By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
With over 70 colleges and universities in and around Boston, information on commencements is frequent and suggestive. Speculation begins months before the actual commencement season about who will be the most invited celebrity in the honorary degree competition. Then the coverage transfers to what these new honorary degree recipients are saying and what it tells us about the state of the Great Republic and its peoples.
Sadly, no one has recommended my name for consideration; worse, it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. No worries.
I am going to tell you without benefit of invitation my remarks; the remarks I would have given. I am going to give my own Commencement Speech which I modestly tell you is a gem. No doubt about it. Now without further ado, here’s the great speech.
Colleagues of the class of 2017, are you beginning to see you’ve been lied to, deceived and mislead all these years, for the great majority of you will never achieve success, the kind of success you have dreamed of all your life; which you were sure your sheepskin delivered. Instead you will have to brag about today for the rest of your life, for it is the final day you will ever have for living the pampered, coddled, exquisite self deceptive student life you have grown far too comfortable with and which ends today.
Yes starting today, the overwhelming majority of you graduates will not have three nutritious meals placed in front of you with never a dish to wash; all that you need to do is open your mouth and chew. You will not have laundry services that present you with clean linens without you doing any more than sleep on them. You will not have instant friends right on the very floor of your dormitory, no less, just like a sitcom; to cheer you, make you laugh, help you out, and make you think that life is a lark, tra la.
You will discover, perhaps you already have, there will be no one to recommend books and ensure you read them. Worse, as you leave this institution today you already have read most of the books you will ever read in your life. This shocking fact noted historian Arthur Schlesinger (1917-2007) told me many years ago.
Your days of reasonably uncomplicated sexuality will now come to an end unless you live in a commune, or have special expertise in juggling more than one partner at a time. You will be forced to make a decision involving spouses and offspring. Thus the uncomplicated delights of promiscuity end here.
You will no longer be able to face the world In T-Shirt and jeans. You must now dress for others, not for yourself. From here on out you will have to bathe regularly, brush your teeth occasionally, comb your hair, and above all not smell from lack of soap which need not be festooned with some designer’s expensive moniker. Coming as you are is no longer an option. Reading these lines, you are perhaps now aware of the Shangri-La which you will be forced out of in just hours; to pass on to your eager successors, who are eagerly awaiting to repeat your mistakes.
Hey man, you will need to be on time for all appointments for there is no surer way of insulting people than coming late and shrugging it off as if it doesn’t matter. I remember the day this was driven home to me for life. It was at Harvard, in Professor Walter Jackson Bates’ (1918-1999) famous class on 18th Century English literature. Right from the start hemade it clear that if you could not trouble to be on time, don’t bother to attend.
Of course the students didn’t believe him. After all they were the most important people in the equation. They could do what they wanted including being on time or not, whatever their lordlings deemed suitable.
Bates however was a man of his word. Thus when he saw a young pup creeping tardily into his class, he acted at once hitting the offender with a copy of his masterful volume on John Keats for which he had won one of his two Pulitzer Prices. Because of his precise and graceful aim he nicked the ear of the offender, as Professor Bates boomed out “Don’t bother to come if you are late. Now get out”.
In your future incarnation as a responsible person, people will expect you to do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. This may well be something no one has properly stressed until now.
Your future will be composed of things you must do completely, and thoroughly and, professionally. You can’t blow them off or ignore them. For example, take your job as a citizen. Most of you have political opinions which are nothing more than slogans derived from a cheap poster. You will become comfortable with mouthing platitudes. Complicated issues, you discover, are far too complicated. Complicated issues after all are just that, complicated. Why bother, then; why study them when all you need is a slogan, a victim who can bring people together, and text messages, which showcase human language in extremis.
You may understand that the nation is a civic entity, where at any given time there is a smorgasbord of essential and compelling issues. You must choose one, it doesn’t much matter which. What matters instead is that you choose a topic larger than you are, in which to invest your time, money, energy, and enthusiasm. You must learn therefore the critical aspects of insuring the Great Republic continues to flourish, and in better shape than now.
