On March 4, 1801, a revolution took place in the United States of America. The government in power voluntarily relinquished power to another group, without violence or even the threat of violence - just because the people said so. John Adams, a New England aristocrat who had risen to incredibly heights of popularity as recently as 1798, stepped aside and Thomas Jefferson, a wealthy Virginia planter, took the helm of the fledgling ship of state.
This wasn't the first transfer of power, of course. Adams had succeeded George Washington four years earlier, but they were buds, members of the same party and believers in the same political philosophies. Adams and Jefferson were as different as day and night - or as different as George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
And Jefferson did take the country in a decidedly different direction than his predecessor, but the direction in which he led the country was not nearly as dramatically different as his followers had hoped for or expected.
And now, here we are, at the threshold of yet another inauguration and another peaceful passage of power - the 44th in our nation's short history, although since one man, Grover Cleveland, relinquished and regained power in non-consecutive terms, Mr. Obama will be only be the 43rd person to serve as president, not the 44th.
You can win a few bar bets with that one over the next few weeks.
Thursday night, George W. Bush gave his farewell address to the nation from the White House, and I couldn't help but be struck by how much he had aged since his first White House address in response to that terrible act of war on Sept. 11, 2001.
I know what the media say about George W. Bush. I know what the public opinion polls show, and I know about the economy and the national debt and, well, hey, I know just about everything that has happened that is a matter of public record over the past eight years because I have enough sense to pay attention to what's going on. I know that having a good word to say on behalf of President Bush goes against the trend and is even cause for ridicule in some self-serving circles.
Well, I've never made any attempt whatsoever to write other people's opinion - or even cared very much what they were. Having people write letters to the editor accusing me of being stupid or ignorant doesn't make it so - and I said that to say this.
While I do not agree with everything George W. Bush did as president, I appreciate the fact that he had the courage of his own conviction. I am thankful that he had the courage to do what he thought was best and did not hold his finger to the political winds before making decisions. And I am thankful that he made the war on terror his top priority. I appreciate the fact that as commander-in-chief, he has kept me and my family safe from the Muslim extremists who are still determined to exterminate us and our way of life.
So thank you, Mr. President, for your service to our country. May your life beyond the White House be long and prosperous and may history be kinder to your administration than the mind-controlling left-wing media has been.
And to all you Bush-bashers, knock yourselves out. You can talk about how he destroyed the economy by allowing people to borrow money they couldn't pay back to buy houses they couldn't afford. You can ridicule him for not believing that the world is about to be burned to a crisp by man-made global warming and for appointing Supreme Court justices who believe that if it's not a baby, then you aren't pregnant.
You can have a high old time lambasting him for the hurricane he caused on the Gulf Coast and console yourselves to the fact that the Taliban would have disappeared from Afghanistan on its own and you can nod knowingly and insist that if you had been president you would have realized that the intelligence that sent us into Iraq was faulty.
Of course, if that had happened, Saddam Hussein would have still been in power and there would be no burgeoning democracy in the Middle East. And since that region is so stable now, it wouldn't have mattered that Saddam was in power instead of in a grave anyway.
I know. I'm just a blind fool to believe that George W. Bush wasn't Satan and the Antichrist all rolled up into one feeble-minded body.
And nothing that happens in the next administration will be the fault of the new president - or the Clinton retreads with which he has surrounded himself. We can blame everything on the mess Bush left for at least three or four years. Maybe longer if the media continues to cooperate.
But the people have spoken and they have asked for change and that is as it should be. When Thomas Jefferson first opened his mouth as president in 1801 he said, "We are all Federalists. We are all Republicans," meaning, of course, that we are all Americans, first and foremost. And so we are.
Thank you, Mr. President, for your service to our country. Welcome, Mr. President. We wish you well. And may God continue to bless our nation.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.