When George Washington handed the power of the presidency to John Adams in 1797, it was the beginning of something that up until that point was foreign to world leaders. Gaining great power only to hand it to someone else…willingly, was not something that had happened in our world.
On that day, March 4th 1797 we as Americans became trendsetters. And we have continued to lead the world by example for over 200 years.
The last time the moving vans showed up at The White House, (in January of 2017), it proved to be a treasure trove for reporters and those who feed on political discourse. Yet once again we showed that even when we are polarized to a degree that the U.S. has arguably not seen since the civil war, we once again witnessed the peaceful and orderly transition of power.
Let me back up a little bit…A few years ago I decided that I was going to expedite completing the things on my bucket list and among them was to see a presidential inauguration in person.
On January of 2017 I was able to check that event off my list, as I was one of the fortunate Americans who watched this event live, just a stone’s throw from the platform where it all happened.
While it’s hard to take in an event in Washington DC without injecting a political component, and despite what you may have seen on the news, it was impressive to see hundreds of thousands of individuals from both sides of the aisle, amicably participate in this quadrennial event.
If you have never been able to attend an inauguration, it is a sight to behold. As a police chief I am accustomed to seeing how security operations work in various settings, but to be in DC for an event like this, I was able to see logistical excellence as over 40 different law enforcement agencies worked seamlessly together to protect both dignitaries and the public at large.
In my travels, I have been to our nation’s capital on numerous occasions and one thing I have taken note of is how the ideologies seem to swing one way, and then the other in a short period of time.
While that may not seem to be such a big deal, changing the direction of things in DC is something I liken to turning around a battleship. It’s not easy and takes some effort to accomplish.
Yet in my few days in the seat of our nation’s power I saw diversity. From a sea of people who supported the President as he took his oath, to vocal opponents who filled streets for a redress of their grievances with that very same President.
What I found incredible was that in both cases, the people were heard and (with a few exceptions) they peacefully expressed their views.
If you have never been, DC is a microcosm of our society densely packed into a relatively small city that has an immense concentration of powerful leaders. While there we spoke to a couple of our Uber drivers who were American citizens from Africa.
Some of the staff at the hotel were Americans born in Central America. A waiter we met was from Eastern Europe.
We took some time to stop by Congressman Henry Cuellar’s office and chat with some Texans. And several of the local police officers were from New York City. At the inauguration we chatted with a couple from Northern California.
These people are the fabric of America. Some were Republicans and others were Democrats, but all of them were witness to this amazing peaceful passage of leadership from one person to the next.
I know that the national media tends to fixate on the violent and the extreme, but in my time in DC I saw none of that. I saw people of all walks of life from various parts of the globe express their views, not just through protest or celebration, but to each other at restaurants or subway stations or anywhere else people gathered. Some were there to support President Trump, others to bid farewell to President Obama. We saw happy faces and those bearing concern.
I believe our founders knew that with freedom comes responsibility. They knew that there would be times where a nation with the makeup of the United States would be bitterly divided. So with amazing foresight they built in freedoms that have endured for all of us. It is our responsibility to use them.
Vote for those we feel represent our views, take issue with leaders who don’t. Do our part to improve society and leave it better than we found it.
As we enter the 2020 presidential election season I want to remind you that countless times in our nation’s history the political pendulum has swung wildly from one side to the other in just one political cycle. In the midst of this, we as Americans we have displayed our flexibility and willingness to endure.
President Ronald Reagan said that these peaceful transitions of power from one President to the next were “both commonplace and miraculous.” I tend to agree.
I have heard it said that the Founding Fathers would be disgusted with what goes on today in our nation’s capital. I’m not so sure.
Seeing people from every facet of life, from opposite spots on the political spectrum, gathered in one place, at one time, working to install a new set of leaders that bear little resemblance to the ones they are replacing, ready to face new uncharted challenges.
That might be just what they had in mind.