Graduation, 2012 Edition

This past weekend, my institution sent its Class of 2012 across the stage. Since my department is housed in Enrollment Management, we were called upon to assist with the commencement. I love commencement, but then again, I enjoy ceremony. It was hot, but that’s beside the point. So, in honor of the occasion, I thought I would take a bit of a walk down memory lane. After that, I’m going to talk about some of my friends who graduated this year. 

Read moreGraduation, 2012 Edition

Independence Day


I see fireworks! I see the pageant and pomp and parade. I hear the bells ringing out. I hear the cannons roar. I see Americans – all Americans. Free forever more! ~ 1776 – The Musical


Ok, so that’s not actually what John Adams said, but it’s close. And, he was right, at least for the most part. He thought the day would be celebrated on the July 2nd, not the 4th. His actual words, written to his wife, Abigail, were:


I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore. ~ John Adams, July 3, 1776


This time of the year, there is always talk of how great this is this country. But all too often, the reason which compelled the separation is forgotten. The Declaration of Independence sets forth 27 indictments against the British crown, submitted these facts “to a candid world,” and appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of [their] intentions.” The document concludes with the pledge of the signers to support the Declaration with their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence. What was this groundbreaking Declaration?


That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.


Alexander Hamilton called this new nation an “empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.” But why did this empire come to be? How was the line crossed between suffering the evils which were sufferable to the situation where the founders were compelled “alter their former systems of government?” The answer is simple. Government had overstepped its authority.


The Ronald Reagan quote “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” is quite famous and repeatedly quoted by modern day conservatives. The sentiment was not new however. The Thomas Paine, in his great call to arms stating the need for separation from England wrote:


Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.


This pamphlet was called Common Sense. Several years later, during the darkest days of the War for Independence, Paine again wrote to his fellow countrymen to reassure them their cause was just, and necessary.


THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER,” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.


There it is. John F. Kennedy summarized it in his inaugural address. He called it “the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” The state cannot declare itself to have the authority that is reserved to God. That is the “wall of separation” Thomas Jefferson wrote about as well.


We have come a long way since those days. But, as John F. Kennedy also said:


We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed,

and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.



Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.


This much we pledge–and more.



To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom–and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.


I wish each person that reads this a blessed and happy Independence Day. Remember that you are the heirs to that first revolution and the torch of liberty rests with you. Carrying the torch of liberty is not an easy task, but the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. Now, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Yeah, natural rights theory…)


“Is Anybody There?.” Lyrics on Demand. Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

“Independence Day.” Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

“Declaration of Independence.” Avalon Project – Yale University. Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.
Hamilton, Alexander. “Federalist 1.” Avalon Project – Yale University. Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

“Declaration of Independence.” Avalon Project – Yale University. Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

“First Inaugural Address of Ronald Reagan.” Avalon Project – Yale University. Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

Paine, Thomas. “Common Sense.” Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

Paine, Thomas. “The American Crisis.” Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

“Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy.” Avalon Project – Yale University. Available from Internet; accessed 4 July 2010.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Letter to Danbury Baptist Association.” The Founder’s Constitution. Available from Internet; accessed 4 July

Galatians 5:1

Let us remember, this Memorial Day

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, 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 ~
I know this is supposed to be a blog about political science and the graduate experience. But, I teach at a military school, so this holiday is a big deal to me. So, I hope you will forgive me a slightly off topic post. Truth be told, that quote from John Adams really says it all. Most people do not like to think about the uglier side of politics.
We see, therefore, that war is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.
~ Carl von Clausewitz ~
We, as political scientists deal with policy. As public administrators, we deal with the implementation of the policies. The military is tasked with repelling foreign intervention in the policy, or in some cases, enforcing the polices beyond our nation’s borders. It is a thankless task, which most people cannot, or will not understand. Every one of them is willing to give their life in the defense of this country. I am lucky enough to work side by side with these warriors on a daily basis, and even more fortunate to call many of them my friends. I do not know firsthand their sacrifice, but I can see the ghosts of it in their eyes.
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
~ Col Nathan Jessep in A Few Good Men ~
The men and women of the armed forces go through hell so that we can be free. They pay a price so we do not have to. Our way of life would not exist without their devotion to a cause many take for granted. Freedom is something with so dear a value that even the price required to obtain and maintain it, while great, is still minuscule when compared to its true value.
The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
~ Thomas Paine ~
On this day, we honor those who have offered their lives and shed their blood so that we might be free. While we celebrate the unofficial start of summer, there are quite warriors in the field defending our way of life and risking their lives to do so. Let us pray that they return home safely. As a reminder, this is a list of causalities from conflicts throughout America’s history.
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
~ Thomas Jefferson ~
War of Independence
Northwest Indian War