One of the most disheartening thing about talking to people who call themselves Millennial is just how trusting they are. If someone posts something on the internet for example, so long as it’s “cool”, they will believe it no matter how unbelievable. Millennials do not want truth. They want lazy habits, sage results in seconds, “Minute Rice” ideas; a society that gives them everything, asking them for nothing.
Thus so long as they are rich enough, they can instantly have what it took their parents a lifetime to get. Everything can arrive at your doorstep, information (never mind if it is accurate or not), food, tickets, a date, a sexual liaison. In short there is a commitment to absolutely nothing and a “no worries” philosophy.
You came to college to learn how to make up your mind, but now it’s constantly updated with more information than you can deal with. You take the easy course and stop investigating in making up your own mind. A recent study showed that people with newspaper subscriptions spent no more than 6 minutes per day reading, claiming they have no time. You know you should read some more, but it never seems enough time. You are left embracing ignorance as your cause.
Many of you will never have an opinion of merit on anything of importance because you will not do the necessary work. Your college doesn’t care. They are worried about continuing the flow of money so they can offer this pap to generations of students yet to come. And all the while the clock is ticking as your college recommends you send in a check or even better set up an estate plan so that Alma Mater gets ever greater amounts of cash. Given this worsening problem, it is necessary to see what you can do to improve matters. Thus here in all humility are the things you can do right now to make sure that you do not become a repository of nothing more than sloth and superficiality.
One, choose the topic you wish to master. Do you want to save polar bears? Then work exclusively to save polar bears. Do not attempt to do it on your own. Tap into the resources that exist and make it a point to know where the resources are and where you best fit in. Do not try to specialize in 5, 10, or 20 different causes. The only way substantial change can occur is by choosing one.
You may think that it is craven or just plain lazy to limit your commitments. The great mistake that budding revolutionaries make is that they use their inability to change everything into an excuse for changing nothing. It is far more important for you graduates to put all your strengths together and seek to make a change in one important area or another. But that takes vision and… work, and you have no time for either.
By now you may be writhing. Just concentrating on one activity may not sound very thrilling to you, but that is because you like to feel important. If you have made a true commitment that comes from the heart and mind you will be willing to give up some or all of the credit in support of others who have made their own selection.
Here, however, where Millennials falter again, you are told (and you believe) that you can be the one who changes the world. But today’s world is far too complicated and doesn’t allow you the luxury of working alone. Instead you must do everything that fosters cooperative effort and forces you to explore ways of increasing the community effort while making it clear that you support the best ways to help in the achievement of the objective.
Two, be honest with yourself. If you have a particular cause, ask yourself if you will be willing to endorse and work for it for years to come. We are at a point in human affairs where great changes can only be effected by great focus and effective organization. Just because you say you want to achieve desirable results doesn’t mean anything.
Three, do your homework. Professor Schlesinger was right. Most college graduates read almost nothing that could achieve for the growth and improvement of the project at hand.
This may all sound depressing to some of you, but let’s simply call it a reality check. At the rate we are “progressively” changing the planet now, Earth as we understand it will soon be a thing of the past. Use yourself as an example. What causes are you supporting? Are you providing them with some meaningful support? What do you do on a regular basis to support this project? Are you engaged in efforts for bringing the cause forward? Are you more than a Sunday soldier or sunshine patriot?
Many years ago there was a famous American comic strip named “Pogo”. It was drawn by Walt Kelly (1913-1973). In the strip the characters blamed everyone for all their problems. The punch line however was stunning. “We have met the enemy and he is us”.
In a few words this master of insight had nailed the problem. We say we want to help. We say the world is a terrible place, a place that yet could be improved by our ministrations. We woke up in the morning determined to be a part of the solution not part of the problem. But here is the worst thing of all: we say we mean what we say, but we do not do what we say. “Do as I say,” my father said “Not as I do”.
