Wisdom of the ages

"American ideas of freedom and government are the result of slow growth in the hearts of people. It takes decades and centuries. They cannot be imposed by words, no matter how eloquent. They cannot be imposed by force. They cannot be imposed upon nations by treaties any more than they can be imposed by battle." - Herbert Hoover 1941

As part of my strange "day" job, I spend hours combing over old speeches and documents relating to the history of the United States. I am so often struck by the themes that repeat themselves in our history. I get frustrated when our current leaders don't heed the wisdom of our past leaders, don't learn the lessons from our own history.

When I happened upon this speech by Herbert Hoover, I had to share. As we continue to battle in Iraq and Afghanistan to convert them to our ideals of representative democracy, I wonder about the wisdom of that choice. If these ideals haven't been growing in the heart of the people, can we ever really be successful?

Don't get me wrong. I think democracy is a pretty groovy thing, but I don't know if it is a gift you can give to an unwilling or unprepared recipient.

I will have to mull this over a bit - it has given me more food for thought.

What do you think? Can democracy ever be imposed?


  1. My Google Alert brought me here suggesting the speech you reference was by Coolidge but upon arrival - I see that it is Hoover. It is an arresting and compelling thought. I recycle the Past in the performance of solo history.
    See: www.crankyyankees.net

    The Taming Power of the Great
    "Heaven within the mountain points to hidden treasures. In the words and deeds of the past there lies hidden treasures that men may use to strengthen and elevate their own characters.
    The way to study the past is not to confine oneself to mere knowledge of history but, through application of this knowledge, to give actuality to the past."

    Ancient Book of Changes

    Richard Wilhelm Translation
    English translation Cary F. Baynes
    Foreword by C. G. Jung
    Princeton University Press / 1950


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