Barbary Wars
War of 1812
1st Seminole War
2nd Seminole War
Mexican-American War
3rd Seminole War
Civil War
Indian Wars
Spanish-American War
Philippine War
Boxer Rebellion
Mexican Revolution
Haiti Occupation
World War 1
World War 2
Korean War
El Salvador
Persian Gulf “Support”
Invasion of Grenada
Invasion of Panama
Persian Gulf War
Source: Military Factory. 

There is a veterans cemetery on my route into work every day. I took these pictures after they dropped the colors to half staff for the weekend. May we always remember. 

Clausewitz, Carl von. 1873. On War.
Jefferson, Thomas. 1955. Letter to William Stephens Smith. In Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, 356.
Military Factory. 2010. American War Deaths Through History.
Paine, Thomas. 1776. American Crisis I.
Reiner, Rob. 1992. A Few Good Men.
Sage, Henry J. 2010. The Era of the American Revolution.

Praise God – Hallelujah

For the past few weeks, there has been a video that has gone viral. This video starts out plainly enough. A title card tells us “At noon on November 13, 2010 these unsuspecting shoppers got a surprise while enjoying their lunch…” Music is playing; people are enjoying an everyday mall food court. But, while an interesting look at human behavior, that’s not enough to gather the more than 14.5 million views it now possesses.

Soon, an organ begins playing a familiar refrain. A woman, wearing a fairly typical jacket, scarf, and seeming talking on a cell phone, stands and starts repeating one word with a volume and power seemingly unlikely from her small frame. It is just one word, over and over. Typically, this would cause raised eyebrows, and possibly even someone calling for security. In this case, however, that does not take place. Soon, her soprano is joined by a booming baritone voice continuing that same theme. I’m sure by now you’ve realized that I’m referring to the Flash Mob Hallelujah Chorus.

These results from a piece of music that was written in 1741? It boggles the mind, until you consider what a wonderful piece of music it is. It is from the oratorical The Messiah written by George Frideric Handel, a three part/act telling of the birth and life, passion, and resurrection of Christ. Most modern day performances focus on only the first act, which has made most individuals think of it as a composition for the Christmas season, instead of the Easter season as it was written. One scene from Act II has made it into modern performances, that is Act II, Scene 7: God’s Triumph, also known as the Hallelujah Chorus.

There are another few pieces which have survived the test of time and are still known among the general public. “He Shall Purify” was recently incorporated into “Turning the Tide” for the soundtrack of the film Charlie Wilson’s War. “For Unto Us” is also still quite popular. Yet, I would venture a guess that there is not any other piece which is over 270 years old which is as widely recognized as “Hallelujah Chorus.”

The common practice is to stand during a performance of the chorus. This originates from the very first performance when King George II stood during the chorus, and bound by royal obligation, everyone else in attendance also stood. Why would the monarch of one of the largest empires in the world stand for a piece of music? It was not because of the music; it was because of the truth contained in the lyrics.

As popular as the lyrics are, I seriously doubt many people could recite them. As in so many things, their true power is concealed within the repetitions and harmonies of the melody. Standing is a sign or respect. The same reason everyone stood when King George II stood was the reason King George stood for the “King of Kings, and Lord of Lord.” Most people could make their way through the first verse, but most people would not be able to make it to the heart of the chorus. The “Kingdom of this world is become THE KING DOME OF OUR LORD, AND OF HIS CHRIST!” Hallelujah. Hallelujah forever, and without ceasing.

Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6)
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16)