooker Creek Headwaters Preserve and Cypress Creek Preserve, respectively, while the one below was taken at Conner Preserve:
Conner opened to the public only about a year ago. On my first hike there, I started encountering deer soon after daybreak and managed to see eleven before the morning was over. I failed to get any pictures of the two bucks, but did capture this shot of a pair of does:
These places all make for productive wildlife-viewing. In Brooker Creek Headwaters I saw several kestrels, which are
The preserves are free to use and have no roads…unless you count the miles of unpaved Jeep roads that serve as hiking trails. At entry points to the preserves, gates block vehicles from entering but pedestrian access is granted by walk-through openings in the fence. While I prefer to experience things on foot, most of the “road trails” are open to mountain bikes and horses in addition to hikers. Sarah has brought her bike and accompanied me on some of my visits to Cypress Creek:
Taking your kids into the woods is a good way not only to get some “quality time” with them, but to cultivate their love of the outdoors and ensure that they don’t need TV and video games to have fun. One time Sarah and I buried about half an ounce of “treasure” in a very particular spot, and we intend to dig it back up in the future. On another occasion she picked up an open pine cone, started finding shells to stuff into it, and named the creation “Mr. Pine Cone Head,” which I assume is a tribute to the Mr. Potato Head she played with when she was younger.
Wherever you are and wherever you go, be sure to visit those places that everyone seems to overlook. Go to Google and search for county parks or city parks in your area to see what they have to offer beyond the playgrounds. Do the same for state parks and state forests, and do the same for whatever entity manages the water supply -- because after I learned first-hand what a good job the Southwest Florida Water Management District does with its preserves, I did some research and learned that many similar agencies across America do the same.
Finally, if you are going to be in West Central Florida and want to check out any of my water district’s properties, you can find information about all of them -- not just the ones I named -- by going here. Enjoy!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
There has been no shortage of current events to blog about in recent weeks, from the federal court ruling that Obamacare is unconstitutional, to the ousting of totalitarian regimes in
But I have not written about any of them. Between the birthdays of Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 25th anniversary of the Challenger explosion, all of my recent blogging has been focused on things from the past…and I am fine with that, because history is filled with timeless lessons that we should apply to the present.
Today my “look back” streak continues, because it was 202 yeas ago today that Abraham Lincoln was born in a tiny log cabin in
It is obvious that we all have many reasons to be thankful he won the 1860 and 1864 presidential elections. Rather than recount those reasons, I will simply leave you with some of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotations:
Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors.
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.
Property is the fruit of labor -- property is desirable -- is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.
Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.
Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing?
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it.
I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves, it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others. Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
Gold is good in its place, but living, brave, patriotic men are better than gold.
The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the
Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.
Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.
To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.
As President, I have no eyes but constitutional eyes; I cannot see you.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
On Sunday I wrote about Ronald Reagan to commemorate his 100th birthday. Two days later I heard a radio caller describe an encounter he had with him in 1980.
The caller was in college at the time, and like many college students his political views were positioned well to the left of center. He attended a campaign speech that Reagan gave on campus, after which Reagan shook people’s hands. When Reagan reached out to him, he said, “You know, I’m not a Republican,” and the future president responded simply by grinning and saying, “Well, neither was I when I was your age.”
That anecdote captured Reagan’s personality better than anything I could hammer out from my keyboard. He was comfortable in his skin and serene in his confidence that people of good faith would, more often than not, eventually come around to his way of thinking because that is where the realities of life would lead them.
He did not respond to the college kid by repeating the talking points of whatever stump speech he had just given. Instead, knowing that the speech stood on its own merits, he was quick to find common ground with the kid, and to use that common ground to address him as a fellow citizen in good standing.
Reagan did not demean himself or the kid by embarking on a tit-for-tat debate or groveling for a vote. Instead, he made a brief but thought-provoking point and moved on.
One of the things I always admired about Reagan is the ability he had to be partisan without being prickly. He could dismiss liberal ideas without dismissing liberal people, as evidenced by his use of the phrase “our liberal friends” when describing how some people arrive at erroneous conclusions despite having the best intentions.