You are leaving this great institution today with almost nothing. This lack of preparationhighlights the worst thing you will take into the real world. That is arrogance. Arrogance however is one thing you are not entitled to. You have not earned it. Yet here is the real irony. By the time you have earned the right to be arrogant, you will understand that arrogance harms everything you do to help the world. Humility is a far better master.
Leave here today thankful for all the assistance you have garnered, humble before the new world which today you enter. If you do this you will have the best of what is available to you and what will assure you a life of honor, integrity, respect, and most of all, love. These are the things that matter, make them yours for they are the only things worth having and worth living for.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767) was Controller General of France at an important point in the fast developing Revolution. M. de Silhouette was no more successful in solving the tremendous problems of French finance than any of his hapless colleagues. He talked about them, and talked about them some more. But at the end of the day, he had nothing to show for his regime but pictures cut out to resemble the outline of the sitter without the trouble of creating a truer and more formidable work of art. In short, M. de Silhouette did nothing, and left nothing but his title behind as his contribution to the surging events which became 1789.
His name has become attached forevermore to a party game; namely, he had families all over Europe cutting out profiles of their nearest and dearest, often before a wintery fire. These pictures, which captured the linear essence of the subject, saved the bother and expense of having the complete portrait done. You didn’t need to spend money on a portrait when you could do it cheap as a silhouette.
And so, the silhouette was born, enabling Barack Obama to take advantage of it, which he fully did at the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Here, each year, at the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation, the Kennedy tribe and entourage gathers to tell themselves just how good they are, and that there are people, important people too, who are willing to come and tell them all just exactly what they want to hear about themselves.
This rite of spring occurs each year, and has as its task saying too many good things about people who wish to believe them, and are happy to come to Boston to hear themselves lauded, and laud in their turn their colleagues worldwide.
This year, the poohbahs of the Kennedy Library and Foundation inducted recently former President Barack Obama into the fraternity of “I love you, you love me”, and invited him to do his part by getting up on his hind legs and lathering the audience with an avalanche of frothy compliments.
And so, Obama, honoree, gave a 30 minute speech which proved more than anything else that Barack Obama did not deserve a Profile in Courage Award.
Now you and I probably have a pretty good idea of what constitutes courage. That is to say, facing a situation where defeat is a very real likely possibility, and where the outcome depends on you, what is in you, what you believe, what you can do, what you must do to change reality, and bring about a lustrous and even unexpected conclusion. All of us have the ability to be courageous, but the person who stands forth in courage does not just think, but acts, and acts again, and again as necessary to achieve the goal which was once thought impossible.
And so with this definition in mind, see Barack Obama coming to take his place at the podium, and launch into his political beliefs, and what he intends to do to help the country that made him President for two terms. He chose, as well he might, the subject of Obamacare, whose official name is the Affordable Care Act, and which was created to sustain the sick and vulnerable, the people who need the care the most, and have the fewest means of getting it.
Now you would think, but you would be wrong, that it would be a pleasure to take on the task of saving the poorest and most vulnerable among us, and when it is all said and done smile to himself and reassure his friends that he had not lost one scintilla of his high and mighty purpose, or the energy needed.
You would think, but you’d be wrong, that he would enjoy the prospect of ripping Donald Trump, shredding him, happy in the good fight for universal healthcare, and be ecstatic to undertake even one more bold battle in the war that is by no means ended.
You would think, but you’d be wrong, that before this audience of like minded souls, he would have found an energy, a joy, an exuberance, that would carry him across the nation, with the good wishes and prayers of the millions he was pledged to assist.
You might say, but you’d be wrong, that Barack Obama knows Browning’s great lines, “The best is yet to come. The last of life, for which the first was made.” You would think that being an older man capable of doing a young man’s work, he would undertake the great crusade that could make America healthy, strong, and resilient.
