Monday, November 1, 2010

Statesmen are but dead politicians

Some wag said (that) years ago, but I don't agree. There have been many true statesmen in our history, including some still alive in our own times (A question I asked long time CBS Washington reporter Roger Mudd when he was at the Frankfort Book Fair last year. He had his own list, not the same as mine, but my point is they do exist, even today.)

But perhaps the most famous of all Kentucky statesmen, whose wisdom and experience we could most certainly use today is Lexington's own Henry Clay. Born in Virginia, he moved here as a young man, practiced law, and was elected first to the House and then the Senate in Washington.

His career there gave luster to his adopted state; and as "The Great Compromiser", staved off the Civil War for years. It happened after his death; leading to endless historic speculation whether America would have avoided that dreadful conflict had Clay lived.

That question I can not solve. I can resolve once again to read more about Clay, and there are some excellent books I can recommend to all of you as well.

The latest which the critics have been applauding is by a husband and wife team: David and Jeanne Heidler's "Henry Clay: The Essential American." A slightly older book which I always liked was Robert Remini's "Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union".

I have always admired, even more, one of Clay's contemporaries--Daniel Webster, probably because of S. V. Benet's short story and a fine movie of the same title "The Devil and Daniel Webster." If you want to cast a wider net, read "The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay and Calhoun" by M. D. Peterson.

Do not assume Clay is ancient history. You may now read his speeches to the House and Senate in a Kindle electronic edition, for a magnificent price of $1. Money well worth spending if you have a Kindle.

What we all do have in Lexington and Central Kentucky is Henry Clay's estate, Ashland, well worth a visit if you have not done so, and his legacy, which our current Kentucky and American office holders might well emulate if they wish to become not just politicians, but true statesmen.

I’m Just Sayin’…

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