Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Restore the Holiday of George Washington’s Birthday and Cherish Representative Government

           The 285th Anniversary of George Washington’s birthday is the occasion for my annual post either on this day or on the federal and state holiday commonly known as “Presidents’ Day” in which I recall Washington’s greatness and call for the restoration of “Washington’s Birthday” as the name of the holiday to honor him and reflect on his legacy of American independence, liberty and representative government under the Constitution of the United States. 

With the focus of the “Presidents’ Day” holiday on the presidency and all of the Presidents, the second Branch of government is elevated above the other two Branches, for which there are no holidays.  Perhaps Constitution Day should be celebrated more, unless Washington’s Birthday is restored.  This emphasis on all the Presidents, in addition to minimizing the greatness of Washington by elevating others as equally accomplished, recalls their mistakes, which overly politicizes the holiday and increases controversy.  Although it is generally worthwhile to debate the merits of past Presidents, a holiday should be a unifying occasion, not a divisive one.  Furthermore, Washington is an example of virtue and patriotism, in contrast particularly to some of his more recent presidential successors, who are not worthy of being equally honored with a “Presidents’ Day” holiday.  Restoring Washington’s Birthday would return the focus of the holiday not only to his presidency, but to his entire life, especially his contribution to the American Revolution and as a Founding Father, as well as to the Constitutional Convention, which he chaired.    

I have observed the last two years how Washington’s leadership offers a timely example.  I was referring to the contrasting weak leadership of his successor as president at the time.  I was specifically referring not to President Barack Obama’s penchant for exceeding executive authority in domestic matters when he was unable to gain support for his proposals from the Legislative Branch, but to his relatively weak defense and foreign policy, despite his continuation of the War on Terrorism and other reasonable policies. 

As an overreaction to this perception of weakness, a plurality of Americans have admired, by contrast, certain foreign tyrants or have even sought such an excessive kind of leadership, that of the authoritarian strongman, for the U.S.  Washington, who deferred to Continental Congress as commanding general of the Continental Army, did not seize power after the war, exercised no authoritarian powers as the first U.S. President and retired after two terms, offers a counter-example of strong leadership without autocratic excess.  Indeed, even though Washington could have obtained dictatorial powers, he rejected authoritarianism, exemplified the rule of law over the rule of man and championed representative government as a safeguard of liberty against tyranny, as he respected the will of the people, as expressed through their chosen representatives.   He nonetheless accomplished extraordinary goals as the First President, but his greatness was in his example, not only of faithfulness to duty to the point of personal sacrifice, but of humility.

May Americans recall Washington especially today and find increased inspiration to cherish liberty, the Constitution of the United States and representative government.  May God bless America.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rest in Peace, Norma McCorvey, Michael Novak and Robert Michel

           Three leaders of the cause of liberty or conservatism died last week, Norma McCorvey, Michael Novak and Robert Michel.

Norma McCorvey
Norma McCorvey, who died in Texas at age 69, was the “Jane Roe” of the 1973 Roe v. Wade United States Supreme Court ruling that overturned state anti-abortion laws and required States to legalize abortion.  In later years, however, she converted to Christianity and to the pro-life side. 

Born Norma Nelson in Louisiana in 1947, the family moved to Texas.  There, she married Woody McCorvey at age 16, but left him.  She became pregnant for the third time (her first two children having been given up for adoption) in 1969, at the age of 21.  After being unsuccessful at obtaining a legal or illegal abortion, she was used as a “pawn,” as she later asserted, by attorneys seeking plaintiffs to challenge Texas’ abortion prohibition.  By the time the case, in which she was a plaintiff, but for which she did not attend any of the hearings, was heard by the Supreme Court, McCorvey had given birth and the child was given up for adoption.

In 1994, McCorvy wrote her autobiography, I am Roe, in which she expressed her remorse for participating in the case that legalized abortion.  She converted to Christianity after being befriended by a leading pro-life activist Christian.  The following year, after seeing a poster at the abortion clinic at which she worked about the development of humans from embryos to fetuses, McCorvey realized the immorality of abortion and resigned.  She was baptized and then worked for pro-life organizations and participated in pro-life demonstrations.  That year, she wrote of her conversion to pro-life in her second book, Won by Love.

McCorvey’s conversion meant that all three of the major participants in the legalization and federalization of abortion, had converted to the pro-life cause.  The “Jane Doe” of Doe v. Bolton, the Roe v. Wade companion case, in which the Court defined the permissible reasons for abortion so liberally as to establish abortion on demand as a right, and Bernard Nathanson, the Doctor who had championed legalizing abortion, like McCorvey, also became pro-life advocates.