You might think all these things, and in every case you would be wrong. What you got instead was a silhouette… a thread… a mere line without blood or tenacity. The real man, the man of courage and certain purpose and sure touch made no appearance that night. The silhouette of a President had been there, and it was disheartening to see nothing more.
This speech, which should have commenced with high purpose, excitement, and enthusiasm for the good cause, went on paragraph by paragraph, thanking every member of the Kennedy family, present and deceased. As I read these compliments, I thought to myself here was a man who was President of the United States, the proudest office of the land, who came to pay obeisance to the members of the Clan who needed him and his compliments to make themselves and their followers feel certain that the great days of Camelot have not gone by.
One looks in vain for the sense that every Red Sox fan had for 86 long years: “Next year”. For the Democrats, for the country, for the faithful assembled in this ornate dining hall, there must always be a next year. And Barack Obama, on this count as with so many others, let these people down.
I told my father that Obama always acted the lawyer’s role. That is to say, that he knows how to divide pies, but not how to bake them. Dividing pies, as most every lawyer does, enables you to sit high above the teeming masses in the expensive accouterments of the legal office, and divide up the hard work and lifetime achievement of others.
But that is not how money is made. That is not how societies are built. That is not how great events are shaped. For this, we must need the bakers of the pies… the people who know what to do and get out dirtying their hands and doing it.
As I read Obama’s speech to the glitterati of Camelot, I thought to myself, what would happen if he were ill? Don’t we all know. And what about his daughters, and his wife? He and they are well taken care of, to a degree which none of us can even imagine. He doesn’t need you and me to get his healthcare, but all the rest, you and me, need all the help we can get.
We look through his printed remarks of just the other day, and something nauseating rises to the surface. There as Gertrude Stein said, “There’s no there there.” There was the man who had held all the tricks, who could have gone anywhere, said anything, helped anyone. But he is a pie divider, not a pie maker. And one senses about Mr. Obama that it is the little things of life, and the insignificant things about life, that grab his attention. For this man, this word spinner, is no fighter.
Where was he when healthcare facilities across the nation needed his assistance? He had White House-itis of course, the condition that makes you think your presence is more needed in the Rose Garden than in the health establishments around the nation, which could have used a President of the United States and his moxie to help their difficult and often disheartening tasks.
What does Mr. Obama care? For him, only one place in Obamacare counted, and that was his place. Thus, what matter does it make that he comes to accept a dubious award, supposedly given to those of exemplary courage and joy? For let us make sure that joy is not forgotten.
Yes, those with such courage can feel unhappy, distressed, fearful, or tormented. Their work, after all, never ends and often drains them to the very dregs of their humanity. They are not in the business for the reward, no matter how nice it is, no matter how pleasant it is. They are in the good fight for victory.
Barack Obama had the tools of victory in his pocket for 8 years; they came with the job. A nation awaited, prayed, hoped, that he would use the great powers of the Great Republic to succor, heal, and yes love, for those who are greatly courageous are greatly loving, and greatly loved.
Remember this: courage does not come with the job, or the Oval Office. Courage comes from within each of us. It may be found anywhere, may reside in anyone, and exists everywhere to change the world for the better… a thing more and more difficult to imagine, much less do every single day.
And so we find ourselves at this unhappy point. We have the book “Profiles in Courage”, which was not written by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, although his name is on the cover. His assistant, Theodore Sorensen, wrote most of the book and Kennedy’s name was then placed on the cover because the family knew he knew too little, and was of too insignificant a stature to be President.
This book was not originally nominated for the 1957 Pulitzer Prize. Indeed, John F. Kennedy’s father got his friend, columnist Arthur Krock to make some calls so that the book which was not even nominated, ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize. The research to this book was shoddy, the kind of thing a Harvard undergraduate submits for a rushed dissertation.
