Sunday, November 16, 2008

John Adams

I don't have HBO and missed out on the showing of John Adams. I read parts of the book by David McCullough when I was in business school. I took a class, on the Lawn, about Thomas Jefferson. Being a great Jefferson friend, then adversary, then friend again, John Adams had to be included. 

The HBO film and book bring to light the frightening prospect that Americans faced upon declaring their independence. We take this for granted today -- of course we are free and independent. The film drives home a visual image of the frightening times that led up to, through, and after the Revolution. They took a "leap in the dark" as Adams said to Jefferson. You get a feeling for the contentious, volatile, and passionate personalities. And it's a good education in politics and negotiation. 

Ben Franklin had two quotes in the second part that effected me so much that I paused the DVD to write them down: "Politics is the art of the possible" and "Diplomacy is seduction in another guise. One improves with practice." I think about these two quotes in light of our recent elections. How President Obama focused on the possible - how he ignited people's sense of hope with that idea - and how elegantly and patiently he played out his hand. He was the unlikeliest of candidates, by his own admission. There must have been times that he was uncertain, even scared or nervous. I imagine there must have been times when he would step back, breathe, and take another step forward. I am envy this kind of patience, and I am working on it as an area of development.

In John Adams, we see that Adams had no patience. H wanted to act swiftly and without hesitation. And he nearly missed the very allies he was looking for, even though they were standing right in front of him - the gentlemen from Virginia: Washington and Jefferson, one who would lead the battle by sword and the other by his pen. They also had this reverence for patience and humility. They had the same goals as Adams - an independent republic and governance by the people; they just went about achieving them in different ways.

The movie also makes it clear that each player has his part and I was left wondering if we'd have this nation today at all if any of those personalities had not been present. It made me re-consider the frustrations I have sometimes felt on group projects and it gave me greater perspective and appreciation for people I have sometimes terms "difficult". Maybe we all need a John Adams in our lives to help us to value and take decisive actions when the opportunities arise. And maybe we also need a Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson to teach us the value of diplomacy in getting what we want and to help us believe in the art of the possible. Most of all the film makes the case for a group of close advisers, no matter what path we take in life.       

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I like the quote of "Diplomacy is the art of the possible", I would point out that Franklin was quoting another politician not yet born, Otto Von Bismark.