Presidents Day, John Adams and Harry Truman
We are coming up on Presidents’ Day 2020. This Sunday at the 11 am service, I will be speaking about Presidents Washington and Lincoln. I think there are some important spiritual lessons we can learn from the “father of our country” and “old honest Abe.”
These are the two Presidents that we usually have in mind when we think of Presidents’ Day. After all the holiday occurs in the month of February near their two different birthdays. But I think we can learn some other major spiritual lessons by looking at some of our other Presidents, Let me take two: John Adams and Harry Truman. I can hear some of you thinking, “When was the last time you thought about John Adams and Harry Truman in connection with Presidents’ Day?”
Well, let’s take John Adams. He was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as our second President. He truly was an important leader of the American Revolution.
When he became President he had his detractors. For example, he questioned if the chief executive of the United States should only be called “Mr. President.” His critics suggested that Adams– who was overweight– could be called “His High and Exalted Rotundity” if he wished.
But here is a key spiritual lesson we can learn from John Adams. When he ran for reelection for President, he lost the race. And what did Adams do? He left town and turned over the executive branch of government to the winner (Thomas Jefferson).
Now that might not seem like much. But in 1801 there was no tradition of an incumbent President losing an election and then turning over power to one’s opponent. Consider the current year 2020. How many places in the world would an incumbent ruler lose a fair election and then lock up his opponent?
As hard and bitter as it was for Adams, he “turned it over and let go.” I believe this is an important lesson for many of us– me included– to learn. There is an old saying: “Everything I finally let go had my claw marks in it.” May we learn to let go and turn things over without claw marks.
The Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature nine different times (but always came up empty-handed) wrote a book about Saint Francis. In Kazantzakis’ book, Francis has to turn over control of his new order over to a younger man. One candidate is very holy, and the saint wants to turn over control of the order to this man. The second candidate has questionable motives for wanting to head the order. Also, this second candidate wants to build a big church and complex in St. Francis’ name.
That “still, small voice” tells. Francis that he is to turn over control of the order to the candidate who is holding the rod and staff with a rose growing out of it. Francis comes before the two candidates, and he finds that it is the second (and less desirable) candidate who has the staff with the rose. It was a difficult lesson in turning things over that St. Francis had to learn.
I think we can also learn some important spiritual lessons from Harry Truman. President Truman said, “The buck stops here.” It does not help us to spiritually grow if we keep on blaming other people for our difficulties and faults. We grow by doing our shadow work (i.e., looking at the parts of ourselves that we would like to deny and keep buried and hidden). Also, we grow when we stop casting our shadow on other people, places, and things.
A second spiritual lesson we can learn from”give ’em hell” Truman is how to make a decision. That great Unity teacher, Eric Butterworth, suggested that when we have to make a decision we should pray and center first. Then we should list the pros and cons of the various actions we might take. Next, Eric suggests that we should. step. back and give it at least two or three days, if we can, before. we make a decision. Then we affirm that Divine wisdom is inside of us. We then find that if we do this the sense of our connection– our oneness– with Spirit will be stronger. We can then make a decision in peace, and turn it over to God.
Happy Presidents’ Day. I would be interested in hearing from you about what other spiritual lessons we can learn from other Presidents.