There is little hint of JFK in the book, because there was little hint that he wrote a single page. What matter that, when you have a father willing to twist the rules, and twist them again, to achieve his objective. Eight Senators were chosen as examples of members of the Upper Chamber who had stood forward on behalf of courage. Subsequently, historians have pounced on these eight selections as being gratuitous, even frivolous. In other words, while there may have been courageous Senators from time to time, they did not necessarily end up in the book dedicated to such people.
And so, sadly, we are able to see the entire situation more clearly. A former President unwilling to use whatever power still remains, whatever prestige he still has, to aid the nation. An annual event which selects honorees with a cavalier nonchalance. What matters who is selected and who comes, so long as that person brings a lustrous name and a willingness to waft incense at them? For don’t they deserve it after all?
And so we began where we started with M. de Silhouette. At least he created a party game of joy. His name will last forever. But can any of us even imagine Barack Obama moving steadily through the eternal future? His remarks, his actions, his commitments, even worthy of any remembrance at all?
And surely that is his tragedy… and ours.
DONALD TRUMP INSULTS GERMANY. CHANCELLOR ANGELA MARKEL HOLDS HER NOSE AND SAYS US IS NO LONGER A RELIABLE PARTNER.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Donald Trump’s offensive remarks to G-7 partners May 25th 2017 cause Chancellor Merkel to question the benefit of traditional alliances like NATO.
It’s time for the major European nations to take their affairs “in our own hands”, says Merkel. In other words the genie we worked so hard to contain is out of the bottle. Trump strikes again.
Here are the facts:
So, Donald Trump has returned from Europe. He will be remembered for his bumptious antics and rudeness, traits which are epitomized by the fact that he shoved Milo Dukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, to get to his place in the sun, that he knows is always his. Where is Montenegro anyway?
If there is an insulting, foolish, crude thing to be done, Donald Trump will do it… and not even know it. For here is a man so self-centered and arrogant that anyone else’s point of view is completely beside the point. As King Louis XV didn’t say “Apres moi le deluge”. Or in the immortal words of Alfred E Newman of “Mad Magazine”, “What me worry?”.
However, he should be worried. He has got one scandal after another already on his plate. Moreover there isn’t a politician in the Capitol or in Europe’s capitals who thinks that number will decrease. At which I say, “Thank God for Angela Merkel“ (born 1954). Throughout the events of her watch she has been underrated, undervalued, and underappreciated. No more so than now.
Mrs. Merkel understands that to be a German leader is always to have a special responsibility to the German people and the world, for after all, it was Germany, always Germany that caused the great world wars taking the lives of untold millions to prove in the end that “Deutschland über alles” was a cruel joke and that Deutschland needed a firm hand to keep her wayward demons under control.
From April 15th 1945 when Admiral Karl Doenitz surrendered the “Thousand year Nazi regime”, the United States and Europe worked together to make sure there would be no World War III. To this end the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 and may be said to be the most important reason why Europe has not exploded in yet another of its endless destructive wars.
To make this situation work, the very name of Prussia (from which Germany evolved in 1870) was erased from the maps of the world. The map makers were hoping out of sight, out of mind. Thus the policy makers in Washington, London, and Paris worked hand in hand with the progressive German leaders of post Nazi Germany to keep the peace. They did it and succeeded right up to this very minute, one of the most significant achievements in the history of mankind.
Then something in Angela snapped, for she knows that she will have to pick up so many of the pieces of Trump’s fatuous regime. She will do it uncomplainingly (at least in public) because there is no one else to do it. The Trumps of this world are expert in one thing and one thing only, “Me!”. You are there for their gratification and for no other reason.
Such a person at such a time in the history of Europe could well cause major damage, criticizing as he does and seemingly without restraint. Every person and administration, that has had unfortunate duty to see must put the best gloss on the subject on what to do about the Donald and his almost laughably superficial ideas. Angela has taken the long view, she now running for her 4th term as Chancellor of Germany understands the truth of an old saying my father used to use so many times, “This too shall pass”.
