NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, December 11th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up, Cal Thomas contemplates the fleeting nature of earthly power.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: The scene at the U.S. Capitol last week as former President George H.W. Bush’s body lay in state presented a tableau and a lesson for those who seek earthly power and believe it can change things.
As the TV cameras panned the crowd, I was struck by how many aging “formers” I saw. These are people who once held high office but now live in the political shadows.
That picture presents an opportunity to consider what truly matters in life. Washington and the media obsess about earthly power. But if it were real power—that is, a force that could bring change for the better—wouldn’t we have achieved that change by now? Instead, we get politicians who lust for power and when they get it, squander it on fights with each other instead of using it to solve important problems most Americans face.
In 1990, James Baker, Bush’s closest friend and at the time his secretary of state, delivered a remarkable address before the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. In it, he told a story to illustrate the fleeting nature of power. While his driver took him to work one morning in his sleek black limousine, Baker noticed a man walking down the street alone. He recognized him as a former chief of staff. Baker said, quote—“That mental picture continually serves to remind me of the impermanence of power and place. That man had it all, but only for a time.”
There were many at last week’s Capitol ceremony who once had power, “but only for a time.” Their names now begin in print and on TV with the word “former,” if they are interviewed or noted at all. Few seem to care what they think now, preferring “currents” instead.
But they will be “formers” soon enough. That’s worth pondering before the engines of political power fire up again. If not in politics, where does real power come from?
Surely not from Washington, nor from anything we strive for on this earth.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.