How long ago was that, when Thomas Jefferson's command of words was such that he could change the political universe with a simple, declarative essay that set fire to the world of tolerated tyranny?
Actually it was just the other day, in presidential timelines.
Jefferson, having crafted the Declaration of Independence, having witnessed the American Revolution and opened the nation's great unknown to explorers and adventurers, died in 1826. Abraham Lincoln was already seventeen.
Lincoln, having led our experiment through its near-failure, was murdered in 1865, when Woodrow Wilson was nine. And Wilson, who took the country into what was until later the world's most murderous war, died in 1924. Ronald Reagan was thirteen when Wilson died. When Reagan died, John McCain was 68 and Barack Obama was 43.
Jefferson/Lincoln/Wilson/Reagan to "undetermined." From the Declaration of Independence to today, all that we have known as a nation — the wars, the riches, the artistic and scientific triumphs, the total re-ordering of the planet's politics — happened in the lifetimes of four presidents and one yet to be named.
What we have is still the experimental model. We're still tinkering with the engine, trying with occasional despair to keep it running.
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