Why the Rush, JFK? Letter #4

Dear fellow American,                                                                 

Dear Utah State Delegates,1st congressional district,

In this last letter to you before voting, here’s a little more of why I became interested in politics and about my first political question – “Why are those two little children standing there?”   I was a sophomore in college and asked that question the day of President Kennedy’s funeral.  

I was aware then that John F. Kennedy was the President of the United States but didn’t know he had two young children until the day of his funeral.  That November Monday in 1963, I was shocked to see his two children standing there, so very still and quiet for young children, alongside their mother, as their father’s funeral cortege in Washington, D.C. began.  

From Friday afternoon when President Kennedy was assassinated, to the Monday of his funeral and burial, there had been nonstop television coverage of this tragedy, which most Americans must have watched.  The nation seemed to stop thoseFour Days in November, as one book was titled, as much as, if not more so, as during four days of this pandemic.  Those four days became my and others’ introduction to the rough and tumble of American politics.  

Should our political system be so hard on children, if even only two children?  

Our nationally elected politicians collectively have few young children in tow, but what children they have, put on the front row of our national political circus, will still be in the line of fire, so to speak, alongside their parents, of at least the verbal slings and arrows American politicians must endure.  Why should even one child suffer because of our political system?  

It’s not just that young children of American politicians will be in the line of fire at times from harsh words, or even bullets, but that they are also removed from the peace and quiet of a normal, happy, care-free childhood.  Yes, many children in the USA, perhaps most, don’t have a normal, happy, care-free childhood anyway.  Perhaps the pace of American life is too fast for a peaceful childhood anywhere in the USA.  Perhaps it’s just a given of human existence that some innocent children will always suffer. 

Do we really need to subject even one child to the trauma of the American political system?  Few of our national politicians have been assassinated or shot at, but enough have, to make national politics a sometimes dangerous enterprise, perhaps why our choice of candidates is not always that great.  Few Americans will subject children, especially young children, to such torture.     

In my three previous letters to you, I’ve suggested a constitutional amendment idea, The Family First Amendment, that would require American politicians to postpone seeking national office until later in life.  If the FFA were adopted into the Constitution, children of politicians could have the possibility of a relatively stress-free childhood, as much as that is possible for a political family in the USA.  

My goal in these letters was also to confirm with you something you probably already knew at some level, that the family is a form of government.  

In other words, if nationally ambitious politicians are asked to slow down for their children’s sake, they are still participating in government – the government that happens in their home.  Nationally ambitious politicians will not lose time staying close to home before seeking national office but will actually be learning more about the governing of people, their own children in particular.  People who can successfully manage a willful toddler – 24-7 – will make excellent politicians, in my opinion, something I had a hard time doing myself, I must acknowledge to you.

In a nutshell, we Republicans can help put the family in the Constitution.  If we did, we could help revive family life and its importance to American culture, specifically helping the children of nationally ambitious politicians in the process.  

After all, the family is the foundation of a republican form of government, and if we want to keep our republic, we must revive family life and family government.  If we do so, we could also help revive positive thinking.  A strong and healthy family leads to many positive things, especially positive thinking.  If we revive positive thinking, we could then get on to reducing the national doubt and then to reducing our national debt.  

Also, to repeat, The Family First Amendment is not meant to prohibit youthful leadership in the USA as a first reading of its text may imply.  To the contrary, the FFA puts a spotlight on our primary and basic governments – the family – and the state and local formal governments that help protect the family.  The FFA is not to prohibit youthful leadership but to redistribute it to where it’s needed most, a compliment to the power and contagion of youthful leaders. 

Here again, is that amendment idea:

Family First Amendment [FFA] – Draft only

        1.  No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of [fifty?] Years.

        2.  No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of [seventy?] Years.

        3.  No Person shall be eligible to the Office of President who shall not have attained to the Age of [sixty?] Years. 

As to questions about The Family First Amendment and its meaning and impact, I hope you’ve noticed that the FFA would put the family in the Constitution – not in word – but in deed, in behavior.  

The word “family” is not used in the text of the amendment, but the FFA does require behavior we rarely see in American politicians, a slower pace, for what could be called, “the race of political ladder climbing.”  Under the FFA, politicians who want national office – who want to be one of the 535 members of our national congress, or one of the two members of our national executive branch in Washington, D.C. – are required to respect the period of time when most people care for their children.  Even if an aspiring national politician has no children of his or her own, before holding any national elected office, these ambitious politicians must respect what could be called “family time.”  

