Are “Statesmen” an Endangered Species?

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster

In 1973, Congress passed the “Endangered Species Act” {ESA}.

Essentially, the law “prohibits the import, export or taking of fish and wildlife and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered species; provides for adding species to and removing them from the list of threatened and endangered species, and for preparing and implementing plans for their recovery.”

In 1975, a tiny fish, the “snail darter”, not much bigger than a paper clip, was added to the ESA list in Tennessee.

The tiny mud fish, through a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, halted the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Tellico Dam project., even though the dam was started in 1967, years before the law went into effect.

The snail darter was found in the waters at and near the dam construction site.

Eventually, the Tennessee Valley Authority moved hundreds of snail darters to nearby rivers and streams where they thrived.

The Tellico project project was exempted from the ESA in 1979 and in 1984, the now-thriving snail darter was reclassified from “endangered” to “threatened”.

Today Tellico Lake is a popular recreational area with lots of sports fishing and it’s listed as one of Tennessee’s cleanest lakes.

And, while the snail darter was once endangered, they’re more numerous and seemingly doing quite well in Tennessee waters.

But the Endangered Species Act doesn’t help with one vanishing species in America.

“Statesman” (or “Stateswoman”) if you prefer).

By definition, a statesman is “a skilled, experienced and respected political leader or figure.”

A statesman is further defined as “someone who does everything for the common good of the people they represent; a long and respected political career at the national or international level.”

In most respects, a statesman is the opposite of a politician.

In 2005, there was a 4 part television series, “The Greatest American” in which 2.4 million Americans voted for the greatest American.

The top 5 were President Ronald Reagan, President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

In terms of the actual description for “statesman”, I think these 5 could carry that moniker.

However, this top 25 list also included Elvis Pressley and Lance Armstrong.

Celebrities?

Yes.

Statesmen?

Not quite.

To give you an idea of what I’m fishing for, I gleaned a few names from the “Famous Statesman” list.

Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Roman lawyer, orator and philosopher Cicero, as well as social reformer Frederick Douglass, former U.S Secretary of State Dean Atcheson and English philosopher Francis Bacon.

Many of these I’ve listed were names from politics.

And that’s why I’m saying, “statesman or stateswoman” is an endangered species in our world today.

Can you honestly include any of today’s well-known names with those I’ve listed above?

How far back do you have to go before you can find a name worthy of that label?

I would argue that it’s been a long time.

Therein lies the problem we face today.

First of all, if you mention anyone in politics, half of us turn away if the name is not an “R” or a “D”.

We can’t even begin to have a discussion on the relative merits of potential statesmen or stateswomen due to partisan politics.

We have expectations of people in the limelight that we couldn’t come close to achieving.

But, by God, we’re quick to throw stones and criticize.

We demand “perfection” when most of us can’t be in the same room when that discussion is held.

We’re pretty much a diverse group of whiney, special interest types who believe “it’s my way or the highway.”.

Plus, no one will listen to the possibility that a particular opinion or viewpoint just might be wrong.

It seems too many believe there is no difference between “surrender” and “compromise”.

By definition, “surrender” is to “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and SUBMIT to their authority.”

“Compromise” is “an agreement or a settlement that is reached by EACH SIDE making concessions.”

I think our nation’s ability to compromise started to wane when we began hyphenating our Americanism.

Are there any just plain old “Americans” out there like the ones we used to see in Norman Rockwell paintings?

The “Greatest American Hero” is not actor William Katt who played Ralph Hinkley in the 1980’s comedy-drama superhero television series.

No, the greatest American hero will be that individual who can rise above today’s noise and chatter and get us all to pull on the rope together instead of trying to push it in every different direction.

British author J.K. Rowling reminds us, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

When you look at the situation as it is today, without some change in direction, guess what you have?

Sounds like we need a statesman.

Perhaps a stateswoman.

I’m listening.

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