I've been thinking about … the peaceful transition of power.
For 240 years the United States of America has been the envy of the world for our freedoms, our opportunities, our welcoming embrace to people who come here searching for a better life, our system of laws and the peaceful way leadership passes from administration to administration. Even though this cycle's defeated candidate was gracious in her concession speech and the sitting president and first lady spent a good deal of time at the White House with the president-elect and his soon-to-be first lady, there seems to be a thorny difference this time.
As of this day, all of the living former presidents but one (Jimmy Carter) have called and congratulated President-elect Trump. For at least three of them, the act must have been very difficult given the heated, sometimes nasty rhetoric of this past campaign. By calling the president-elect they have shown themselves to be true statesmen and leaders of America. By welcoming the newest member of their exclusive club, I am encouraged. They are truly the only ones who know the full weight of the presidential mantle of responsibility.
The big "however" in my mind stems from this: All of the above is proof of the existence of a set of rules that has existed for over 200 years. The country has been well served by these rules and we have experienced the peaceful transfer of power because of them. I'm not sure if the people protesting this election all over the country know the rules, have thrown them out or perhaps never learned that there were rules to begin with.
Perhaps I'm living in the past, but when my generation was in school there was a course called civics. In that class we learned of the checks and balances our founding fathers established so that the republic would survive and prosper. We learned of the three branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial — the point being no one branch was more powerful than another. When that power structure is out of balance, trouble ensues. We learned how a bill becomes a law and that there were these things called elections.
In eighth grade I was sent as a reporter to Burlington City Park to hear a stump speech by vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon and report back to my class. I didn't like him, but he was elected along with Dwight D. Eisenhower. It never occurred to me to be scared or look for a safe place to hide so my feelings wouldn't get hurt.
And, oh yes, there was American history back then, all through school. We went from "Columbus sailed the ocean blue way back in 1492" to "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." And as a young wife and mother, "I have a dream" resonated down to my bones. I recently saw an interview with a student at an Ivy League school who knew that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves but didn't know that he wrote the Declaration of Independence or that he was the third president of the United States.
I wonder how many of the current protesters could pass the test given to immigrants who apply for citizenship.
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Audrey Cimino is executive director of The Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.