In other words, during the ages when most Americans are starting, raising, caring, etc. for families, no person of those ages can hold national elective office. 

However, what good could the FFA do for the whole nation?  

The good example of a few national leaders, who respect family time and don’t seek a demanding national office during “family time,” would be a first step towards reviving family life in the USA.  Getting ambitious politicians to slow down and to spend more time in their neighborhoods and communities would help enlighten them in many ways.  

However, The Family First Amendment by itself seems inadequate for helping family life for every American.  Why bother with the FFA if it only changes the behavior of a few – about 537 – politicians?

For one thing, it is in fact possible that the good example of national leaders may be enough to revive family life.  National leaders do set standards of behavior in all kinds of ways.   

For example, strange as it may seem, the American hat industry collapsed shortly after President Kennedy’s inauguration.  How did that happen?  For most of American history, newly elected presidents wore a formal hat for their inaugural day, but President Kennedy put his hat aside.  After Kennedy went bareheaded, other men joined and put their traditional hats away too, and men wearing formal hats went out of fashion. 

Politicians are very important in a republic and model behavior.  A republic – a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as President Lincoln poetically expressed it – means people are watching other people much of the time, especially those perceived on top.  Values are generally caught not taught.  

Again, Jeremy Belknap, the clergyman and historian of our early republic, explained how good examples helped us in 1776: “Habits of decency, family government, and the good examples of influential persons” – helped hold American society together in our early days – more “than any other authority.”  

We need the “good examples of influential persons,” and if national politicians will respect the time for family life, other Americans may also.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the age requirements for national politicians specified in the Constitution may have a greater significance than we think.  These age requirements, although simple rules for when politicians can first hold national office, may also say something about the core of American life. 

In particular, the age requirements in our Constitution for national elective office have arguably set a very fast pace for all of American life not just for politicians.

Our Constitution explicitly tells young Americans they can – at ages 25, 30 or 35 – leave their homes and families and go to our nation’s capital to accomplish the noble, humanitarian ends of our republic.  The Constitution asks young Americans to get into the “fast lane,” so to speak.  

After all, our Constitution, now revered, at least by conservative Americans, has become a secular scripture.  Young people reading it, either as a school assignment or from curiosity, especially those full of idealism, learn how they can help our country and when they can do it.

We read of people who at a very young age decide to become president or a congressman and then learn all the rules and tips about how to achieve that goal.  The young ages our Constitution allows must fuel ambition.  

Our Constitution not only tells young people they can do this work at a young age, it also implies they should.  It’s almost as if the Constitution says, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” and do this asking and doing as quickly and as soon as possible.  Our national political system in effect tells young people – and perhaps all of us – get busy and stay that way.  

The USA has had many young people accomplish great things.  The oft-heard American phrase – “young men in a hurry” – aptly describes young American men running for political office, racing to the moon, running for this or that achievement, one reason the USA has had exceptional success in so many fields of endeavor.  

Many of our Founding Fathers were also “young men in a hurry” for success, and now we see more and more “young women in a hurry,” too, young mothers even.

In other words, the youthful ages prescribed in our Constitution for national leadership have arguably become the timetable many Americans adopt in their own personal rush for success, for any and all pursuits, politics or otherwise.  

Even Americans unaware of the Constitution’s youthful timetable for achievement, who’ve never read it or who are unaware of the Constitution, will see those around them, running and striving for something.  They, too, think they should be running and striving for something, even if they don’t know what.

However, what’s the rush in today’s America?  Life expectancy today is high, 79 for men, 81 for women, at least before this virus.  There’s time to do a lot.  Perhaps there’s no need to rush. 

Also, perhaps the American rush for success causes us problems.   The anger, despair, hopelessness that many Americans feel – that lead to suicides, drugs, shootings, and abortions – may be related to the fast pace our Constitution sets.  The speed of American national life may be too fast for the gentle souls among us.

And speaking of ambitious politicians in a rush, it must be remembered, sadly, that President Kennedy was one such politician.  Many Americans today became interested in politics when this youthful president was elected and perhaps more so when he was assassinated.  Did the rush for political office in the USA accelerate with his youthful and short presidency?

Why the rush, JFK?  Even back in his day, John F. Kennedy had time to be a family man as well as president.  

If the Family First Amendment had been part of the Constitution when President Kennedy was young, he would have waited to run for president.  He’d have spent time with his children, and they would have known him before he sought and possibly won national office.  His friends in his neighborhood and community would have seen him pace himself for national success.  It was tragic for him, his family, and our nation, that he was rushed. 

