Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? I Corinthians 1:26-28 (The Message)
In July of 1969, my family went to Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia. The seeds of my career were already being sown, because I loved walking through the historic towns and experiencing history. And perhaps my hobbies, too, because we saw the glass blowers in Jamestown. Jamestown was an important stop to my family as I had an ancestor, Richard Pace, who helped to save some of the settlers from massacre on March 22, 1862. Chanco, a young Indian boy who had been treated kindly by the settlers and lived among them, visited Richard Pace and revealed that he had been instructed to kill Pace’s family as part of a raid that would take place the following day. The information allowed Pace to warn most of the settlers so that they could be prepared to defend themselves, but over 300 people still died and the colony almost dissolved. My mother wanted pictures of our family in front of the historical marker to send to her father, so my sister and I posed in our pixie haircuts and matching shorts outfits. In Williamsburg, we watched the parades and marching bands, visited the Governor’s Mansion and the shops and businesses. We ate at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern. I can still remember the taste of fruit punch served in a pewter mug. Each evening, we returned exhausted from sightseeing to the Williamsburg Inn to sleep. But, one night, July 20, our dad would not let us sleep because something exciting was happening on television. Two brave astronauts were about to land and then, walk on the moon. In that dark room of the historic hotel, a few hours earlier, we had already listened as the words drifted back to earth, “Houston, Tranquility Base, here, the Eagle has landed.” Several hours later, at almost 11:00 PM, my dad woke us up to see the news. I remember my sister fussing that she didn’t want to wake up and my dad telling her that she was missing history being made. I watched breathlessly as first Neil Armstrong and then, Buzz Aldrin, exited the lunar module and placed an American flag (held stiffly out with wires) and made footprints in the moon dust. It was hard to believe that the grainy black and white photos were real. The next day, Neil Armstrong’s words as he stepped foot on the moon, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” were plastered over the headline of every newspaper in the country. With the memory of a twentieth century accomplishment fresh in our minds, we went back to touring Colonial Williamsburg and learning about the men and women who helped to found our country. That vacation taught me more than historical facts. I learned from Chanco’s bravery in warning the settlement and two men who walked on the moon, that an individual’s choices could change history. For the first time, I thought about my role in the world and what I might do someday to make a difference.
Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning. Ecclesiastes 4:13 (NIV)
I might have been a child of the sixties, but I was a sheltered child. The closest I got to being a hippie was the psychedelic Nehru jacket and matching bell bottom pants my grandmother made me. I wasn’t out protesting the war, smoking pot or going to concerts. I barely had time to watch television. I was 16 years old, driving and busy with school and church activities. Every night of the week held a different activity from handbell choir to singing choir to youth group to service club to community theater and music lessons. There was no time or inclination for protesting against the government. I fact, I guess I personified the goody two shoes. But, when President Richard Nixon resigned as president, that was an event that even I was aware of. This was the same president who a year earlier had denied any wrong doing and stated, “People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.” Many American thought at the time he had not yet earned everything he was due for the Washington Post and reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, (who I will forever think looked like Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford) kept us up to date with all the illicit activities of the president and all his men. In his resignation speech, Nixon, said, “Sometimes I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, but always I have taken heart from what Theodore Roosevelt once said about the man in the arena, ‘whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again because there is not effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievements and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly’”. Most people were astounded by his words which contained no admission of wrongdoing. Historians have marked it as one of the best crafted speeches of the modern era. I really didn’t remember the words until I did some research for this post. What I do remember is how haggard and drawn he looked as he stared into the camera, and my realization that here was a man who was supposed to be our nation’s leader, but who was a liar and a cheat. At that moment, the word politician became tainted for me and no history or civics class could erase that feeling. As an adult, I have known some good politicians who look upon their election as an opportunity to service, but I can count the ones I have trusted on less than two hands. For the most part, I have been disillusioned with elected officials, and I think my skepticism started on August 8, 1974.