Trump needs Europe, Europe doesn’t need Trump.
This is the problem. Because Angela Merkel is a statesman, she will get what she can get and make no fuss but people with the longer view even admiring Mrs. Merkel as they do are worried that Donald Trump has opened a fissure in the Grand Alliance. Given the malignant history of Germany from 1870 when the German empire was formed out of various German states, the Germans have been a rambunctious and dangerous element within Europe, anything that control and contains Germany is there for good, anything that allow Germany to set up an independent course makes all of Europe anxious.
Donald Trump’s behavior therefore is inexplicable, for he has cast a giant boulder at Germany and opened up a channel of menace with consequences unseen. Nationalist German demons may have been asleep since 1945, but they still exist with all that implies. Mrs. Merkel is just the kind of German leader the continent of Europe must have, cool; calm, not a touch of bombast, a woman you can do business with.
She believes that all problems can be solved without braggadocio or grandstanding. She knows that you can get more done, if you don’t take the credit; which is exactly why she has been so effective. This is why what is happening now is so significant. She now becomes the first head of state (with the possible exception of tiny Montenegro which will not abide being pushed around) to make it clear that Trump is irrelevant, unthinkable for the Great Republic whose standing in the world drips away every time Trump toots his horn.
But there is significant work to be done, and it must be done now. Angela Merkel and all the other nations of Europe are clear on the fact that they will never be able to work successfully with Donald Trump, a man with ants in his pants and an attention span measured in minutes. The agenda of problems to be solved is daunting, and what is necessary now is a joint concerted effort by virtue of size, wealth, and vision. The United States should be leading the ongoing negotiation with Europe in certain key areas including Russia, climate change, regional trade, and collective defense. However the Great Republic under Trump’s bumbling has left the leadership position to Germany and Mrs. Merkel.
Now this will only alarm those who feel the bones of German nationalism capable of rising again like doleful, dangerous artifacts from a “Harry Potter” film. Donald Trump by his unbelievably irresponsible behavior towards Mrs. Merkel and Germany in general has created a situation of menace that need not have occurred at all. Consider the following anecdote from the court of King Louis XVIII of France.
He had received his restored crown from the hands of Tsar Alexander the II of Russia. One evening he invited the Tsar for dinner. When the servants passed around the first dish, they ladled it on the Tsar’s plate. Louis, exploded with rage. “Me first!, “ Me first!”, he shouted thrusting his very hands into the dish.
Never mind that the Tsar had rescued his capital and made him a king again. And so it is with Trump and why wanton and pernicious remarks should never have been voiced even if true, much less because they are not. The peace of the world since 1945 has relied upon an unbroken chain of thoughtful statesmen particularly in Washington, and Berlin, these people, so many statesmen of high standing, have understood the importance of what they have done and congratulated themselves for being able to work together through good times and bad, through difficult political situations, and with a sincere, and thorough desire to maintain the Atlantic Alliance. What they have done, what they continue to do has resulted in better lives for millions of people. They are the beneficiaries, which include you and me.
Now Angela Merkel is called upon to perform the most difficult balancing trick of the century, she must keep the German people happy or at least sufficiently contented, to make sure the German nationalist do not gain power and prestige, and become a threat to stable government. She must work to keep the balance of nation in Europe particularly with Russia. She must find a way of working with the United Kingdom in a post Brexit situation. She must work on the big picture, never despairing, never complaining, never overwhelmed.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies”. This is the value of Angela Merkel. But there is a terrible gnawing fear in all this. Without complete and total agreement on major issues between Germany and the Great Republic it is inevitable the differences will ensue.
Who can expect complete and total harmony? Even the best friends must endure periods of estrangements. Mrs. Merkel is now the most significant leader in Europe where it is not inconceivable to think of additional cracks in the Atlantic Alliance. Donald Trump has no idea what this Alliance was meant to do and why it is so significant, yes even for tiny Montenegro down by the Adriatic. Of Course NATO founded in year 1949, now may be in need of a shakeup. Success often produces lethargy, new blood, new ideas, new ways of doing things is necessary in all organizations, even marriage.
