Tuesday, May 29, 2007


May 29th, 2007 marks what would have been John F. Kennedy's 90th birthday. It makes me feel a little old. What an amazing man. Foibles? Of course, but bar none few men have ever approached the threshold and mountain top of greatness as he did. He was not afraid of defending America and everything that this great country stands for. "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what YOU can do for your country" I am convinced that without his leadership, the Cuban Missile Crisis would have resulted in World War III. Today is also the birthday of another American hero, patriot and natural leader. His name you should know well: Patrick Henry.Henry is perhaps best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgess on March 23, 1775 urging legislature to take military action against the encroaching British military force. The House was deeply divided, but was very much leaning toward not committing troops. As Henry stood in Saint John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, he ended his speech with his most famous words:Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! The crowd jumped up and shouted "To Arms! To Arms!". This speech is credited by some with single-handily delivering the Virginia troops to the Revolutionary War. Problematically, the text of this speech did not appear in print until 1817, in the biography Life and Character of Patrick Henry by William Wirt Although Wirt assembled his book from recollections by persons close to the events, some historians have since speculated that the speech, or at least the form with which we are familiar, was essentially written by Wirtdecades after the fact.Early in the Revolutionary War, Henry led militia against Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in defense of some disputed gunpowder, an event known as the Gunpowder Incident. During the war, he served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia, from 1776-79, an office he held again from 1784-86.
After the Revolution, Henry was an outspoken critic of the United States Constitution and urged against its adoption, arguing it gave the federal government too much power. As a leading Anti federalist, he was instrumental in forcing the adoption of the Bill of Rights to amend the new Constitution. He became a strong opponent of James Madison. By the late 1790s he was a prominent Federalist in support of Washington and Adams. The irony is that most of his followers became Republicans who supported Jefferson's party. President George Washington offered him the post of Secretary of State in 1795, which he declined. In 1798 President John Adams nominated him special emissary to France, which he had to decline because of failing health. So let us remember this day two great leaders. One was a hero, a president and a statesman, the other was a true defender of freedom and a brilliant statesman.


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