These Remarkable United States

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

A look around at the plight of the world today makes me hang my head, or shake it. Yes, at the sad, sad state of much of the ancient world, but even more so at the marvelous strength of these lower-case united states, whose founders put aside differences and memorialized shared values in a Constitution and Bill of Rights that embody some of the most remarkable, visionary, idealistic yet realistic thinking ever exercised by humankind, before or since. And the upper-case United States they created has stood for more than two centuries now as a reminder that sometimes, when debate trumps destruction and compromise defeats coercion, our very best instincts can prevail, and inspire, and endure.

In this annual issue that focuses on our Virginia Legislature — the oldest English-speaking representative body in the Western Hemisphere — it seems appropriate to remind ourselves that democracies don’t just happen; they’re the result of blood and sweat and lots and lots of tears, shed by lots of men and women determined to ensure that the voice of the people will prevail, not the whims of the powerful or the mandates of the self-elected.

Please use the enclosed Virginia State Legislative Guide as just that: a guide to help you contact your delegate and senator, and express your views on issues important to you, your family and those in your community. As you do so, please remember words of wisdom from various Americans over the years, shared herewith.

Government is too big and important to be left to the politicians. — Chester Bowles, 20th-century businessman and diplomat 

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. — Reinhold Niebuhr, 20th-century theologian and author

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin, 18th-century journalist, scientist, inventor, diplomat and Founding Father

People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote — a very different thing.    — Walter H. Judd, 20th-century missionary, congressman, editor and commentator

Of the many things we have done to democracy in the past, the worst has been the indignity of taking it for granted. — Max Lerner, 20th-century author and newspaper columnist

One of the evils of democracy is, you have to put up with the man you elect whether you want him or not.    — Will Rogers, 20th-century humorist and entertainer

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. — Thomas Jefferson, Virginian , U.S. President, statesman, philosopher, inventor, architect, farmer and founder of University of Virginia .


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