Donald Trump should have traveled to Brussels with a basket full of praise and determination and tangible benefits to know the G7 members better and understand their situation.
Then he should have called these leaders together to begin implementing a strengthened NATO. Mrs. Merkel would have helped him in that situation. When Berlin and Washington work together they can achieve anything. Sadly this did not occur. Instead Donald Trump gratuitously pummeled the Alliance to the extent Mrs. Merkel will no doubt find any means to avoid Donald Trump.
For she has taken the measure of this diminutive man and found it severely lacking. She has found in him no statesman, no visionary, no indefatigable seeking after a better Alliance, a better Europe, a better world.
Thus the President’s trip to Brussels will go down in history as a date of carelessness and unnecessary failure and insult. What will happen next? No one knows for sure. But Mrs. Merkel, Europe’s governess, keeps on doing her necessary work; everywhere willing to labor to achieve beneficial results, irked no doubt by the bumptious Mr. Trump but determined nonetheless.
She can work around him, doesn’t need to see him very often, and as always will go about her crucial work quietly, without flash or wild egotism; content to be what her great pre-decessor Prince Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was, “The Pilot of Europe”. For this we say,“Gott mit dir” for the future of so many, depends on you.
Book now for the bi-centennial of America’s least necessary war,The War of 1812. The scenery will be unbeatable!
Smart Tips For Your Personal And Business Success Today……….Book now for the bi-centennial of America’s least necessary war,The War of 1812. The scenery will be unbeatable!
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Most Americans don’t know we had a dust-up in 1812 with our not-so-distant British colonial masters. Well, we did and from June 30-July 6, 2012 we’ll be celebrating it in high style in Boston, Massachusetts, then in 11 other East Coast American cities that had a role in the war. The festivities will run from 2012-2015, with millions expected to come see.No doubt the most popular and easily the most photogenic part of this commemoration will be the parade of the world’s tall ships, with more ofthese graceful relicts of days gone by assembled in one place than ever before.How many tall-ships will there be? William Armstrong, a spokesman for Operation Sail, the sponsor of this event along with the U.S. Navy, could not say exactly. Buthe did say that 120 nations have been invited to participate, and no doubt most of them will. As such it will draw visitors from around the globe to this living reminderof maritime majesty.Two extra special features make a trip to Boston de riguer when the tall-ships come.First, this is the home port of the USS Constitution, launched in 1797. It is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Dubbed “Old Ironsides” in sea battle where enemy cannonballs were seen to bounce harmlessly off her timbers, she defeated 4superior British vessels, uniquely earning each of her captains a Congressional gold medal, perhaps in part because the Constitution’s victories were one of the very few aspects of the war in general to go well.The second reason why Boston was selected to lead off the festivities hasabsolutely nothing to do with commemorating the war and absolutely everything to do with creating a truly whiz-bang of a program. While the tall-ships grace the harbor and capture every eye, the city of Boston (and all true believers in America’snational past-time) will be celebrating the centennial of Fenway Park, a theme which will inspire every sportswriter to wax poetic, nostalgic, with nary a dry eye in the(uncomfortable, over-priced) bleachers.Not worth remembering.Sadly all this hard work and the unbeatable thrill of seeing a large percentage of the most graceful and interesting sailing vessels still extant celebrates an entirely forgettable war that should never have occurred and which showed that Yankeerhetoric (always soaring and bombastic) far outpaced Yankee management, efficiency,and organization. In short, the Yanks, having pulled off the biggest victory of the18th century, eviscerating British North American power and gaining independence,took the wrong moral from the tale and assumed their old nemesis was a paper tiger,always and forever to be defeated by the vainglorious sons of America. It was anarrogant point of view that was soon shown to be wistful thinking, and nothing more.Family quarrels are always the most pernicious and hurtful.From the very moment the British accepted the loss of her American coloniesevery patriotic Briton