Friday, June 05, 2009

When the Music No Longer Moves You, You Should Leave

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan comments here about the placement of a statue of Ronald Reagan in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol this week (see AP report). Noonan explains something I didn’t know before.
“Each of the 50 states is allowed two statues in the Capitol, they are sometimes but not frequently changed, and the changing process is complicated: Both chambers of a state legislature must vote, the governor must agree, the federal government is petitioned.”
Noonan describes the ceremony and explains that of all of the statues in the rotunda, Reagan’s is the only one that depicts its subject smiling. For those that remember Reagan, a smile is probably the most appropriate facial expression for his likeness.

These kinds of events happen from time to time. What really caught my attention in Noonan’s article was her description of the kind of ceremony that is relatively routine in Washington DC. What she concludes from this is rather profound.
“The colors were presented. The U.S. Army chorus sang the national anthem so beautifully, with such harmonic precision and depth, that some dry eyes turned moist, including those of the crusty journalist to my right. Congressmen hear choirs sing patriotic songs all the time and grow used to it. The rest of us do not and are stirred. Tourists walk through the Rotunda and think to themselves that they'd die for the signs and symbols of this place. Lawmakers experience the Rotunda as a connecting point between House and Senate that's too often clogged by overweight tourists in shorts from Bayonne. We need term limits. When the music no longer moves you, you should leave. When you cannot leave, you should be pushed.”
I like Ms. Noonan’s suggestion. Some would argue that this kind of measurement is puerile. Indeed, some would claim that being moved by patriotic displays should disqualify one from serving in Washington.

HollyOnTheHill recently posted a video of artist Kurt Bestor playing on piano a patriotic medley that he composed on the fly for his audience.

From what I understand, my political views would be at odds with those of Mr. Bestor in many ways. But I’m not sure how you can watch this video clip and not be moved. I think most Americans would feel similarly.

For this reason, I think Peggy Noonan is right about those that represent us. Although this is not the only gauge for whether a person has been in Washington too long, I think it’s a good one. “When the music no longer moves you, you should leave. When you cannot leave, you should be pushed.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As much as I have spoken in favor of term limits (as a means of pushing people out since most won't leave) I agree that "when the music no longer moves you" is probably a better measure of when it's time to go. As soon as your position become just your job you are bound to start thinking first as a politician ans second as a statesman - when you should be thinking in the reverse order.