Michael Novak
Michael Novak was an influential Catholic philosopher and theologian.  The author of over 40 books, who died in Washington, D.C. at the age of 83, was committed to liberty and was best known for his Christian defense of the free market.  Novak was also a journalist and served as a diplomat.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1933, Novak received a philosophy degree from Stonehill College in 1956, a theology degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome two years later and a Master’s Degree in history and the philosophy of religion from Harvard University in 1966.  He was a reporter for the National Catholic Reporter during the Second Vatican Council, during which time he wrote the first of his books.

Novak’s books focused on philosophy, religion, culture, the free market and the politics of democratization.  His most famous work was The Spirit of Capitalism, which was published in 1982.  Among the works he published were novels.  Novak won the Templeton Prize in 1994 for progress in religion.  He taught as a professor at several universities over the decades and was a founding board member of Ave Maria University.  Novak was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent contributor to First Things and National Review.

In the meantime, Novak’s views shifted from liberal to conservative.  The lifelong Democrat, who supported Republican candidates, was appointed United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, in 1981.  Novak served until the following year and was appointed in 1986 by Reagan to lead the U.S. Delegation to the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  He served on the board of directors of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, which sought to return the Democratic Party to its anti-Communist and pro-human rights platform from its Leftist one.  Novak was a founding board member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.  

Novak’s philosophy and theology has been highly influential.

Robert Michel
Robert “Bob” Michel was the longest-serving Republican Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives.  The GOP Minority Leader from 1981-1995, who died in Virginia at the age of 93, was known for his leadership style, characterized by his ability to negotiate compromises through his friendships with majority Democratic members.

Born in 1923 in Illinois, Michel served in the Army from 1943-1946 and was wounded in the Second World War and decorated for valor.  First elected to the House in 1956, Michel served as a U.S. Representative for 38 years, from 1957-1995, a time which coincided with the Republicans’ minority status in the lower chamber of Congress.  As Minority Leader, he successfully supported President Ronald Reagan’s proposed legislation, such as his tax and domestic spending cuts and military buildup.  In Michel’s last two years, together with Republican Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, he was successful in maintaining GOP opposition to President William Jefferson Clinton’s liberal excesses.  Even though he was known for his bipartisanship, Michel compiled a conservative voting record. 

Among Michel’s many awards and honors were the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.  

May the legacy of McCorvey, Novak and Michel be respect for the right to life, liberty, the free market, representative government and conservative principles of smaller government, federalism, virtue and a strong defense.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Three Recent Blog Visit Milestones

           One post has now been visited over 500 times, another post has become the fourth-most visited post to my blog, while a third has now become the tenth post to my blog ever to be visited at least 100 times, as tracked by StatCounter.

My post, Commentary on the Roman Influence on America Exhibit at the National Constitution Center, from July of 2010, was recently visited for the 500th time, the second-most of all 858 posts, second only to The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization, from April of 2009, which has been visited over 1,600 times.  A post from November of 2011, The Rev. Monsignor Felix A. Losito, Rest in Peace, has been visited over 180 times, the fourth-most number of times a post has been visited.  A post from March of that year, Useless Cabinet Departments, has been visited 100 times.  These figures do not include visits to the homepage or archive of my blog, which means that additional visitors tracked by StatCounter may have read these posts.

Although posts over the last few years have been visited less often than some of the earlier posts, at least until now, there has been a dramatic increase in visits to the blog homepage.

The blog host, Blogger, tracks significantly more pageviews to my blog than StatCounter, but the latter’s greater specificity allows for better analysis.  

Thank you for visiting.

Timely Reflections on Ronald Reagan’s Birthday

           Today is the 106th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, who was President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. 

Reagan, who had been the leader of the conservative movement before his election as the 40th President, is credited especially with boosting the economy by cutting taxes, restoring confidence and patriotism, rebuilding the military, and helping to defeat the Soviet Union and ending Communism in Eastern Europe.  The Republican believed in liberty and representative government, revered the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, and was a strong believer in American exceptionalism.  Reagan, who favored free markets, had great confidence in the American people.  He championed faith and morals.

It is timely to note Reagan’s opposition to authoritarianism, protectionism, nativism, bigotry and isolationism.  

May Americans, especially, conservatives and Republicans, reflect on Reagan and be inspired again by Reaganism to continue the American experiment and to defend liberty and representative republican government.   May God bless America!