ached for a rematch with her now liberated and bumptious former colonies. Because this was a family quarrel, each side (and particularly the British) took the greatest possible pleasure in irritating Americans, outraging Americans, belittling Americans and humiliating Americans. The colonies might belost, well then, let the regime of insult, condescension, and mutual irritants commence.And because both sides were Britons, who knew each other as well as the back of their own hand, they knew exactly what to do to cause maximum pain and umbrage…and they did it with relish and unbridled joy, “Take this, serves you right!”For such antagonists another conflict was, and everyone knew it, inevitable.It was simply a matter of when… thus both nations bided their time; Britain bit by inevitable bit undoing Napoleon and his evanescent imperium, anxious to face againthe unlikely winners who had humbled them with the gall and wormwood of 1776 and all that. It was a truly memorable antagonism, entirely personal, no holds barred, each and every encounter seen as an insult by the other. As I said, it was a very nasty familymatter, casus belli unnecessary.Historians will tell you the War of 1812 had many causes and no doubt they are right.But all those who have fought for victory in their homes and offices will know the messy battles in operation “Top Dog” in which the opponents battle for ultimate supremacy.In such a situation, with the need for overall power and control paternal, primal, withmutual good will and correct relations impossible until the fundamental matter iswell and truly settled. They fought because each existed and that each found affronting and profoundly irksome.The British goal in the War of 1812, a war which commenced as Napoleon (thenretreating from Russia after his fate-tipping disaster, thereby liberating British power,money and focus to upend the Yanks, was to continue her near absolute command of the world’s seaways. “Rule Britannia” was not a song; it was profound national policy.By contrast, the Yanks, now controlling the most valuable real estate on earth, were anxious to get the rest… and this meant seizing Canada, every Yank believing that Canadians were anxious to be liberated. They weren’t, but that made absolutely no difference. Liberated and Americanized they would be, like it (and they surely would),or not.The War of 1812 shaped up accordingly.The British, the world’s greatest sea power, aimed to cripple the new American Navy while making it quite clear that it would continue to impress seamen (particularlyAmerican seamen) into her vessels, whatever howls of outrage that might engender.Ships might be built… but able seamen were, as always, in short supply and thusEngland, whose very existence was predicated on maximum sea power, seized Americans wherever they could be had… without a shred of remorse.The goal of the Americans was to justify their (to them) hefty allocations of limited national resources in a navy. Thomas Jefferson and friends (one of whom, James Madison, was President in 1812), profoundly provincial, regarded a navy as an expensive luxury, hoped to hobble it. The navy needed victories to prove how essential it was. And, of course, there was the great prize, Canada. Voltaire may have regarded the Canadas as a patch of snow… but the War Hawks in Washington, D.C. did not.They craved Canada the worst way, and they went about wooing her showed thatit was indeed the very worst way.The ins and out of this struggle go beyond the confines of this article and may be found in “The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict” by Donald R. Hickey. Sufficeit to say the Yanks made a dog’s dinner of their Canadian incursions and not a single Canadian was sorry. Thus, they kept their snow to themselves. The British burnt Washington, D.C. including the White House, to avenge a similar barbarity bythe Yanks when they invaded Canada. And the greatest victory of the war by eitherside was the Battle of New Orleans, which in due course made General AndrewJackson, president of the United States.No doubt some of this history will be told next summer, but the futile inconsequenceof the war will mentioned, if at all, sotto voce.You, however, now know and will astonish all who pontificate in front of you. For youhave heard the story here… so do book your reservations now with Operation Sail the better to see the key places in this forgettable conflict about to be commemorated.
About the Author:
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Dr. Jeffrey Lant is also the author of 18 best-selling business books. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell HomeProfitCoach.com.
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