On this U.S. President’s Day, I can’t help but think about all the presidents we have had since our first leader, George Washington, came to office in 1789. Some were memorable men, and some were not so memorable–causing this country much suffering as a result of their decisions. Decisions that were oftentimes misguided at the expense of many of its most loyal citizens.
Last weekend I attended the one-man play by Ian Ruskin called, “The Life of Thomas Paine.” As I listened to his impassioned words, I realized that we are still fighting for what our ancestors built this country on—the freedom from government tyranny and from the powerful elite controlling laws, banking, and the rights of every man.
“Government even in its best state is but a necessary evil. In its worst state—an intolerable one.” – Thomas Paine
On February 14, 1776 Paine published Common Sense, which was the equivalent of a best seller in those days. He never made a dime from it. Both powerful and popular, it united the Colonies and set the stage for the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Paine was a man whose words resonated with truth. He stood up for his beliefs about the rights of man, even though he made many enemies in the process. Yet despite opposition, he believed it was never to late to change one’s mind or one’s country.
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Thomas Paine
Paine believed that while God created the universe, he left it up to man’s free will to either mess it up or make it a better place. It looks like we’ve done a good job messing it up. But, like Paine, I believe we still have the power to ‘begin the world over again.’ It is never too late to speak up for one’s rights and demand the government represent “We The People” versus the banks, the corporations, and the powerful elite who often are guided by their own self-interests, not the rights of their fellow-men. I have marched, I have signed petitions, and I have given to causes in hopes of letting my small voice contribute to making a difference. We all need to do our part.
“The world is my country, all mankind my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” – Thomas Paine
Today, it is good to remember not just our country’s presidents, but the men behind them whose words and actions inspired nations. Even though Benjamin Franklin called Paine his “politically adopted son,” Paine died penniless and alone. Only four people attended his funeral in New York City. Two of them were former slaves. Yet, his legacy lives on. Gone but never forgotten.
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