Sunday, February 4, 2007


It is almost without instance that any government was unprosperous under learned governors. -Francis Bacon

While lacking the creativity or ambition to write something, I'd still like to post. Hence, a nice piece of plagiarism from Teddy Roosevelt's lecture given to commemorate his 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. Full text here .

[In] our complex industrial civilization of today the peace of righteousness and justice, the only kind of peace worth having, is at least as necessary in the industrial world as it is among nations. There is at least as much need to curb the cruel greed and arrogance of part of the world of capital, to curb the cruel greed and violence of part of the world of labor, as to check a cruel and unhealthy militarism in international relationships.

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them. The leaders of the Red Terror prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

Now, having freely admitted the limitations of our work and the qualifications to be borne in mind, I feel that I have the right to have my words taken seriously when I point out where, in my judgment, great advance can be made in the cause of international peace. I speak as a practical man, and whatever I now advocate I actually tried to do when I was for the time being the head of a great nation and keenly jealous of its honor and interest. I ask other nations to do only what I should be glad to see my own nation do.

I wish I could just let them be, but these words provoke me to mention something that really riles my blood. I will eventually expound on this rant, but for now I will just say that it baffles and offends me that contemporary politicians use the word "elite" pejoratively. Hardly any label is so universally shunned by candidates, and when it is successfully applied, it is almost inevitably the political kiss of death. What a shame that any candidate as intellectually inclined as Roosevelt would be immediately smeared into oblivion by a modern opponent's campaign. He's just not a common man.

What of it?

Our country does not strive to be a nation of the average and ordinary. If we are to chart an extraordinary course, we must do so under the aegis of extraordinary leadership. It is a sad portent of our nation's future trajectory that among our potential leaders, education and eloquence are traits to be closeted in favor of affected accents and "aw shucks" colloquialisms. I cannot imagine any other sphere in which we penalize people for being exceptional. I mean, NASA doesn't select astronauts based whether or not they'd be a good drinking buddy, or because they take it easy on the fancy-schmancy talk.

I'm not just saying that I would love to have a beer with Teddy Roosevelt (although I would), but that I can also understand how some people might not. Nonetheless, I cannot understand why those people would not want to be led by a man of such singular quality. If that makes me an elitist, then I will wear that title with pride.