I feel very blessed that Ronald Reagan was
The picture at the beginning of this post is one of my favorites, because it, like the story shared by Tuesday’s radio caller, captures the one-of-a-kind personality of our 40th president. In closing, here are some more pictures that do the same.
On horseback when young (well, middle-aged) and when old:
On horseback (notice a trend?) with Queen Elizabeth II on the grounds of
Leaving office in January 1989 to return to private life:
Sunday, February 6, 2011
He was born one hundred years ago today in
His family relocated several times during his childhood, moving throughout the state and eventually settling in the town of
He excelled at sports, and at the age of 15 his first job was as a lifeguard on the
After college he worked in radio, broadcasting Iowa Hawkeyes football games and Chicago Cubs baseball games. At the age of 26, while traveling with the Cubs in
World War II interrupted his acting career, but afterward he returned to
He married Jane Wyman in 1940 and they had three children -- two biological daughters, one of whom died at just a day old, plus an adopted son. After disagreements about his political ambitions, Wyman filed for divorce in 1947.
Two years later he met the love of his life, Nancy Davis. They married in 1952 and remained so until he died more than a half-century later, and together they had a daughter and son. Many observers consider their marriage to be
Although he spent time in the often-superficial world of
Because he became known as the ultimate conservative Republican, many people today are surprised to learn that he was a Democrat until the age of 51. He changed parties partly because his views moved rightward as he aged, but mostly because the party of his youth moved leftward and away from
The first time he ran for office, in 1966, he won the governorship of
When he stepped into the Oval Office in January 1981, communism was on the rise, freedom was in decline, and
On the economic front he created an environment in which entrepreneurial innovation could flourish. He did this by scaling back regulations that were burdensome and anti-competitive, and by dramatically lowering tax rates in all income brackets so that people would have more money in their pockets to spend as they saw fit. And last but not least, he championed entrepreneurs and the social benefits that derive from their businesses; unlike his political adversaries, he did not vilify business because he understood the truth of Abraham Lincoln’s warning that "you can not help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer."
The results were staggering. Inflation and unemployment were all but eliminated from being national issues, and incomes soared -- in fact, incomes soared so much that the total amount of money taken in by the government skyrocketed, even though the government was taking a much smaller percentage of each person’s income than it was before he was elected. Those who think government must raise taxes to raise revenue should take notice, because its annual revenue was much higher every year he was in office than it was in any year before he took office; and by the time he left office, its revenue was nearly twice what it was before.
On national defense and foreign affairs, his achievements were even more staggering. Instead of following his predecessor’s path of naïve appeasement, he drew a line in the sand and made it clear that
Many “realists” thought the Cold War would last in perpetuity, but he, an “idealist,” brought it to an end by design and without firing a shot. And with the disappearance of the
People who lived in fear of commissars in what was once East Germany, and of the Communist Party’s police state in what was once the Soviet Union, will tell you how in the 1980’s they were emboldened by the knowledge that an American president was finally standing up to their tormentors; how they were inspired by the knowledge that he was genuinely on the side of humanity and would not ignore their plight. They will tell you that without him, their freedom would never have come to be.
Here in America, we should remember that he was a man imbued with humility despite his great accomplishments; that he was “the leader of the free world” but always knew it was about us and not about him; and that he did not gain entree to power because of inherited wealth or family connections, but instead earned his way up from a modest beginning in a small Midwestern town.
He gave speeches like no one else I have ever seen, because he believed what he said and everyone knew it. While Abraham Lincoln was called “Honest Abe” and Andrew Jackson was called “Old Hickory,” this president was called “The Great Communicator.” Everyone who saw him agreed that nickname fit, but, humble to the end, he disavowed it when he said this during his last speech before leaving office: “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”
In that same speech, he summed up his love for
He departed this earth in 2004, but that will not stop me from pausing today to say, “Thank you, Ronald Wilson Reagan.”