January 20, 2017 marked the 45th peaceful transition of power from one president to another. This remarkable idea has been in practice for 219 years, thanks to the precedent set by President Washington. Regardless of your political belief, knowing our republic is strong is something we can take pride in.
Traditions like these are so deeply rooted within the fabric of our country’s history, it's almost impossible to imagine life without it. Given the political landscape, I’m amazed how professional and seamlessly orchestrated the change occurs. As I’ve witnessed the passing of the football from president to president, I’ve come to appreciate the tradition more and more. The more polarized our country gets, the more meaningful this tradition gets.
Two weeks ago thousands of citizens exercised their freedom of free speech in peaceful protests all over the country. On the other end of the spectrum, destructive riots ensued throughout the streets of our nation’s capital, which resulted in injuries, property damage and arrests. Despite these isolated incidents of despicable violence and the divided political landscape, we respected the Constitution and our rule of law. We can be thankful military force was not required to pass the torch to President Trump.
The Fatal Inaugural Speech.
The fatal inaugural speech, 8,445 words in length, was delivered by President Harrison #9 in 1841 outside in the frigid D.C. air. For those of us that don't know exactly how long that is, it's 2 hours. It's by far the longest inaugural address. The runner-up is President Taft at 5,434 words. A month afterward President Harrison #9 gave that speech he was bedridden with pneumonia. President Harrison #9's last words were
Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.
These words set the precedent for the peaceful transition of power from the President to the Vice-President.
President Trump is unlikely to suffer President Harrison #9’s fate for a multitude of reasons. One of which is shorter attention spans. President Trump’s speech was not anywhere close to the President Harrison #9’s speech. It was much shorter coming in at 1,433 words. Another reason President Trump is unlikely to suffer President Harrison #9's fate is relatively good weather due, in part, to rising global temperatures. Although President Trump is unlikely to be bedridden in a couple weeks, he may suffer President Benjamin Harrison #23’s fate-a one term presidency. President Harrison #23’s 4,392 word speech was delivered in the pouring rain.
Gambia's Democratic Election
Earlier this year, Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s authoritarian leader of 22 years, refused to accept the election results and demanded a recount after losing last December to President Adama Barrow. Jammeh refused to relinquish power until neighboring leaders threatened military intervention.
Ultimately, West African troops rolled into the Gambian capital to ensure a peaceful transition and the safety of President Barrow, the democratically elected leader. Jammeh relented and fled into “temporary” exile in Equatorial Guinea, only after withdrawing 500m dalasis ($11.3 Million) and putting his luxury car collection on cargo planes, which 'virtually emptied' the country’s coffers. Following President Barrow’s return to the capital, the fear of violence subsided and approximately 26,000 Gambians made the trip back home.
This marks Gambia’s first peaceful transition of power since the country gained independence from the British in 1965. President Barrow and the Gambian people are indebted to Vanguard Africa, a new D.C. nonprofit, for Barrow’s ascension to power. They provided vital public relations assistance to President Barrow and his campaign. Vanguard Africa’s mission is to provide support to pro-reform political candidates and leaders who are committed to democratic governance, civil liberties, accountability, and transparency.
In President Barrow’s inaugural address, he asked everyone to remain loyal to the constitution and the republic and assured that they would not be subjected to any injustice and discrimination. He ended his speech with the words, “forward ever, backward never.” My earnest desire is that this occurs in the United States of America.
One thing that resonated with me in President Trump’s inaugural address is that “we’re going to unify our country.” President Trump inherits a stronger economy, a Republican majority, and a nation divided by political polarization. I am hopefully optimistic that we will find common ground and will strengthen our resolve as we move forward peacefully. The only way this can occur is for us to embody President Barrow’s mantra - Forward ever, backward never.