Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympics

In honor of the Olympics beginning tonight I thought I would list a few nuggets of Olympic history.

The original Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.  Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894.  In 1912 The Baron designed the Olympic Flag with the rings in the colors of blue for Europe, black for Africa, red for America, yellow for Asia, and green for Oceania.

The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius," which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger."  The more informal motto is, "The most important thing is not to win but to take part!"

There are many well known American Olympians.  This is a short list of the American Olympians with the most medals.

Babe Didrickson - Track and Field - 1932,  2 Gold 1 Silver
Jesse Owens - Track and Field - 1936,  4 Gold 
Wilma Rudolph - Track and Field - 1956, '60  3 Gold 1 Bronze
Al Oerter - Track and Field - 1956, '60, '64, '68  4 Gold (discus throw)
Mark Spitz - Swimming - 1968, '72 - 8 Gold  1 Silver  1 Bronze
Jackie Joyner-Karsee - Track and Field - 1984, '88, '92 - 3 Gold  1 Silver  2 Bronze
Carl Lewis - Track and Field - 1984, '88, '92, '96 - 9 Gold  1 Silver 
Michael Johnson - Track and Field - 1992, '96, 2000 - 4 Gold
Michael Phelps - Swimming - 2004, 2008 - 14 Gold  2 Bronze 

Good luck to all the 2012 American Olympians from National Write Your Congressman.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Abraham Lincoln - A Little History

In a past post I reviewed George Santayana's theory of the importance of knowing history.  On that subject, what could be better than studying Abraham Lincoln?  I think the first thing people either do not remember or never knew is that he was a Republican.  He stood for human rights and the Constitution.  He believed in States rights with the country being ruled of the people, by the people, and for the people.

A little history...

Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address, "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."

Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.

The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln had to struggle for a living and for learning. Five months before receiving his party's nomination for President, he sketched his life.  "I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families--second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks.... My father ... removed from Kentucky to ... Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up.... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all."

Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts. His law partner said of him, "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest."

He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.

As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. He rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg,  "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

President Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion.

The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... "

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln's death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

4th Of July - Independence Day

On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence at once became the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Thomas Jefferson's most enduring monument.  Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people.  The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers.  What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.

At the time the 13 colonies were set on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation the population was 2.5 million.  Today the population of the United States of America is 313.9 million. 

As always, this most American of holidays will be celebrated by citizens with parades, fireworks and barbecues all across the country.