Our political system allowed that rush, even encouraged that rush.  President Kennedy’s parents could have advised him to pace himself, but they, too, knew the Constitution allowed a fast pace, although his good mother likely cautioned him.

If The Family First Amendment were adopted – and slowed down the pace of ambitious politicians – the USA might also get better politicians.  The “young man in a hurray” or the “young woman in a hurray” for office may also be a person “blinded by ambition” who gets to where they want to go, without knowing why or what they’re going to do.  

Can we Americans at least agree that the USA is not helped by politicians “blinded by ambition?”  

Instead, if our ambitious people, especially those who want to work in D.C., would pace themselves, paying attention to their families and neighborhoods along the way – and actually contributing to their families and communities – going to PTA meetings and being a volunteer at their children’s schools – they would  at least be better prepared to work in our nation’s capital on public policy.

It’s undeniable.  Many young politicians rush for office today because the eligibility rules in our Constitution allow that rush, perhaps why politics is called “running for office” in the USA.  Our old foes and now best friends forever, the British, call politics “standing for office,” a much better phrase that implies people who seek office have something substantial to stand on and offer and are not merely eager for a job they know little about.

It’s been said that “there is no child-prodigy in the social sciences.”  Those who want to excel in the social sciences – such as politics or management – couldn’t do worse if they took the time to observe and learn, over a period of time, about how people behave.  If they did, they might learn why people behave in certain ways and become less likely to rush to conclusions about society and to propose solutions – such as big socialism – that create more problems than simple capitalism and that also elevate tyrants in the process.  

After all, our nation has big and serious behavioral problems today – shootings, even mass shootings – abortions on a scale never seen before in a long-lived society – suicides, homelessness, drugs, gangs, etc.

Furthermore, our problems today are arguably more difficult to solve than the problems our Founders faced.  They only had to contend with British soldiers.  We in contrast have a crisis of the spiritual world not the material world.  The forces today that threaten our peace, well-being and morale – the forces of anger, despair, hopelessness, etc. –- are intangible. These intangible forces we must wrestle down – that lead to shootings, abortions, suicide, drugs, etc. – are necessarily difficult to defeat.

The Family First Amendment can help moderate our pace to a more human and humane speed.  If our politicians will pace themselves, they’ll spend more time with people close to them, many of us will too, and our families, neighborhoods, and communities will become stronger.

If the Family First Amendment were adopted – slowing down the pace of ambitious politicians – it could temper all of American life and perhaps even improve air quality in the process.

Again, our district, the 1st district of Utah, can present The Family First Amendment idea to the nation.  

If you State Delegates agree this idea is good, we can present the FFA to the Utah Republican Party and its Central Committee.  If our state party leadership agrees, we can then send it to the national Republican Party.  

If President Trump and other national Republican leaders agree, our GOP, our Grand Old Party, can then offer this amendment idea to the nation for consideration, and, ideally, it would win approval and ratification.  (The FFA could also help Senator Susan Collins win her re-election in Maine.)  

Again, these steps are bold, but we Republicans must play offense, not only defense, if the USA is to win.  We Republicans must build the enduring republic we’ve always wanted.   

This amendment idea is also a Utah idea.  For generations, Utah’s motto seemed to be, “No success can compensate for failure in the home,” a principle of one of Utah’s leaders, heard over and over during my youth.  This amendment idea to protect family life and family government could be Utah’s contribution to our republic.  

After all, we are a nation of states, ideally united states, and it’s fitting and proper that one state – Utah –         could step up, at a time of need, strife, and confusion, to show a way to reunite the USA again.

Thank you also for reading all these words.  I believe our nation is at a crossroads, why I’ve taken so many words to spell out what I see our challenges are, and I appreciate your attention.  

Today is a treacherous time, and we need to be careful.  Please remember, our republican government is an experiment.  Yes, our experiment in republican government has lasted 2 ½ centuries, which is great.  Does the number 2 ½ mean something else to you?  It reminds me of toddlers, human toddlers, who can easily wander off and fall over a cliff.  We don’t want our toddler republic to fall either.  Our nation may be in the toddler stage of civilization, and we must focus on the sources of our national doubt and stop them.  

We need new ideas to turn our country around and get it back on track.  The 1st district can lead in that effort and prosper too. 

Sincerely,

Cathy Hammon

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