February 16, 2012 at 6:20 am, by Carl
I love John Adams. I wish we could find a new “Adams” for our times. The man, regardless of how frustrating he was to some of his peers, had a genuine love for the country, and brought sharp critical thinking to the equation of what will make a successful country. Take a read from an excerpt from one letter written in April 1776 as he worked on the many issues that the Second Continental Congress were facing:
Such a Government is only to be supported by pure Religion or Austere Morals. Public Virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private [virtue], and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.
What is virtue? Surely this is a challenging concept in an age when spiritual issues are forced to be only private affairs. Yet Adams called them “public.” While we may debate certain morals or wish to include more current trends into this realm, certainly we can agree that Adams would support a fairly simple list: respect, truth, simplicity, sacrifice and honesty. Include these in your character development and you will never want for a job.
It would seem though that our current governing leaders, as well as the country as a whole, are afraid of “austere morals.” To be Austere means grave, serious, uncompromising, rigorously self-disciplined, strict. Think about our country, maybe the TV show Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, Survivor or a host of other shows, both fictional or reality shows (wait—those are fictional too)—is there anything about our lives today that are really grave, strict or rigorously self-disciplined…especially in terms of morals?
“So what,” you may ask? Look deeply at Adams warning—”public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.” The loss of virtue, of austere morals takes us one place—to the loss of our Republic. As we consider our national and state choices, both in terms of people to elect as well as decisions to be made, we should think back to the warning Adams voiced. While our Founders were never perfect, and some of the world they inhabited we now reject (slavery, women excluded from civic participation), they maintained a level of civic virtue that defined us, that laid a foundation worthy of a glorious building.
If we think, as many do, that the building of our nation is crumbling, the place to look is the foundation. Adams could tell us what we need to restore that foundation. I think we need to look deeply into our own lives to demand a personal return to the austere morals Adams asked. The country depends on us returning to that standard.