Stick with me and I’ll explain
What’s going on???
Grover Cleveland has just been sworn in to his second term as the 24th President of the United States, of which there are only 44. It is the second time he has been elected, making Benjamin Harrison the answer to the trivia question, “who is the only president to be preceded and succeeded by the same person”.
Issues of the day included tariffs, imperialism, balanced budgets, income inequality, and political corruption. Cleveland is a Bourbon Democrat and his election in 1892 marks the end of the Gilded Age. His election is a temporary rebuke of the Republican Party, which has dominated the landscape since Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860. Also ending is the period of political history in the United States referred to as the Third Party System, which began in 1856.
We are in one of only five major periods of upheaval and political realignment since the declaration of independence and in this maelstrom, a 3rd party, the People’s Party, has formed. It grew out of agrarian unrest in response to low agricultural prices and the thought that the “Eastern Elites” were taking advantage of the farmers.
Now Back to the Future.
Me: Does anything here sound familiar?
You: “Yeah maybe, but weren’t we talking about Drew Brees?”
Me: Hold on I’m getting there!
In the Parlance of Our Times
One of the most interesting things about the rising voice of the People’s Party in 1893 is how it is influencing Oklahoma. At this point, Oklahoma is still a territory (two territories actually — See State of Sequoya) but is in the process of deciding who and what it wants to be when it grows up. One of the things that was decided by the Party’s influence is the state motto Labor Omnia Vincit. In English, “Work conquers all.” Or, as Drew Brees would say, “You can accomplish anything in life if you’re willing to work for it”.
As a native of Oklahoma, Mr. Brees’ words of wisdom ring true to me. His gratitude, humility and hard work are traits that I’ve seen, firsthand, in many Oklahomans. The reason I point out this link, this echo of history, is because I firmly believe that those traits are also required of leadership in a strong democracy and why I am so proud that Generation Citizen is in Oklahoma.
I think it is likely that we are currently experiencing a time like 1893, where new voices are being heard in the political conversation. They are voices from places most people have never heard of, in communities that have been overlooked even by their fellow citizens. They may not yet be mature or confident, but like the People’s Party, they undoubtedly have the ability to make a lasting impact on history.
Fortunately I know young people are up to the task and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see the 21st century mottoes our students create.