The First Past Presidents Forum

Welcome back to the First Past Presidents Forum on the State American Politics. 
Since the panelists have already been introduced, we will get right into the questions.
It you missed the opening session, I think you would be well advised to review the discussion at:  http://www.timeparables.blogspot.com/2012/05/first-past-presidents-forum-on-american.html
John:  “Good Morning, President Washington, President Lincoln, President Jefferson and President Adams.  I hope you are all well rested after your (longer than planned) break.  I understand you used the weekend to visit some of your old stomping grounds and to take a look at some of the developments that have occurred in this country since you last trod its earth”   
John:  “I would like to start the first question off with President Washington.  My first question seems particularly apropos since you turned down the chance to be President for Life and at the very least a third term. What is your opinion of “term limits” and what would you suggest we do today in respect to such an idea?”
President Washington:  “I think this has become an absurdity in your country today. It is more about being reelected than doing the right thing. Your politicians have made a career out of being re-elected and you have created marketing firms, public relations firms and a myriad of sycophants and bootlickers who exist solely for the purpose of helping your candidates get re-elected for life.  I was very much against this idea for office and I felt that no man no matter how great, or woman by the way, should be elected for more than two terms for any office in the nation.” 
John:  “President Adams, I understand you had some views about this as well?”
President Adams:  “I have repeatedly said that I was in favor of term limits. I will repeat my advice again as no time in American history do I think you have more need of this advice than now.  I am for making of terms annual, and for sending an entire new set of politicians to congress every year or at least every term.”
President Jefferson:  “And I have said, perhaps more eloquently than John that:   ‘My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years, rather than for life, was that they might have an idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget.’  I think two terms is enough for anyone who is elected to any office in the country.”
   
John:  Let us move on to the next question.  This question has to do with bi-partisanship and working together across party lines. There are many who think that we have never been more polarized than ever before and that it has become impossible for Democrats and Republicans to work together or to compromise. President Lincoln, can I start with you on this subject? 
President Lincoln:  “Thank you John.  I have very strong feelings about this issue.  You may think you have polarization today but you forget that I presided over a country and congress that went to war with each other. In point of fact, the war was as much between parties as it was between states.  I tried to tell the people that ‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. 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 Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.’  It turned out to be a fruitless plea as you know. However, that does not dismiss the necessity of compromise and collaboration for the public good.”

President Jefferson:  “I think an evil that you have instituted today lies in the taking of oaths to support certain positions. Any requiring of any person to take an oath other than an oath of office is an abomination. To take an oath to support an amendment, regardless of the nature of the amendment fixes forever the opinion and position of the oath taker and prevents them from compromise or seeing other possibilities.”

President Adams:  “I warned this country that there is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.  Many have said since then that I am wrong. If so, it has only been because of great leadership which has managed to reconcile the differences between the two parties and find that middle ground which follows the truth more closely.”
President Washington:  “I strongly concurred with John on this issue and said the following at my commencement speech.”
‘There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose.’
John:  “I have one more question for the panel today before we open it up to the audience.  All of you have endorsed the importance of knowledge and education for a free society.  What do you think of the state of education in America today and what would you recommend we do about improving it?”
President Jefferson:  “I do not see that your education system today is fostering the open minded ability to critique and question the important issues that you must address. I have said that ‘The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.’  However, your politicians seem bent on politicizing issues of marriage, race, religion and many other private matters that are not the province of government.”
President Adams:  “I believe: ‘There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.’  Your education system today has seemed to forgotten this important point.  One can be smart and intelligent but that is only one kind of knowledge.  The role of education and the role of a school are not the same thing.  When I was president there was a great deal more illiteracy and ignorance than there is today. However, your education system has not evolved with the times.  It now seems unable to either show people how to make a living or how to live.  I would suggest you revisit Socrates and Plato and ask how they would teach today.” 
President Lincoln:  “My views on this subject are well known: 
‘Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.’
It is evident that this esteemed objective has now become the general good to which your entire populace aspires but nevertheless, it has lost some vitality that was essential to the original mission and purpose of education.  Thomas mentioned that you are not creating “critical thinkers” and John mentioned that your present system seems to ignore helping people to make a life.  I think it is important to realize that all systems must change, evolve and adapt to the new times and circumstances they find themselves in.  It was the changes in the world that really brought about the end of slavery as an institution. The War Between the States was just the final gasp of an evil institution that had outlived any purpose, if any good purpose ever indeed existed for it. Your school system today has outlived its original purpose, at least in its original form and needs to evolve. Education remains essential for any democratic government but schools are not necessarily where education must take place. And if you want to keep a democratic government, education must be as accessible for the poor as for the rich.” 
John:  Thank you all for your great insights and comments. I now want to invite the audience again to post questions or comments or send them to me via text at 612-310-3803. 

How would you address these questions? What are your opinions on the State of American Politics?  What would you change if you had a magic wand and could simply wave it and change our political system?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Corny
    May 22, 2012 @ 21:17:00

    Bravo,John! thank you for hosting this forum. You have asked insightful questions and kept your respondents on point, and such valuable points they have to make. Sad that President Washington began by calling this “your country,” not “our country.” Would that we could change so that he would want to be part of the wonderful experiment still.

    Reply

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