“The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
― John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife
In observance of Independence Day 2021, I endeavored to watch the HBO miniseries ‘John Adams’ with my children.
Based on the David McCullough book by the same name about our nation’s 2nd President, and starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams, the series brings to life the circumstances and personalities which were central to the founding of the United States of America, particularly where such interacted with the brilliant and principled, yet often mercurial Adams.
It is just that fact of Adams’ moodiness and fussiness that makes him all the more relatable. His being right did not preclude his being also rude and obnoxious when telling the truth.
Yet when Adams endeavored to listen to the good-natured criticism and rebuke of his closest confidants, he showed a remarkable ability to employ tact and respectful dialog in pursuit of noble ends. Had he not, our history and that of the world would have turned out very differently – and not for the better, in my opinion.
Let us drink a toast, then, to the requisite heroism to not only confront tyrants in the wider world, but to deal with the sometimes tyrannical bad habits in our own hearts when we find them interfering with the business at hand and the needs of our loved ones.
Such is the only way to leave a bright and enduring legacy for future generations. And we all, like my eldest son Josiah, could stand to learn a thing or two from the example and attitude of America’s 2nd president.
We all like Adams should see it as our duty as well to study the science of government, politics, and war, that our sons after us might study mathematics and philosophy, painting and poetry.
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