What it year it has been! I'm sure that I was not the only one to have faced a tumultous twelve months, which included significant business and personal obstacles. And what to make of our external environment? There is always turmoil when a society faces not one, but several major reform plans simultaneously. It hardly matters who was to blame; what matters is that for whatever reason, 2009 became the year where a "perfect storm" occurred, and with it exposed America's vulnerabilities in its economic, education and health care systems, to name a few. This is a critical period in our nation's history, but again, a historian could easily argue that every era had its own set of major obstacles.
Maybe the time of the American Revolution and shortly thereafter was the gravest moment in our history? Maybe not. What I would rather propose, is that it is times like these where we need great leaders to emerge, people who are not afraid to make mistakes, not afraid to try new things, yet have the charisma and leadership to create a movement and rally a very large group of people. As the year winds down, and a new year is about to emerge, I can think of no more eloquent quotation than this redacted section of a letter than our founding mother, Abigail Adams, wrote to her son John Quincy (our 6th president), on January 12, 1780 on the eve of embarking on a long journey with his father (our 2nd president) to France to broker their alliance with the colonies in the struggle for freedom.
"Some author, that I have met with, compares a judicious traveler to a river, that increases its stream the further it flows from its source ; or to certain springs, which, running through rich veins of minerals, improve their qualities as they pass along. It will be expected of you, my son, that, as you are favored with superior advantages under the instructive eye of a tender parent, your improvement should bear some proportion to your advantages. Nothing is wanting with you but attention, diligence, and steady application. Nature has not been deficient.
These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator if he had not been roused, kindled, and inflamed by the tyranny of Catiline, Verres, and Mark Anthony? The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruit of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities, which would otherwise lie dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman. War, tyranny, and desolation are the scourges of the Almighty, and ought no doubt to be deprecated. Yet it is your lot, my son, to be an eyewitness of these calamities in your own native land, and, at the same time, to owe your existence among a people who have made a glorious defence of their invaded liberties, and who, aided by a generous and powerful ally, with the blessing of Heaven, will transmit this inheritance to ages yet unborn.
Nor ought it to be one of the least of your incitements towards exerting every power and faculty of your mind, that you have a parent who has taken so large and active a share in this contest, and discharged the trust reposed in him with so much satis faction as to be honored with the important embassy which at present calls him abroad.
The strict and inviolable regard you have ever paid to truth, gives me pleasing hopes that you will not swerve from her dictates, but add justice, fortitude, and every manly virtue which can adorn a good citizen, do honor to your country, and render your parents supremely happy, particularly your ever affectionate mother,"