Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is anyone prepared?

Republicans are making fun of Barack Obama’s experience as a community organizer and Democrats are questioning Sarah Palin's lack of foreign policy experience. It made me think of a passage from a book that’s always within my grasp, The Education of Henry Adams (1918).

In the following excerpt, Adams reflects on the pivotal year of 1861, bemoaning the fact that no one wanted the Civil War nor were they prepared for it, including the newly elected President Lincoln:

Had young Adams been told that his life was to hang on the correctness of his estimate of the new President, he would have lost. He saw Mr. Lincoln but once; at the melancholy function called an Inaugural Ball. Of course he looked anxiously for a sign of character. He saw a long, awkward figure; a plain, ploughed face; a mind, absent in part, and in part evidently worried by white kid gloves; features that expressed neither self -satisfaction nor any other familiar Americanism, but rather the same painful sense of becoming educated and of needing education that tormented a private secretary, above all a lack of apparent force. Any private secretary in the least fit for his business would have thought, as Adams did, that no man living needed so much education as the new President but that all the education he could get would not be enough.